What defines power vs. vinyasa yoga can be confusing, and challenging to figure out how they may fit into your practice. While the two styles share a connection, several differences exist that can impact a class experience and expectations. If you are looking to get started with either or both styles, we are here to help you discover the unique characteristics and features of power yoga vs. vinyasa yoga.
Power Yoga vs. Vinyasa Yoga
The main overlap between power and vinyasa yoga is the emphasis on linking breath to movement to create a continuous flow between poses (vinyasa). Power yoga can be thought of as a practice that falls under the umbrella of vinyasa yoga: its use of vinyasa flows give it the fluid and breath-centered nature of yoga, while also embracing a focus on intense physical fitness. Vinyasa yoga is a more adaptable practice that can range from slow and gentle to fast and intense — while always keeping its primary focus on the breath. In this way, power yoga vs. vinyasa yoga can be described as strength and power vs. flexibility and adaptability.
What is Power Yoga?
Power yoga is a relatively new addition to the world of yoga, having been developed in the United States in the 1980s. It describes a vigorous, athletic, and more fitness-based approach to yoga. In addition to a high-intensity level, power yoga includes linking breath to movement to create fluid transitions between poses.
Power yoga was originally created as a more flexible alternative to ashtanga yoga — a sequence of specific poses practiced in the same order every time. However, with no specific poses or sequences required in power yoga, no two classes are alike. The common trait between all classes is a physical work that is high-intensity, vigorous, and athletic. You will build strength, endurance, and stamina in each session.
Besides building strength in the physical body, other benefits of practicing power yoga include:
- Increased flexibility
- Increased blood flow
- Improved mood
- Reduced stress
- A low-impact option for movement
What is Vinyasa Yoga?
Vinyasa yoga has roots in India and is a practice that links breath to movement to create a fluid and seamless flow between postures. It is popular due to its dynamic nature. Ujjayi breathing is commonly taught and practiced in many vinyasa classes: inhalation and exhalation through the nose, and the opening between the vocal cords narrowed to create an audible rushing or hissing sound.
Vinyasa yoga is also derived from the Ashtanga yoga practice, but has no required poses and sequences, which allows for more creativity and variety within classes. Vinyasa yoga is also incredibly versatile in its intensity level; it can be either vigorous and dynamic, or gentle and restorative. While elements of vinyasa yoga can vary, the unifying principle of every class is the connection of breath to movement.
Vinyasa yoga is first and foremost a breath-based practice: there is a continuous focus and awareness on linking breath to movement during the practice. While its primary benefit is developing flexibility, other benefits include:
- Improved cardiovascular function
- Improved sleep
- Reduced stress
- A calmer mind
Both power yoga and vinyasa yoga provide many benefits. Understanding the differences between the two styles can help you better decide when and how to incorporate them into your practice. To experience a dynamic and powerful power yoga flow for yourself, check out this guide on the Power Yoga Sequence You Can Take Anywhere and Briohny Smyth’s Power Vinyasa