Vinyasa yoga, also known as Vinyasa Flow, is a fast-paced style of yoga that is practiced by thousands of yogis worldwide. Vinyasa yoga was designed to obtain balance in the body through a flow of asanas (physical postures) and breathing techniques, and the rapidly changing poses create an intense workout that is both invigorating and gratifying.
The Origins of Vinyasa Yoga
Vinyasa yoga has been practiced for thousands of years. The first to introduce the concepts of vinyasa was Tirumali Krishnamacharya, also known as the “father of modern yoga.” Krishnamacharya traveled all over the world to gain a better understanding of yoga and lived a life of profound discipline. His main goal was to ensure that each individual, no matter what level, was able to benefit from his classes.
The Sanskrit term vinyasa can be translated as “to place in a special way”. Vinyasa yoga, therefore, uses a series of movements linked together in a progressive format. Krishnamacharya believed that vinyasa is an effective practice that has the power to calm the mind and rejuvenate the body.
Characteristics of Vinyasa Flow
Vinyasa yoga has a wide range of asanas that are sequenced in a flowing pattern, beginning and ending with the same asana. Each posture is held for only a short period of time and the “flow” of postures is meant to act as a moving meditation.
Sun salutations are a common asana flow used in vinyasa yoga. The fluidity and change of posture with each breath evoke harmony and poise in the body, all while increasing self-awareness.
Instructors use various breathing techniques throughout the practice. In vinyasa yoga, the breath is synchronized with each movement. Every inhale and exhale is done to support the movements of the body, such as inhaling during a backbend and exhaling during a forward bend.
The “ujjayi breath” is the primary breathing technique used during practice. It is done by filling the lungs to its highest capacity while slightly contracting the throat on the inhale and then fully exhaling. This breath is done through the nose, which allows you to flow with the quick-paced asanas, calm the mind, and increase energy.
Different flow sequences
One major characteristic that defines vinyasa yoga, is the wide range of possible sequences and transitions. There is no set or required flow of asanas, so different instructors all have their own methods of guiding the class. Each class will include a range of asanas that focus on different parts of the body.
Tips for Beginners
Like any other yoga class, dress in comfortable clothing. The clothing should be light enough that the instructor can see your movement and breath to ensure that you’re doing the asanas properly and safely.
Don’t push yourself too hard.
Although the asanas may seem easy, the faster-paced sequencing of vinyasa flow creates a more challenging and intense combination of movements. It’s better to focus first and foremost on your breath and the fundamental poses, such as downward dog, before attempting a more complicated pose. Pushing yourself too hard can ultimately do more harm than good.
Don’t be opposed to modifications.
Before the class begins, inform the instructor of any health concerns or problems. He/she can offer tips on modifying the flow to suit your individual needs. You may also inform the instructor if you think you will have a hard time doing a pose. He/she will tell you how to modify the pose in a different way, such as through the use of props.
Be mindful of your body.
Vinyasa yoga’s transitioning asanas are designed to strengthen and tone the muscles. The asanas may be challenging, but shouldn’t be too painful. You know your body far better than the instructor. If you experience any sharp pain, numbness, or tingling in the body make sure to tell the instructor immediately. Dismissing pain as “good” or something that is “supposed to happen” in yoga can cause damage to the muscles, ligaments, or joints.
Also be mindful of the transitions between poses.
The transition stage or the time in between the asanas is just as important as the asanas themselves. Focus on the ujjayi breath while moving through each posture to help move you through the flow with more ease and grace.
Focus on breathing.
While holding and transitioning through the asanas, it’s fundamentally crucial to focus on the breath. Vinyasa can feel like an intense workout and may increase your heart rate. Pranayama, or breathing exercises, keeps blood pumping and circulation flowing, which ensures that you get the most out of your practice. Practicing breathing techniques outside of class can help as well.
Vinyasa yoga requires practice, discipline, and patience. If done properly, vinyasa yoga can help sharpen focus, increase flexibility, and gain self-awareness. It’s the perfect practice for anyone looking to gain an uplifting yet rejuvenating experience.