What is Vinyasa yoga?
There are many styles of yoga and each one of them has wonderful healing affects on the body and the mind of a practitioner. It all comes down to personal preferences when choosing a yoga class. So, what is Vinyasa Yoga?
Vinyasa Flow yoga stems from Ashtanga Yoga. The Sanskrit term "vinyasa" may be broken down into its Sanskritic roots to assist in decoding its meaning. "Nyasa" means "to place" and "vi" means "in a special way." In other words, yoga postures (Asanas) during vinyasa yoga class "are placed in a special way", or special order to suit a variety of students needs and, more importantly, are connected to breath. So, vinyasa means a "breath-synchronized movement".
Vinyasa style classes are choreographed to smoothly transition from one asana to the next, linking each one to the cycle of a student's breath (inhale-exhale makes one breath cycle). It makes the practice flowing, almost dance-like, and explains why this style of yoga is often referred to as Vinyasa Flow or just Flow. With each movement being linked to the power of inhalation and exhalation, this style of yoga is more dynamic, invigorating, demanding, and challenging than most styles.
Vinyasa flow classes bring the body into a state of physical strength, flexibility, and vitality, the mind into a state of balance and stillness, and help a student to create a “container” for the movements and experiences in life.
What are the physical and mental benefits of Vinyasa Yoga?
The list of yoga benefits is very long, beautiful, and almost impossible to cover on just one page. Here are just a few of them:
Physically, a vinyasa flow class is dynamic and challenging and provides a student with a good cardio workout, developing endurance and resilience.
The more demanding nature of the flow style yoga classes makes students break into a sweat that expels toxins and re-energizes the body.
A properly sequenced class targets the entire body, evenly and safely, redistributing stress through muscles and bones. It contributes greatly to the overall health of musculo-skeletal system and slows down the natural aging process.
Holding and transitioning safely from one asana to the other requires lots of strength in the core and upper body which enhances posture, improves active daily living, and helps to build and maintain a strong metabolic rate.
Synchronizing breath to movement relaxes the mind, releases built up stress, and creates a focused and meditative practice. It brings equilibruim to our nervous system and helps maintain balance and harmony in everyday life.
A strong focus on proper breathing during the class keeps student's attention in the present moment . It brings clarity to the mind which greatly improves the ability to solve problems arising on a daily basis with ease and harmony.
Practicing vinyasa yoga and yoga in general on a regular basis builds a strong, flexible and well-balanced Body and Mind, and brings contentment and happiness to everyday life.
Is it appropriate for beginners?
Yes, providing that a student chooses a class appropriate for their current level of experience. Flow style classes are always broken down into levels by intensity and difficulty of the asanas performed. See our class descriptions for more detail.
Vinyasa flow classes are built based on a step-by-step approach that appropriately and systematically takes a student from one point and safely lands in the next. Through thoughtful and creative synchronizing of breath with asanas, appropriate for the class level, the yoga teacher gradually and safely opens and strengthens a student's body, preparing a practitioner for more challenging postures and sophisticated transitons.
What to expect from a Vinyasa flow class?
As vinyasa style is more dynamic and challenging (accept for the flow classes described as "Gentle Flow" where the main focus is on obtaining comfort and deep relaxation in each pose), prepare to sweat and receive a good cardio workout!
Generally, a flow type class starts with a few minutes of centering meditation and breath work (pranayama), creating awareness and quieting the mind. After some gentle warm-ups, the class moves into a series of Sun Salutations A and B (Surya Namaskar A, B) with some variations and modifications based on class level, preparing the body and mind for the main heat sequence.
The structure of the main sequence is limited by the class level and teacher's imagination only. So, there are no two vinyasa flow classes alike, which makes each class highly adaptable to student needs and experiences. Dynamic and vibrant, vinyasa flow classes can vary greatly in difficulty and intensity.
Always look for a detaliled class description or consult a yoga instructor when in doubt if the class is appripriate for the present level of experience.
Prepare to combine perspiration with inspiration as well! Yogic phylosophy, inspiring quotes, and poetry are often interwoven into the class structure, taking students into their next vinyasa Off The Mat and into the world!
What does "take a vinyasa" mean?
Quite a few times during a flow class a teacher asks students to "take a vinyasa".
The instructor is referring to a set sequence of particular asanas linked to breath: Plank Pose (Phalakasana), Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana), Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana), Downward Facing Dog ( Adho Mukha Svanasana).
This set sequence is used as a link between some postures to transition to the right and the left sides of the body. It keeps the body warm, mind focused and sequence fluid and seamless. At the beginner level, students are carefully guided through "their vinyasa" with plenty of verbal cues and hand-on adjustments. More experienced classes are allowed to "flow through vinyasa" on their own.