As you begin your yoga practice, making your entry into vinyasa yoga can be quite tedious for you if you don’t know much about the practice, what it stands for, the essence of the poses involved, and many other crucial aspects of it.
To save you the hassle and increase your confidence and preparedness for your first Vinyasa Yoga class, we are going to look at everything about the practice including what vinyasa yoga really is, its history, how it works, the benefits, how to do it the right way and the frequently asked questions about it.
What is Vinyasa Yoga
Vinyasa yoga is a style of yoga that combines poses, also called asanas, with breath to bring balance and unity to the mind and body.
It involves a deliberate series of poses where the practitioner moves from one pose to the other as they inhale and exhale, creating that rhythmic flow of the practice which helps the practitioner move in a specified way.
Vinyasa yoga is a breath-based practice that seeks to connect all our actions with our intentions of moving towards the essence of the self.
The word “Vinyasa” is a Sanskrit word that has been given many translations over time. Experts say that it is a combination of two words, “Nyasa” and “Vi” that both mean “to move in a specified way”.
The essence of vinyasa yoga is the breath together with the poses and the specifications outlined on how to combine the poses and the breath.
The practice is known to help improve our level of awareness that helps us to be more present in the moment as we do it as well as several health benefits when practiced in the long term.
Vinyasa yoga is also referred to as Flow yoga because of the flow of poses as you breathe.
History of Vinyasa Yoga
There is no specific origin when it comes to Vinyasa yoga. The practice was modified from the tradition of Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga which can be traced to a yoga teacher called Sri Krishnamacharya.
He is the one who emphasized the significance of the movement from one pose to the other using breath as a way to boost body consciousness and concentration in the practice.
Sri Krishnamacharya is the famous figure behind modern yoga and he trained many yoga teachers including his son, T. K. V. Desikachar as well as B. K. S. Iyengar, K. S. Patthabi Jois, and Indra Devi who went on to come up with advanced styles of yoga.
T. K. V. Desikachar, pushed by the understanding and feeling that yoga should be more customized for the practitioner to suit their specific needs, developed a style of yoga known as Viniyoga.
He also founded the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in India and also went to the United States every so often to teach yoga and give lectures.
K. S. Patthabi Jois, on the other hand, developed the Ashtanga school where he trained students on Ashtanga yoga that he then renamed Ashtanga Vinyasa since he perceived and taught it as moving meditation.
How Vinyasa Yoga Works
Vinyasa yoga is taught differently by different yoga teachers in terms of pace, poses, format, intensity, and other aspects.
However, there are several aspects that are similar across all vinyasa yoga classes which also make the gist and spine of the practice. In every studio that teaches vinyasa yoga, you will find that the teacher bases the practice on:
* Vinyasa as a moving form of meditation – The fact that vinyasa is done through a continuous flow of poses and linking them with the breath, doing the practice feels like you are meditating while you do the poses. Since the practice relies on inhalation and exhalation and uses it to make the different transitions from one pose to the next, the whole style of vinyasa is considered to be meditation in motion.
* The importance of transitions – The transition from one pose to the other is held with as much importance as the poses themselves. To maintain the flow and mindfulness that the practice encourages, you have to view the transitions like poses on their own and with that perception, you are always in a pose regardless of whether you are doing a given pose or you are getting into the next one.
* Ujjayi breathing – Ujjayi breathing, which is also known as victorious breath or ocean breathing, is a type of breathing where breathing in and out happens through the nose but a loud sound is made at the back of the throat. This type of breathing helps to maintain awareness of the breath while making transitions as well as when doing the poses. The breathing is connected with the poses and they all move in oneness.
Vinyasa yoga is often a high-energy practice that may get your heart pumping and increase heart rate which is why it is considered to be a good cardiovascular exercise.
Another key feature of vinyasa yoga is that every class will be different from the previous one and there will be no time when you will have two classes where you do the same thing. Every class is uniquely different from all the others you will have done in the past or you will do in the upcoming sessions.
Many practices fall under the category of vinyasa and work with the flow between poses. Such practices include Modo, Jiyamukti, Baptist’s Power Vinyasa, and CorePower.
Benefits of Vinyasa Yoga
The health benefits associated with the long term practice of vinyasa yoga are:
1. Brings benefits of a cardio workout – A study on how vinyasa yoga affects the heart rate showed that the practice makes a good low-intensity cardiovascular workout that can help with your fitness and improve your overall health in the long run (1)(2).
