Vinyasa Yoga 101: What to Know to Get Into the Flow

Vinyasa yoga is a dynamic practice that seamlessly blends breath and movement. In this article, you’ll learn more about the effects of Vinyasa yoga and how it can positively change your body and mind.

We’ve also created a unique flow for you that combines mindfulness and dynamism.

What Is Vinyasa Yoga?

Vinyasa yoga is a dynamic, powerful form of yoga in which movements are synchronized with the breath. You move fluidly from one position to the next with inhalation and exhalation.

The word Vinyasa comes from ancient Indian Sanskrit and means “Vi” (in a certain way) and “nyasa” (to set, place, lay). The practice connects yoga poses in a certain way.

The unique thing about Vinyasa Yoga is that there are no fixed rules or sequences, as in Ashtanga Yoga. Therefore, each class can be different.

It is a free and creative style of yoga that has evolved from the original Hatha Yoga and is also considered a moving meditation.

Vinyasa classes often involve Ujjayi breathing, the victorious breath.

It involves slightly contracting the back of the throat to create a sound reminiscent of the sound of the ocean. This breathing technique is powerful and helps to keep the focus on the breath and the present moment during practice.

Ujjayi allows you to master challenging postures with ease.

Hatha vs. Vinyasa Yoga

While in Hatha Yoga, the poses are practiced one at a time and held for several breaths, in Vinyasa, you flow through the different poses in sync with your breath and keep moving.

The poses are also performed more quickly than in Hatha yoga.

Vinyasa vs. Yin Yoga

Vinyasa Yoga is a dynamic, active yoga flow that builds strength, while Yin Yoga is more passive, relaxing, and focuses on flexibility.

vinyasa yoga

Ashtanga vs. Vinyasa Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga always follows the same sequence of movements, while there are no limits to your creativity in a vinyasa flow. Vinyasa Yoga classes can vary significantly in their poses, sequence, and intensity.

Ashtanga and Vinyasa Yoga are both active and strengthening styles of yoga. In both types, the chakras are activated from the bottom up. That’s why inversion poses like headstands come only at the end of a sequence.

Power Vinyasa Yoga

Power Vinyasa Yoga is a powerful full-body workout that balances the body and mind.

The postures are physically challenging, and the transitions between poses are smooth and follow the breath.

Hot Vinyasa Yoga

Hot Vinyasa Yoga is practiced in a heated room at 95 to 98 °F. The heat increases the physical flexibility and also the intensity of the session.

Is Vinyasa Yoga OK for Beginners?

While beginners can practice Vinyasa Yoga, it is not the best choice for your first yoga class.

Since the movements in Vinyasa Yoga are powerful and synchronized with the breath, the yoga style is a bit more challenging. However, since no set rules exist for a Vinyasa flow, difficulty and intensity vary significantly between teachers.

You’ll find both beginner-friendly and advanced classes in Vinyasa Yoga.

What Should I Expect From a Class?

A Vinyasa yoga class is very varied and includes creative movement sequences and thematic focuses. What all Vinyasa classes have in common, however, is the flow of movement between postures.

A typical Vinyasa yoga class lasts between 60 and 75 minutes and consists of several sequences:

  • The yoga teacher establishes a theme at the beginning, upon which the class is built. It can focus on specific body parts, chakras, or topics such as strength and balance.
  • Classic sun salutations or a variation of them are often integrated as a warm-up exercise.
  • They are followed by the actual yoga flow, which relates to the set theme.
  • The class concludes with a guided final relaxation called savasana.

Benefits of Vinyasa Yoga

Vinyasa benefits the body and mind by combining physical activity, breathing, mindfulness, and meditation in one practice.

In a world where we are on the go and overstimulated 24/7, we need these benefits more than ever. Your holistic health will thank you!

1. Increases Fitness

Researchers call systematic participation in vinyasa yoga classes an excellent alternative to traditional aerobic exercise, like running.

According to them, yoga flow can effectively improve cardiovascular fitness and promote weight loss (Tsopanidou et al. 20201).

Vinyasa yoga is a moderate-intensity activity that can be performed between high-intensity workouts such as HIIT and weight lifting.

For this reason, I recommend it to women over 50, among others, to increase their fitness, as it is a prime complement to short but intense strength training.

2. Prevents Heart Disease

This style of yoga has been shown to improve the risk of cardiovascular problems.

Even a single vinyasa yoga class improved arterial stiffness in a 2021 study measurably.

