Ashtanga vs Bikram vs Hatha: Differences That You Should Know

Through the years, yoga had branched out to many types that even the English alphabet is too short to list it all. But despite the thousands of types, it all boils down to one thing: mind and body rejuvenation. However, what set these types apart are their methods, environments, and requisites in attaining wellness. Here, we’ll discuss three of its types and make an Ashtanga vs. Bikram Yoga vs. Hatha comparison.

So before you conclude that yoga is all but one hell of a series of body contorting, here are the fast facts you should know.

Ashtanga Yoga

 Ashtanga vs. Bikram yoga vs. Hatha

This yoga practice started in India in the middle of the 1900s. Ashtanga includes a series of asana (poses) meant to prepare an individual to another set of more complex postures.  This yoga practice is regimental and highly disciplined.

Basically, Ashtanga is the alignment of breath and movement that’s largely governed by chanting and breathing or Pranayama, as it’s called in Sanskrit. It focuses on cleansing the body and mind from the inside going outside.

Each Ashtanga session should start with a series of “sun salutations” rooting from the fact that this yoga practice is a part of the Sun Salutation asana series. The series would include Revolved Triangle, a Side Triangle, Revolving the Side Angle, Forward Folds, Posture for Balance, Chair, and Warriors I and II. The variation will vary depending on the intensity of the Ashtanga workout. There are six asana variations for this practice and your choice should depend on your level of dexterity.

What makes this stand out on the Ashtanga vs. Bikram Yoga vs. Hatha comparison is that Ashtanga is physically challenging and demanding. This works best for people with higher level of fitness and those looking for a yoga and workout type of meditation.

But you should remember that Ashtanga is a strenuous type of routine that will really challenge your mental and physical structure. It’s a sweaty yoga that has high overall difficulty and flexibility requirements.

Bikram Yoga

 Ashtanga vs. Bikram yoga vs. Hatha

Like Ashtanga, Bikram yoga also has a series of asana but it’s done inside a sauna-like place or heated room. However, this shouldn’t be mistaken as the famous Hot Yoga because Bikram follows a strict sequence of poses unlike the latter.

Bikram Choudhury developed this type of yoga which is widely known in the weight loss world because of its highly sweaty routine. Still, anyone can try this type as long as they have a high level of high heat tolerance and physical fitness. This is important, as Bikram would require a person to do 26 poses inside a hot room. When we say hot, this means a sticky 40C for the whole 90-minute session.

The risk here is that Bikram is dangerous for people who get dehydrated easily. Yoga instructors don’t usually allow students to take a break and drink water whenever they deem needed. Most Bikram sessions have strict water breaks schedules, not like the other types in this Ashtanga vs. Bikram Yoga vs. Hatha discussion.

So why the hot environment? Heat makes the body muscles to relax and flex to make the poses easy to achieve. But I highly advise that you avoid stretching your muscles beyond the ability of your body. If you do so, you’ll feel the body pain when you return in normal temperature.

The fun fact here is that Bikram yoga is patented! One thing unique about this regimen is that instructors won’t demonstrate the poses and will instead follow an oral script. This will require you to listen intently and stop thinking other things.

Hatha Yoga

 Ashtanga vs. Bikram yoga vs. Hatha

Hatha is a bit confusing, but technically, it’s an umbrella term for all “physical practice”. So any group that practices yoga is called a Hatha group or class. The best thing about Hatha is that the complexity and intensity of the routine have wide ranges. It can be gentle and relaxed or very rigorous. The yoga instructor has the freedom to arrange posture series depending on the needs of the students.

This yoga practice targets the mind and body connection without the need for tough poses. It still builds body strength and flexibility but with less physical requirements than Ashtanga and Bikram. This results in lesser injury possibilities but it may take longer to achieve the wellness goal.

Aside from the mind and soul link, Hatha Yoga is also the favorite of individuals looking for a routine to reduce stress, improve sleeping patterns, and lower their blood pressure. All with less sweat than other types in this Ashtanga vs. Bikram Yoga vs. Hatha post.

Moreover, Hatha is more of a yoga path where there’s time for mental reflection that doesn’t include any chanting. This routine has high regard with meditation and mental clarity as the end goal. This is one of the most basic yoga types where any type of asana can be attributed as Hatha-ic.

If you’d seen those calm and generic poses of yogis in commercials, that’s typically Hatha.

What to choose?

There’s no rocket science in choosing the right yoga class. If you love sculpting your body structure through tough routines, you should choose Ashtanga. However, you should remember that Ashtanga isn’t for people with weak joints and muscles and backbone issues.

On the other hand, Bikram could be your choice if you love saunas and the idea of doing yoga in it. It might be as strenuous as Ashtanga and will require serious physical fitness and tolerance. This is risky if you’re not used to doing rigorous exercise without drinking water from time to time.

When it comes to Hatha, I think this is relatively safe for everyone since it has a wide range of asana complexity. However, this type of yoga is for the patient ones. Hatha requires a lot of mind and soul reflection with less physical strain.

With thousands of yoga classes available worldwide, it’s hard to decide which one works best for you. But with this Ashtanga vs. Bikram Yoga vs. Hatha comparison, you can surely decide on what to choose for your next yoga session. With the right discipline and caution, you’re soon going to achieve mind, body, and soul wellness.

Have you been doing yoga lately? Share your favorite asana with us in the comment section!

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Ashtanga vs Bikram vs Hatha: Differences That You Should Know

by ashtangayoga time to read: 4 min
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