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When you’re new to yoga, it is common to feel confused by new Sanskrit phrases and unfamiliar postures or by all the different yoga styles. One question I often field is “just what is the difference between vinyasa and power vinyasa anyway”? Confusion around these terms happens because many yoga studios and site use terms interchangeably. Let me break it down:
Ashtanga , in Sanskrit, means “eight limbs”. Its practice is fast-paced and some say it is a more intense style of yoga. Each ashtanga practice is a set series of poses which are always performed in the same order and with constant movement from one pose to the next.
Vinyasa means breath-synchronized movement, where each pose is matched with a breath. Students work through a series of poses called Sun Salutations, and like ashtanga, move smoothly from one posture to the next. It is because of this smooth movement that you may also hear vinyasa called “vinyasa flow” or simply “flow”.
There is another key difference between vinyasa and ashtanga. In vinyasa yoga, there is no fixed series of poses so each Vinyasa yoga teacher and each vinyasa class can and will be different.
Power Yoga also takes it inspiration from ashtanga. It was developed in the 1990’s as an attempt to make ashtanga yoga more accessible to Western students. It is sometimes referred to a “gym yoga” because it was designed to be intense enough to be attractive for Western athletes and gym-goers. And like vinyasa, power yoga is not a set series of poses and, many times, power yoga classes are heated.
YYoga, a yoga teaching site, has a detailed summary of how yoga teachers approach teaching the two, distinct types of yoga. For the student, there are a few things to keep in mind:
Your experience in either a power or vinyasa flow class will be highly influenced by the teacher. While you will practice many of the same poses in either a power or vinyasa class, neither style follows a set series of poses. Each yoga teacher has the freedom to uniquely create each class to his/her preferences and the needs of the students so classes will vary widely.
You will need to try a few different kinds of classes with different teachers to discover what works best for you. A great way to try out both yoga styles is with online yoga video classes. Practicing yoga at home is a great way to get started with yoga and to try new styles.