There are numerous arguments that have been raised in favor of Ashtanga Yoga and/or Bikram Yoga as the best method to learn and practice yoga. Both yoga styles can be very vigorous and both teachers have different approaches to teaching. The Ashtanga Yoga Association (ATA), a non-profit association of yoga teachers in the United States, has released rankings based on the number of class participants over a specific period of time as well as on the teachers’ performance in each class. It is evident from this information that Ashtanga Yoga is a more popular choice for yoga participants.
In Ashtanga Yoga classes, instructors emphasize physical strength through dynamic and repetitive postures and sequences, while building stamina through regulated breathing and controlled movements. Instructors also incorporate pranayama, or controlled breathing, meditation, and yoga asanas into their class curriculum. Students are also encouraged to engage in dialogue with their instructor regarding postures, breathing, meditation, and pranayama. These programs help students develop and refine their skills through focused instruction and repetition.
When it comes to safety and physical conditioning, there appears to be little difference between Ashtanga Yoga and Bikram Yoga. Both types of yoga can be quite demanding of the body’s muscles and joints. The Ashtanga Yoga positions require participants to twist and turn at a rapid pace, whereas Bikram Yoga requires students to remain in one position. Instructors may emphasize a particular pose or sequence of poses more than in Ashtanga Yoga classes.
In terms of physical conditioning, both yoga styles can produce highly effective and beneficial physical results. However, Ashtanga Yoga is often considered to be a more demanding style of yoga because of its continuous and intense pace. Instructors will often remind their students to stretch appropriately and to focus on breathing exercises and proper postures. In contrast, Bikram Yoga is designed for students who are interested in obtaining a well-rounded physical workout. The rigorous Ashtanga Yoga exercises may also strain, and fatigue the muscles, but the constant transitions between exercises ensure that students maintain good body condition.
The two types of yoga have additional benefits for students seeking a spiritual awakening. Both Ashtanga Yoga programs and Bikram Yoga programs cultivate a strong spiritual nature. Ashtanga Yoga programs generally encourage participants to make physical changes, such as removing clothing or focusing on an object (like a meditation bead) while sitting still. Intentional movement and deep concentration are necessary for achieving spiritual experiences. Bikram Yoga requires its students to remain immobile and to focus on a single point or objects (like a meditation bead) while performing a series of physical postures. These intense programs are believed to induce an essential state of meditation.
Ashtanga Yoga and Bikram Yoga Benefits
In addition to the spiritual benefits derived from Ashtanga Yoga and Bikram Yoga, these programs also help develop athletic abilities. Both types of yoga require an intense physical workout, which causes the heart to beat at a higher rate and increases oxygen intake. Because of this, Ashtanga Yoga is often used as a warming-up exercise before competitive matches. Some Bikram Yoga classes also incorporate heavy cardiovascular exercises into the program, which can improve agility and overall cardiovascular conditioning. Both types of yoga can lead to increased strength, flexibility, stamina, and overall body coordination.
While both types of yoga teach participants to stay physically fit and in sync with the instructor, it is Ashtanga Yoga that tends to be referred to as the “classy” of the two. Studios that offer Ashtanga Yoga classes tend to look a lot more professionally designed than do Bikram Yoga studios, and teachers are more likely to wear comfortable, studio-appropriate clothing. When taking an Ashtanga Yoga class, you will not need to worry about having to keep your yoga pants on all day because you will not be doing any real strenuous physical activity, at least not on the first day. Most instructors will start students on basic Yoga positions and then gradually introduce them to more challenging poses until they are fully prepared for a rigorous workout.
When comparing Ashtanga Yoga vs. bikram yoga, you will need to take a few things into consideration. The most important factor is that you are able to find a class that offers the type of physical training that best suits your needs. If you are new to yoga, then you may want to start out with a basic class to see how you respond to the discipline. If you have experience participating in yoga, you may want to focus on the more physically demanding Ashtanga Yoga classes.