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Vinyasa Yoga

What is Vinyasa Yoga?

Vinyasa yoga - Female yogi with purple top and orange leggings doing side plank on green mat.
Side Plank pose (Vasisthasana)

Vinyasa yoga is an uplifting and energetic form of yoga which is characterized by breath-synchronized movement. Conscious movements, which flow effortlessly from one to the next, are as important to the practice as building strength and flexibility within the body.

There is much less emphasis on alignment than in other forms of yoga such as Iyengar Yoga. In Vinyasa Yoga the focus shifts from posture to breath. The aim is to stay present with the breath and bring consciousness to each movement. For this reason, it is sometimes described as a “moving meditation”.

Vinyasa has become a very popular form of practice in recent years. Since this style does not follow a set sequence, each class will be unique. This greatly appeals to those who may have become restless or bored with the fixed forms of Bikram and Ashtanga and are looking for a more varied practice.

The term “Ashtanga Vinyasa” is sometimes confused with “Vinyasa Yoga”. A vinyasa (linked series of breath-led poses) can be used in any yoga class to warm up the body, but does not define the practice itself.

What to expect when practicing Vinyasa Yoga

Typically, a Vinyasa Yoga class will begin in Tadasana (mountain pose), before launching into a series of standing postures. Some teachers may choose to start with some simple seated warm-up exercises, and slowly build up the pace.

Revolved Side Angle pose

A class will definitely get the blood pumping and almost always include a number of sun salutations to raise the heart rate and heat within the body.

In Vinyasa Yoga transitions are considered as important as the asanas (postures) themselves, as each student learns to be comfortable with the “spaces in between.”

Teachers will often use the phrase “come back to the breath”, to remind students that all movement should be led by the in-breath and out-breath.

How difficult is Vinyasa Yoga?

One-Legged Upward Plank pose (Purvottanasana)

Vinyasa Yoga would be considered a medium to difficult form of yoga practice. Beginners with a good level of fitness can still participate, however it may take a little time to learn the various flow sequences.

A beginner’s class may still be fairly challenging, so be sure to let the teacher know you’re new, and don’t be scared to rest in “child’s pose” if you are feeling tired.

Vinyasa classes can also vary considerably, so it’s worth trying a few out to find the right teacher for you.

What is Vinyasa Yoga good for?

Wild Thing pose (Camatkarasana)

Vinyasa Yoga may appeal to those who are after a good workout but are not fond of the rigidity of the set sequences found in Bikram and Ashtanga Yoga. Many advocates consider it a more “complete” form of practice as it offers strength training, variety of forms, and mind-body awareness.