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Just What is Vinyasa Yoga? Here’s an Overview of Everything You Need to Know

Vinyasa Yoga is the strength-building, flexibility-improving, stamina-increasing, mind-calming cardiovascular exercise that will ensure you get the most “workout” out of your yoga session. It’s the perfect one-and-done, endorphin-filled practice that will leave you feeling both accomplished and grounded.
When it’s time to roll out your yoga mat and practice, you should always ask yourself, “What are my intentions today?” Is your answer something like: “to energize my body,” “to feel alive and powerful,” or “to challenge myself mentally and physically?” Then Vinyasa Yoga may just be your cup of tea . . . or shot of whiskey. We don’t judge here!

What is Vinyasa Yoga?

Let’s break it down . . . Sanskrit style.
Vin = “to place”
Yasa = “in a special way”
In other words, “to move with intention.” If there’s one thing you’d like to take away from your yoga journey thus far, it’s the importance of practicing with intention. Vinyasa Yoga helps you do exactly this: this practice encourages you to flow through each movement with intent, continually keeping the mind and body connected with the breath.
In Vinyasa Yoga you use the power of breath to flow from pose to pose and focus on alignment. It’s a series fast-paced postures focused primarily on flowing through asana, as opposed to holding poses for several breaths. The asanas practiced during a vinyasa flow are all connected through the rhythm of inhalation and exhalation and aim to create energy and heat in the body.
Vinyasa Yoga is sometimes best described as “freestyle Ashtanga Yoga,” because it often contains the same poses but is done in a more creative, less strict sequence.
Want to learn more about Ashtanga Yoga? Read Ashtanga Yoga – Here’s Everything You Need to Know About This Powerful Yoga Discipline

Characteristics of Vinyasa Yoga

To get a better understanding of Vinyasa Yoga, check out these specific characteristics that help further define this style of yoga.

  • Movement is always synchronized with the breath
  • Inhalations generally correspond with upward movements and exhalations with downward movements
  • Ujjayi Pranayama is often the technique used for breath control
  • Similar poses as Ashtanga Yoga, but the order and variance of the poses often differ
  • Postures and sequences are generally repeated multiple times within the same session
  • Typically provides a mild cardiovascular response in the body



Popular Vinyasa Yoga Sequences

During a yoga class, you’ve most likely heard your instructor say something like “take a vinyasa.” But wait – you may not even be in a Vinyasa Yoga class, so what does this mean exactly?
A “vinyasa,” in general class terms, is a sequence that is popularly used to help transition your body during yoga. It’s also used as a way to refocus, realign, and bring awareness back to your body during a challenging practice. You may recognize it as part of the traditional Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar).
Here’s the “Vinyasa” Sequence:

  • Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
  • Plank (Phalakasana)
  • Chaturanga Dandasana (Chaturanga dandasana)
  • Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
  • Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Speaking of Sun Salutations, you’ll find many instructors choose to start their Vinyasa Yoga classes with them. And it’s no wonder, because they’re amazing for your mind and body! This sequence sharpens your mind, improves circulation, purifies blood, strengthens your muscles and joints, and even promotes good digestion!
Here’s a traditional Sun Salutation Sequence:

  • Mountain Pose (Samasthiti)
  • Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
  • Flat Back Forward Fold (Ardha Uttanasana)
  • Plank (Phalakasana)
  • Chaturanga (Chaturanga Dandasana)
  • Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
  • Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
  • Flat Back Forward Fold (Ardha Uttanasana)
  • Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
  • Mountain Pose (Samasthiti)

If you want a quick and effective yoga workout that you can do anytime or anyplace, simply do a vinyasa flow comprised of only Sun Salutations. Set a goal for yourself and see how many salutations you can complete in a set amount of time!

Remember: All Practice is Good Practice

In most cases, you’ll even find that no two sessions of Vinyasa Yoga will ever be the exact same. That’s because, while organized sequences are always welcome, sometimes the best part is simply creating the sequence as you go along.
Vinyasa Yoga is a graciously forgiving style of yoga, as there is only one simple rule to follow: move by way of breath. As long as you’re flowing via the power of your breath, you’re sure to learn and benefit from every practice.

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Jillian Halliday

Jill Halliday is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist and Registered Holistic Nutrition Practitioner helping others find sustainable nourishment! When not working her administrative position or 1:1 with nutrition clients, you can find her enjoying time with her family or getting in a sweat in the gym/on the mat!

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