Vinyasa Yoga 101

woman doing Vinyasa Yoga

There are a number of different types of yoga to choose from.  One of these is Vinyasa yoga.

Yoga means union, meaning the union of mind, body and spirit. The best yoga will combine all three. However, many modern types of yoga focus mainly on the poses, or asanas.  They tend to focus less on the meditation and breath work.  Meditation and breath work are vital for some types of yoga.

What Is Vinyasa Yoga?

Vinyasa is also known as flow yoga. The word vinyasa means to place in a special way. It uses the same asanas as Hatha yoga. However, in Vinyasa yoga the poses are organized into sequences so the body is in constant motion as it moves smoothly from one pose to the next.  In Hatha yoga each asana is performed individually with a pause in between.

The word vinyasa can also mean “breath-synchronized movement.”  This means that practioners perform, hold and change the asanas in conjunction with their inhale and exhale patterns.  They may count the number of breaths, as well.

K. Pattabhi was the most prominent teacher of Vinyasa.  He founded his own yoga institute in India in 1948.  He also helped popularize yoga throughout the world.

The Eight Limbs of Yoga

Vinyasa flow yoga belongs to the ancient practice of Ashtanga yoga. People also call it Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga. Ashtanga is a Sanskrit term which means “eight-limbed.” This refers to a 2,000-year-old book about yoga which stated that the practice of yoga, or union, involves eight limbs, or arms and legs, to support it.

Two of the eight limbs are asana and pranayama, that is, poses and breathing. Pranayama is a combination of two words, prana (life-force energy) and ayama (to move or regulate). By controlling our breathing we can regulate our energy and use it to achieve our goals in life. We can also use the energy for health and healing. Yoga is part of Ayurvedic medicine.  Ayurvedic medicine is traditional Indian medicine that has been used for centuries to bring the body back into balance.

Yoga for All

The beauty of Vinyasa flow yoga is people of any age and ability can practice. The main trick is to learn the postures first so you can move smoothly from one to the next.

Vinyasa is low-impact compared to Ashtanga, which is a good deal more strenuous and has seven levels (one beginner, two intermediate and four advanced). With Vinyasa, you need focus and concentration as you move from one posture to the next and then hold it for a certain number of breaths before moving on to the next asana. However, it is not high impact.

Different forms of breathing are used in Vinyasa yoga.  Compared to Hatha or Kundalini yoga, there is less pranayama and meditation.  Hatha and Kundalini are both also good for those new to yoga.

Due to its continuous movement, you have no time to get bored.  Vinyasa also has many beneficial physical effects such as improved circulation, digestion, flexibility and mental abilities such as concentration. It relieves stiffness and lowers blood pressure, while reducing stress and improving mood.

Vinyasa will give you more energy and offer relief from depression and anxiety. It can also improve your social skills as you attended classes and work with your teacher to improve your postures and flow.

If you are looking for an interesting and fun form of yoga, see if there is a Vinyasa or flow yoga studio near you.  Try it for yourself.  You can then see what a difference yoga can make to your mind, body and spirit.