2. May make a good complementary therapy for quitting smoking – A 2012 study on women who were taken through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) together with Vinyasa yoga while the other group of women was given CBT and a general health and wellness training program revealed that Vinyasa can make a good complementary therapy for women who want to stop smoking (3).
3. My reduce stress – The approach that Vinyasa yoga uses which involves focusing on the breath while doing the poses and the transitions helps to reduce mind wandering and negative thinking by grounding the practitioner in the present moment. In turn, doing the practice brings about a calming effect on the mind (4).
4. Increases mindfulness – Breath is the focal point of mindfulness, and most meditative and mindfulness-based techniques use it to increase mindfulness in the practitioners.
The fact that Vinyasa yoga uses breath while doing the poses and the transitions, which counts for most of the practice, helps the one doing the practice be grounded in the present moment for a long period. Practicing Vinyasa yoga can train the present to focus on the here and now and in turn naturally boost mindfulness.
5. Improves focus and concentration – The continuous mind chattering that is always happening in our brains can really distract us from what we are doing. The thoughts of the past that bring about regret and the future thoughts that cause anxiety and worry keep us from enjoying what is happening at any given moment.
The mindfulness that is encouraged and cultivated through Vinyasa yoga allows us to direct our attention from the thoughts that keep coming up and instead direct and maintain our focus and concentration on the practice. With more practice, just as with mindfulness, we learn to have longer focus and attention spans.
How to Do Vinyasa Yoga
The best way to learn and practice Vinyasa yoga is through a trained, qualified, and experienced Vinyasa yoga instructor.
An instructor will help you understand the core aspects of the practice and will help you through each of your sessions properly to ensure that you are doing the poses well and progressing through your class the right way and making the most of it.
You can get an instructor from the nearby yoga studios and fitness centers in your locality or even online by doing an online search of the best yoga centers, organizations, or fitness studios that offer Vinyasa classes.
As you look for the best instructor, ensure that you look for someone you can easily get along with, who has a good teaching reputation and great reviews from previous students. Also, have an interview with them to understand why they got into training yoga and where they got their yoga credentials and check to see if it is all genuine.
Ideally, you should do your due diligence to be completely sure that the yoga instructor is well-trained, qualified, and experienced, and will help you achieve your yoga goals.
After you get your instructor, be sure to share with them any health conditions you have that you think might get in the way of your practice so that the instructor can make the right modifications and help you benefit as best as you can from it.
If you have a serious health condition, check with your doctor and see if they recommend you to chase your desire to do yoga. If they do, proceed. If they don’t, follow their recommendations.
Also, remember to carry your mat, wear comfortable clothes, and a bottle of water to your Vinyasa yoga classes.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Vinyasa Yoga
Question: What’s a typical Vinyasa class like?
Answer: No class in Vinyasa yoga is the same as the other. All of them are different. That being the case, in the grand scheme of things, you may find that you do sun salutations, proceed to the poses and then end with the corpse pose.
Question: Which are the common poses in Vinyasa Yoga?
Answer: The most common poses include the chair pose, plank, cobra pose, the downward-facing dog pose, the upward facing dog pose, the corpse pose, Surya Namaskara A, the half-moon pose, and the humble warrior pose, just to name a few.
Question: Why is Vinyasa Yoga so popular?
Answer: Because it is fun, it doesn’t require a lot to learn and it is more of an aerobic exercise that most people love.
Question: How can I know if Vinyasa yoga is for me?
Answer: If you are someone who likes flow and unpredictability, then Vinyasa is the perfect fit for you!
Question: Can I do Vinyasa yoga as a beginner in yoga?
Answer: Yes, but don’t expect all the classes to be beginner-friendly. Some classes might be a bit more advanced but the good thing is you are not required to do them. You can simply do the practice at your pace, and when working with your instructor, you can mention that you are a total beginner in yoga and they will know how to help you have a smooth and rewarding experience with the practice.
Question: How long are Vinyasa yoga classes?
Answer: It depends. Some classes are longer while others are shorter. Generally, they range from 30 minutes to 90 minutes.
Question: What is the difference between Hatha yoga and Vinyasa yoga?
Answer: Pace is what sets the two practices apart. Hatha yoga is a much slower-paced practice that allows taking a few breaths between one pose and the next. Vinyasa yoga, on the other hand, flows from one pose to the other and unites the poses with the breath.
Question: Which are some of the best Vinyasa yoga apps and classes?
Answer: Well, there are definitely many great classes and resources for vinyasa yoga all over the world. Here are just a few of them: Alo Moves, CorePower Yoga, Mindbody, and Obé Fitness.