Ashtanga yoga vs Power yoga. Both are popular yoga types. In fact, they are both rather dynamic practices.
And so if you are looking for a yoga practice that will not only help calm your mind but also help you increase your flexibility and your strength, then you may like both options.
However, there are several key differences between these two types of yoga.
Ashtanga and Power yoga are both dynamic types of yoga, and as such, both can help build strength and increase flexibility. The key difference is how they are practiced. Ashtanga yoga follows a set sequence of postures, while each Power yoga class may differ from the previous.
Definitely check out my detailed guide for Ashtanga yoga beginners if you are new to Ashtanga yoga and looking for more information.
We’ll now look further into the similarities and differences of these two types of yoga below.
What is Power yoga?
Power yoga is a dynamic form of yoga. It places emphasis on building strength and so expect a workout at a power yoga class. The teacher may guide the class through a flow of postures and will most likely emphasize static holds on strength-building postures, such as plank and squats.
Expect to sweat, a lot!
You could see Power yoga as a combination of a workout and yoga.
In most yoga studios this class is not geared towards yoga beginners. Instead, you may be encouraged to attend a few Hatha yoga classes. These will give you the building blocks of your yoga practice and then when you feel ready and you build up some endurance, you will then be ready for a power yoga class.
If you would like to try out a Power yoga class, check out this 30 minute YouTube video by Travis Elliot.
What is Ashtanga yoga?
Ashtanga yoga is a structured and dynamic type of yoga that follows a set sequence of poses. We start off with sun salutations that help to warm up the body. We then move on to the standing postures, the seated postures, and end the practice in inversions which are an energetic culmination.
In Ashtanga yoga, emphasis is placed on the breath. This helps guide us as we flow from pose to pose. This focus on the breath not only helps us build strength and flexibility, but it can also help calm our minds.
One of my favorite things about Ashtanga yoga is that whilst practicing, it’s almost as if the outside world moves further away and I get to take a break from my problems, all whilst moving through physically demanding yoga poses.
But there’s a lot more to Ashtanga yoga, so I wrote a complete guide on what exactly is Ashtanga yoga is.
Ashtanga vs Power yoga: The Similarities
1. The poses are similar
Ashtanga yoga is more structured when compared to Power yoga, and yet there are many common poses. For example, in both types of classes, you will find yourself in downward-facing dog (more often than not!), triangle pose, and warriors 1 and 2.
What differs is their intensity. In a power yoga class, you will most likely stay in plank pose for several breaths, whereas in Ashtanga yoga we flow through it. Additionally, in Ahstanag yoga we stay in most poses for 5 breaths. In Power yoga, you may even hold some static strength-building poses for more than that!
2. The basis is the breath
Both types of yoga place a strong emphasis on the breath. And this is generally how each class begins. In both Ashtanga and Power yoga, this breath is there to guide practitioners in and out of each set of poses as smoothly as possible.
3. All classes end in Savasana
And last but not least, both Ashtanga and power yoga classes end in Savasana. What may differ is the duration and whether or not it is a guided relaxation. Both types of yoga end in Savasana, which can last from 5 to 10 minutes. Enough time to help your heart rate return to normal!
Ashtanga vs Power yoga: The Differences
As a whole, Ashtanga is more structured when compared to power yoga. And so you will go through the same set of poses in every Ashtanga yoga class, in contrast to a power yoga class which is never the same. Additionally, a power yoga class can spend a fair amount of time in strength-building poses.
There are of course more differences which we will look into more now.
1. Ashtanga yoga is more structured
Now, this is the key difference that basically sets Ashtanga apart from Power yoga, and actually, from any other type of yoga.
Ashtanga yoga follows a set sequence of poses. And so every Ashtanga yoga class will be the same. We start off by finding the breath and then move on to sun salutations, standing poses, seated poses, and finishing poses. Day in day out, we practice the same sequence of poses.
To some, this may seem boring. And indeed, those very people move on to do Vinyasa or Power yoga which offers more variation.
However, it is actually more interesting than that!
There is beauty in repetition.
Your body, your energy, and your mood are never the same each day.
And this means that even though we flow through the same sequence of poses each day, there are so many other variables that differ making each practice a unique experience!
2. Power yoga may have music
Some Power yoga teachers may like to play music in their classes, something that helps keep the energy of the class always moving.
The options really are endless.
I have practiced Power yoga in studios where the teacher had chosen the music to help guide us through the sequence she had chosen for us to practice. And I did find that it did help me constantly move throughout the sequence.
On the other hand, in Ashtanga yoga, there is no music.
The only sound you will hear in an Ashtanga yoga class is the rhythm of the breath.
It really is a personal preference if you like to listen to music while you practice or not, and also what the main goal of your practice is.
3. Ashtanga yoga uses Sanskrit
In a Power class, the teacher is more likely to call out the poses in English. In some cases, they may even use the Sanskrit term.
On the other hand, go to an Ashtanga yoga class and there will be a lot of Sanskrit. We use Sanskrit in the opening mantra, in the names of the poses and also in the count.
And so after the opening mantra, each Ashtanga class starts with:
- Ekam (1) inhale arms up look at the thumbs
- Dve (2) exhale, fold forward
- Trini (3) inhale look forward and lengthen the spine
- Catvari (4) exhale and step or jumb back to chaturanga
- Panca (5) inhale upward facing dog
- Sat (6) exhale downward facing dog
As a side note, I wrote an article about why we use Sanskrit in yoga, so if you’re interested, check it out!
4. Ashtanga yoga can be taught two different ways
A power yoga teacher designs a set of poses and they then guide the students through this set.
They may choose to only guide the class orally, or they may also actually demonstrate some or all of the poses.
Ashtanga yoga can also be taught this way, which is referred to as a led class.
And yet, Ashtanga yoga can also be taught in one more way.
This is called a Mysore class.
Here, students slowly memorize the ashtanga yoga poses. And so in this class, practitioners get to practice the Ashtanga set sequence at their own pace.
For more information read my article: Ashtanga Yoga For Beginners: A Detailed Guide.
Alternatively, watch my video where I explain what Ashtanga yoga actually is!
Commonly Asked Questions
Is Ashtanga Yoga the same as power yoga?
As a whole, Ashtanga is rather different from Power yoga. They are both dynamic forms of yoga that will help increase strength and flexibility, however, there are many differences that set them apart. Mainly, Ashtanga yoga follows a set sequence of postures, whereas each Power yoga class can differ.
Is Ashtanga the hardest yoga?
As a whole, Ashtanga yoga is considered one of the hardest types of yoga. The key factor that makes it hard is that it is physically demanding, asking us to flow in and out of postures with a steady breath. It is also hard because it requires patience to give the body time to adapt to the sequence.
That said if you are looking for a yoga practice that is physically demanding and that can help you build strength and muscle, make sure you check out the article I wrote about whether Ashtanga yoga can help build muscle.
How is power yoga different from yoga?
Power yoga is a type of yoga that leans more towards exercise. It pays particular attention to the physical side of yoga and for this reason, power yoga classes tend to not place emphasis on factors that are perceived to be more yogic, such as chanting, pranayama, and meditation.
What is the most intense type of yoga?
As a whole, all types of yoga can be perceived as intense. Power yoga and Ashtanga can be considered to be intense, given that they are physically demanding. On the other hand, yin yoga can also be perceived as intense by some, as some find it very challenging to stay in postures for a long time.
Ashtanga vs Power yoga: Conclusions
And so if you are reading this article trying to decide which type of yoga to go for, Ashtanga or Power yoga…
This is my advice:
Try both! This is what I tell my students. Try both classes and see what resonates with you.