Furthermore, researchers indicated that Vinyasa Yoga lowers non-HDL cholesterol in the blood and improves mood in general (Pina et al. 20212).

3. Improves Well-Being

Flow yoga can also help improve mood.

That shows a 2014 study in which students who participated in vinyasa yoga classes twice a week increased their positive and decreased negative emotions over just eight weeks (Gaskins et al. 20143).

4. Reduces Stress and Anxiety

In a recent study, 17 students participated in a six-week program in which they completed a 60-minute vinyasa flow yoga class once a week.

After completing the program, the students significantly reduced their stress and anxiety levels.

The researchers concluded that this mindfulness practice, even if done only once a week, can significantly reduce stress and anxiety in college students (Lemay et al. 20194).

People who suffered from constant depression were also able to significantly reduce their depression symptoms by practicing Vinyasa Yoga for just two months. They also considerably increased mindfulness and behavioral activation (Uebelacker et al. 20105).

5. Fosters Smoking Cessation

Flow yoga has also been shown to help reduce the stress associated with smoking cessation.

Women who completed cognitive behavioral therapy to quit smoking were able to reduce stress and anxiety with the help of vinyasa yoga exercises (Bock et al. 20126).

Similarly, a 60-minute vinyasa class that included breathing exercises and relaxation techniques twice a week helped people better manage cigarette cravings and stress.

The practice also increased their body awareness and relaxation (Rosen et al. 20167).

6. Supports Cancer Patients

In a brand-new study, the effect of a twelve-week vinyasa yoga practice significantly reduced sleep problems and stress in breast cancer patients.

Participants also noted improved overall well-being and self-acceptance (Zok et al. 20238).

7. Improves Stability and Balance

The flowing movements from one posture to the following promote coordination, improving your sense of balance.

Vinyasa Yoga Flow Sequence (Example)

“Flow through your vinyasa.” You’ll often hear this phrase during a vinyasa class. It defines a series of four postures (or a slight variation of them):

  1. Plank
  2. Chaturanga
  3. Cobra
  4. Downward dog

Here, the breath determines when you flow into the next posture.

The following exercises are an example of a typical vinyasa flow:

1. Plank

Plank in Vinyasa Yoga
  • Start in a plank position. You can quickly achieve this from the downward dog or by stepping or jumping backward from the front of the yoga mat. If the plank is too much for you, you can also drop your knees to the floor.
  • Keep your shoulders over your wrists and hips aligned with your shoulders.
  • Stretch forward through the crown of your head and back through your heels.

2. Chaturanga

Chaturanga Dandasana in Vinyasa Yoga
  • Exhale and bend the elbows to lower yourself into Chaturanga Dandasana. The elbows are close to the body and facing backward.
  • Your body is in a straight line above the mat. Your shoulders should be no lower than your elbows.

2. Knees-Chest-Chin (Alternative)

Knees-Chest-Chin Pose

For an easier variation:

  • Exhale to lower your knees, chest, and chin on the mat.
  • Keep your buttocks in the air. The elbows are placed close to the chest and point backward.

3. Cobra

Cobra pose in Vinyasa Yoga
  • Inhale and slide forward into a small cobra pose.
  • Keep your arms where they are. Lower your hips to the floor, stretch your legs back, rest the backs of your feet on the mat, and lift your chest off the floor.
  • Be sure to place your arms just slightly beside your chest and put little to no weight on them. The strength comes from the lower back.

4. Downward Dog

Women do the downward-facing dog
  • Exhale and place your toes back on the mat as you extend your arms to push yourself back into the downward-facing dog.
  • Variation: Feel free to enter a quadruped stand or child’s pose during the transition.
  • In the downward dog, your hands are shoulder-width apart, and your feet are hip-width apart.
  • Make your spine long, press your buttocks toward the sky, and your heels toward the floor.

5. Cat-Cow

Cat pose in Vinyasa Yoga
  • Exhale and get into a quadruped stance. Knees are hip-width open, hands under shoulders, gaze down. Actively push your hands and knees into the floor and tighten your abdomen.
  • Cow: Inhale, lower your belly towards the floor, arch your back, lift your chest, and at the end your head. The gaze goes forward or upward.
  • Cat: Exhale, round your spine vertebra by vertebra as you lower your tailbone and draw your chin toward your chest. The gaze goes to the belly button.
  • Repeat: Practice the exercises alternately and in sync with your breathing.

Cat-cow is also very good at the beginning as a warm-up exercise of a vinyasa yoga flow.

