Both styles are power yogas, but they differ in various ways: Ashtanga builds internal heat whereas Bikram studio is external. Bikram yoga follows a sequence of 26 poses to strengthen muscles and compress organs, Ashtanga looks more to finding one's own physical, emotional and mental level, ultimately to make the impossible-possible.
Differences Between Ashtanga Yoga and Bikram Yoga
Recently, I received a question asking, “What is the difference between Bikram and Ashtanga yoga; other than both being power yoga sessions are there any inherent differences”?
I decided to answer this question in the form of a blog because I thought how many other people may have that same question. While these two yoga styles absolutely have some similarities, like the 90-minute class time and a pre-determined sequence, there are also some undeniable differences. Both Ashtanga and Bikram classes are hot, but the means by which this heat is built is very different:
Both Ashtanga and Bikram classes are hot, but the means by which this heat is built is very different:
Ashtanga builds an internal heat, whereas every Bikram studio is heated to 105 degrees with 40 percent humidity.
Bikram yoga was created by Bikram Choudhury in the early 1970s. He designed a sequence of 26 yoga poses to stretch and strengthen the muscles as well as compress and “rinse” the organs of the body. This form of yoga is a favorite for all those who love to sweat. The poses are done in a heated room to facilitate the release of toxins. Every Bikram class you go to, anywhere in the world, follows the same sequence of 26 poses.
K. Pattabhi Jois revived Ashtanga, this ancient yoga style, then spent a lifetime teaching it world over. Ashtanga yoga may start out as a strictly physical practice, but when the yamas and niyamas are learned, the practitioner begins to follow a more yogic lifestyle off the mat. The tristana method of asana, dristhi and deep breathing with sound is a concrete tool to help the practitioner to gain focus and strength in an intense, but gentle, loving and healing way that promotes self-discovery versus self-punishment.
Ashtanga yoga practice is all about the process of finding one’s own limits–physical, mental, emotional–and then breaking them down to make the impossible, possible.
In Ashtanga, most yoga practitioners will take a primary series class, while more advanced yogis will take a secondary series class that includes a lot of inversions, twists, and challenging balancing poses. Practicing Ashtanga, you can expect your teacher to come over at least once to give you a hands-on adjustment and move you deeper into a pose.
Bikram teachers stand on a platform at the front of the room, instructing with a microphone with no physical adjustments given to the students. Bikram yoga is only taught in led classes, whereas Ashtanga yoga is traditionally taught as a self-practice in Mysore style classes.
In a Bikram class, there are short breaks as you transition from pose to pose.
Oppositely, the vast majority of Ashtanga instructors urge students to hydrate before class. When you sip on water in the middle of practice, some say it’s putting out that internal fire you’ve worked so hard to build. In an Ashtanga practice, things are always flowing and moving with nonstop movement.
All yoga styles create a feeling of lightness, ease and relaxation.
To get the most benefit and the most enjoyment, you need to find a yoga style and a teacher that suits you. Before you make a decision, try a few of the most common styles of yoga that you might see in a yoga studio (or gym).
Some classes – marked general or open level – are suitable for all. When you think you’ve settled on a style of yoga you enjoy, try a few different teachers. All teachers have their own unique focus based on their personalities, their own yoga practice and where and with whom they’ve trained.