Vinyasa Yoga is a sequence of poses that flows from one pose to the next seamlessly with a big focus on the breath. It is often called “flow yoga” and its flowing nature sometimes gets referred to as a dance.
Its postures are not in a set definition like some other yogas so vinyasa can vary a lot from one class to the next. Many teachers have their own set of postures and the focus is very much on the overall flow of the sequence along with on the breath.
What is Vinyasa?
Vinyasa is a Sanskrit term that translates as “to place in a special way.” This can be seen in the sequences as they flow from one pose to the next with managed breath and a focus on the heightened awareness that develops as the sequence evolves.
We are not just performimg moves but practicing a sequence that is linked in a connected flow like someone performing a dance. We can think of it as an expression of how we think and feel. It is one of the most popular styles of yoga today.
Vinyasa Yoga connects one posture to the next using the breath and it refers to the style of yoga that focuses on breathing in conjunction with body movement.
Vinyasa is synonymous with movement and it is very much about balance. The classes consist of a steady flow of yoga postures and each is performed with a specific instruction to inhale or exhale.
It creates a fluid and continuous movement between poses creating a flowing link between breath and movement.
Benefits of Vinyasa Breathing
It is a breath initiated practice, which means that every action is connected, with the intention of moving towards a balanced man with a whole focus.
As the postures are performed there is a constant focus on the breath and being mindful of when to inhale or exhale.
Basically you inhale when you move into a pose, move, and then you exhale as you move out of a posture, often creating downward movements.
This method of breath management allows you to create a deeper absorption of awareness through a moving meditation while practicing yoga.
The flow of Vinyasa puts us in touch with the prana (life-force) and so we want to focus and think about how we do the poses, what is our mindset or frame of thinking.
The constant and continual awareness of the breath while you move through the poses calms the mind and increases focus. Vinyasa Flow can induce a Flow State, a type of consciousness which we usually find up-lifting and positive. It really can lead to a moving meditation.
In Vinyasa the movements are initiated by the breath and so you can hear it being referred to as a “breath-synchronized” practice. The postures and breathing work in tandem to create the Vinyasa flow.
The main type of breathing method used in Vinyasa is Ujjayi Breath.
Ujjayi Breathing is a diaphragmatic breath and is also known as Ocean Breath or Victorious Breath from the Sanskrit name.
This breathing method helps calm the mind and warm the body. You start by breathing normally and on your exhalation, slightly contract the back of your throat, like you are going to whisper. Softly whisper the sound, “ahhh,” as you do your exhale and this is the whispering sound of Ocean breath.
You can move to nose breathing when you are comfortable contracting your throat as instructed above.
Benefits of Ujjayi Breathing:
- Improves focus and mental clarity
- Strengthens the breathing and prana
- Helps grow the prana
- Cleanses the nadis
- Slows the breathing, which also calms the mind
- Improves body functions and bolsters the immune system
- Improves skin condition as well as complexion
- Improves circulation
Good breath focus leads to increased awareness during the vinyasa flow and this will help carry over to off the mat benefits like better living and management of life tasks.
Benefits of Vinyasa Yoga
Vinyasa Yoga can be a challenging, sweaty practice and it has both physical and mental benefits.
Physically, the sweat releases toxins in the body and re-energizes us, while mentally, the managed breathing can center us and relax the body and the minds chatter.
The steady and continuous flow of postures builds internal heat which can help to detoxify the body. Also the heat generated can add a cardiovascular component not always present in other forms of postural practice.
Vinyasa has a fast-paced, athletic, strength-building approach which also helps to improve cardiovascular and respiratory health, and increase bone density.
This flowing practice helps to release any blockage of energy flow throughout the body and many practitioners also discover reduced stress and improved sleep.
Vinyasa Has Variety
It uses many different postures and the benefit is greater depth of postural understanding, These will typically include a broad range of poses, including standing and balancing postures, twists, backbends, inversions, seated poses, and forward folds.
The variable nature of Vinyasa Yoga helps to develop a more balanced body as we focus on the breath and attain a certain harmony. Vinyasa is the experience of being alive, connected and free.
The practice of linking breath and movement to flow through postures invites us into an expression that is sometimes missing in other forms of the practice.
The fluid, almost dance-like movements increase flexibility, strength, and stamina, as it calms the mind and improves overall health.
Because of the great amount of creativity allowed, Vinyasa classes can vary greatly. What one teacher offers is often different than other teachers. The one thing they have in common though is the emphasis on linking movement with breath.
Vinyasa classes focus less on absolute accuracy and alignment but mostly on flow.
Vinyasa Yoga and Meditation
As we say the word “vinyasa” can be translated as “arranging something in a special way”. Each movement in a Vinyasa practice is partnered with either an inhalation or an exhalation, creating a flowing link between breath and movement, so it is really like a form of meditation.
Vinyasa is often considered a moving meditation.
It is made up of our external movements that express how we think and feel. The repetition of poses and movement with the breath does build familiarity, and it also builds a harmony for us.
Vinyasa – Connecting Breath and Movement
In its philosophy, Vinyasa shows us the temporary nature of things, as we are bringing consciousness to each movement in each moment. As a meditation we see that we enter into each posture, stay there for a while and then finish it.
This helps us to see what is changeless and permanent throughout all of the changes, that constant factor of “what IS”. The meditation can show us a connection to something greater than ourselves.
The connecting of one’s awareness with the breath creates this moving meditation and that can calm and focus the mind. At first it can feel a bit much to coordinate, but once you get the hang of it and establish a rhythm that works for your body, vinyasa can ultimately deepen your focus and awareness.
In today’s world things are usually high energy, going in a million directions at once. Vinyasa can meet you there and lead you back to an inner peace and harmony that exists within you.
See more on Mindfulness
Vinyasa may seem to end where it starts, in the same place, but if we pay attention the experience changes us, and for the better too!
Vinyasa is about balance, harmony, grace and fluidity: we move and notice how we are moving and also what moves us.
We do vinyasa together and this reminds us that we are all in this together and that the practice and its breathing management and focus is big enough for all of us.
There is a very good book on Vinyasa Yoga:The Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga: The Authoritative Presentation-Based on 30 Years of Direct Study Under the Legendary Yoga Teacher Krishnamacha
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