Conclusion

Vinyasa is an active and dynamic style of yoga that combines physical activity, breathing, mindfulness, and meditation into a single practice.

The movements are harmoniously combined with breathing in a creative flow and, in most cases, do not follow a specific sequence to which teachers must adhere.

Each Vinyasa class has a different focus, so it is crucial to find a teacher or class that you enjoy and that suits you.

Vinyasa Yoga helps strengthen your muscles and improves balance and endurance.

There are classes for beginners and advanced students. Basic knowledge is helpful in any case to follow the fast flow.

Flow yoga is suitable if you want more physical activity and to let off steam on the mat. The flowing movements create a meditative state that helps you break free of mental blocks and clear your head.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is special about Vinyasa Yoga?

Vinyasa yoga increases overall physical fitness, improves well-being, and reduces stress and anxiety while balancing the body and mind.

What is the difference between Vinyasa Yoga and regular yoga?

Vinyasa Yoga harmoniously combines the movements with the breath. The exercises are performed faster and more fluidly than in other yoga. The strength also lies in its variety: a Vinyasa flow does not follow fixed rules but is creative and varied.

Is Vinyasa the hardest yoga?

Vinyasa is more challenging than other styles of yoga because of its fast-paced movements. However, the intensity of a flow varies from class to class.

Who is Vinyasa Yoga best for?

Vinyasa is for you if you want a dynamic and strengthening yoga practice.

What kind of yoga is Vinyasa?

Vinyasa is a flowing type of yoga in which movements are harmoniously strung together and connected by the breath.

References

1Tsopanidou, A. Α., Venetsanou, F. D., Stavridis, I. S., Paradisis, G. P., & Zacharogiannis, E. G. (2020). Energy expenditure during a Vinyasa yoga session. The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness60(8), 1110–1117. https://doi.org/10.23736/S0022-4707.20.10821-1

2Piña, A. A., Shadiow, J., Tobi Fadeyi, A., Chavez, A., & Hunter, S. D. (2020). The acute effects of vinyasa flow yoga on vascular function, lipid and glucose concentrations, and mood. Complementary Therapies in Medicine56, 102585. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2020.102585

3Gaskins, R. B., Jennings, E., Thind, H., Becker, B. M., & Bock, B. C. (2014). Acute and Cumulative Effects of Vinyasa Yoga on Affect and Stress among College Students Participating in an Eight-week Yoga Program: A Pilot Study. International journal of yoga therapy24, 63–70.

4Lemay, V., Hoolahan, J., & Buchanan, A. (2019). Impact of a Yoga and Meditation Intervention on Students’ Stress and Anxiety Levels. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education83(5). https://doi.org/10.5688/ajpe7001

5Uebelacker, L. A., Tremont, G., Epstein-Lubow, G., Gaudiano, B. A., Gillette, T., Kalibatseva, Z., & Miller, I. W. (2010). Open trial of Vinyasa yoga for persistently depressed individuals: Evidence of feasibility and acceptability. Behavior Modification34(3). https://doi.org/10.1177/0145445510368845

6Bock, B. C., Fava, J. L., Gaskins, R., Morrow, K. M., Williams, D. M., Jennings, E., Becker, B. M., Tremont, G., & Marcus, B. H. (2012). Yoga as a Complementary Treatment for Smoking Cessation in Women. Journal of Women’s Health21(2), 240-248. https://doi.org/10.1089/jwh.2011.2963

7Rosen, R. K., Thind, H., Jennings, E., Guthrie, K. M., Williams, D. M., & Bock, B. C. (2015). “Smoking Does Not Go With Yoga:” A Qualitative Study of Women’s Phenomenological Perceptions During Yoga and Smoking Cessation. International Journal of Yoga Therapy26(1), 33. https://doi.org/10.17761/1531-2054-26.1.33

8Zok, A., Matecka, M., Zapala, J., Izycki, D., & Baum, E. (2023). The Effect of Vinyasa Yoga Practice on the Well-Being of Breast-Cancer Patients during COVID-19 Pandemic. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health20(4). https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph20043770

Mag. Stephan Lederer, MSc. is an author and blogger from Austria who writes in-depth content about health and nutrition. His book series on Interval Fasting landed #1 on the bestseller list in the German Amazon marketplace in 15 categories.

Stephan is a true man of science, having earned multiple diplomas and master's degrees in various fields. He has made it his mission to bridge the gap between conventional wisdom and scientific knowledge. He precisely reviews the content and sources of this blog for currency and accuracy.

Click on the links above to visit his author and about me pages.

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