Vinyasa is a flow style of yoga in which you move from one asana or posture into the next in a fluid sequence. While it's related to Ashtanga, Vinyasa poses can vary from class to class while Ashtanga classes follow the same series of asanas each time.
Vinyasa yoga is a fluid and flowing style of yoga. The classes are fast-paced with an emphasis on connecting the movements with the breath. It's often referred to as "flow yoga" and focuses on movement and transitions, rather than spending time in a particular pose.
Vinyasa comes from the Sanskrit prefix vi, meaning "in a special way," and the suffix nyasa, meaning "to place." So, Vinyasa is understood to mean "to place the body in a special way." This tells us that despite being a fast-paced practice, Vinyasa is about more than just moving your body about in space.
Instead, it is synchronized movement between breath and body, done with focus and intent. A moving meditation.
Vinyasa can be traced back to 200 BC when Patanjali began formulating Ashtanga and the eight limbs of yoga, but Krishnamacharya is attributed with the creation of the practice, as is Rishi Vamana.
Since its first mention in the Vedic Period (the earliest age of yoga), followers have refined the technique into what we know as Vinyasa today, using more movement with breath instead of staying in static poses.
Vinyasa yoga has several benefits, just like other types of yoga. It can lower stress, improve energy, and improve overall health. Let's explore some of the benefits of Vinyasa yoga.
Breath and breathing are powerful tools. We use breathing to soothe our nervous systems and even combat pain. Vinyasa is a wonderful practice that connects us with our breath and helps us control our bodies’ response to discomfort, pain, stress, and other physical and mental experiences.
Vinyasa classes are often fast-paced. The pace of the movements helps increase your heart rate and improve cardiovascular health. A 2013 study in the Journal of Yoga & Physical Therapy found that the quick movements of Vinyasa make it an excellent choice for light-intensity cardio exercise.
A regular Vinyasa practice can increase whole-body strength. The poses in Vinyasa are challenging and move quickly, working all parts of your body, so you improve functional strength.
There are several balancing poses in yoga, so it's no surprise that yoga can improve stability and balance. According to one 2015 study, people with low vision were able to improve their sense of balance and reduce their risk of falling after a course of Ashtanga-based yoga (like Vinyasa).
Vinyasa involves your entire body in movements that you probably aren't doing over the course of your daily life. Moving your body in this way improves and expands your range of motion. A better range of motion, in turn, can help you avoid injuries.
Vinyasa classes can be treated as moving meditations. The constant flow of movement combined with breathing can help you calm your mind and soothe your nervous system, relieving stress and anxiety. A 2012 study found that women using CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) to quit smoking were able to lower their stress and anxiety—and quit smoking—through the practice of Vinyasa yoga.
Vinyasa classes tend to offer up a lot of variety when it comes to poses, but you'll probably always find sun salutations.
Sun salutations are an ancient sequence of asanas used to express gratitude and thankfulness to the sun. Many Vinyasa classes incorporate sun salutations or an abbreviated version at the beginning of the class as a warmup. Sun salutations also provide a basic template that yoga teachers can then build on.
During a Vinyasa class, you should expect to move from one pose into the next fluidly. And, while most Vinyasa classes have a faster pace, there are slower Vinyasa classes out there. The exact poses, pace, and focus will depend on the yoga teacher and their style.
Vinyasa classes tend to pull from other types of yoga and some of the most popular yoga styles actually fall under the realm of Vinyasa. So, if you see classes that mention Baptiste, Jivamukti, and even CorePower (and other power yoga classes), you can bet that they're Vinyasa classes and you can expect poses to flow.
To stay safe in a Vinyasa yoga class, you'll want to make sure that you go at your own pace, particularly if you're a beginner. The faster pace of most Vinyasa classes means that there are usually fewer alignment clues given, so be sure to reach out to the teacher before class to make sure the class is right for you. If you're brand new to yoga, you might want to consider a Hatha class to become more familiar with the poses before getting into a slower Vinyasa class and then moving onto a more traditionally-paced Vinyasa class.
Vinyasa is an incredibly diverse practice that doesn't stick to a single philosophy. Yoga teachers are free to create sequences using any movements they want, leaving a lot of room for them to put their own mark on their classes. Finding a teacher that you really enjoy and resonate with can make for a fulfilling Vinyasa yoga experience.
With myYogaTeacher, you get access to dozens of experienced yoga teachers and more than 35 live online classes each day. If you think you want to give Vinyasa yoga a try, here are just a few of the classes we offer:
We also have tons of power yoga classes that are built on Vinyasa's fast-based flowing style. No matter what type of yoga you're looking for, myYogaTeacher has you covered. We'd love to offer you a free two-week trial of myYogaTeacher. You'll get access to 35+ live online classes every single day, all taught by our experienced and talented Indian yoga teachers. See you on the mat!
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