Vinyasa Yoga is a the most flowy type of yoga that connects breath with movement, and is commonly taught one breath = one movement. You hear Vinyasa Yoga referred to as Flow Yoga, or sometimes just simply ‘flow.’
As with many Sanskrit terms, there are many meanings. But, essentially ‘vin’ means to place, and ‘yasa’ means in a special way. If you put it all together, Vinyasa actually means to place in a special way.
When a teacher refers to ‘taking a Vinyasa’ in class, they typically mean going to Chaturanga (lowering yourself down from high to low push up) and transitioning to Upward Facing Dog.
If you have ever followed along with Adriene in any of her many YouTube videos, you will find that she mostly teaches Vinyasa. Click here for an example.
Today I am going to go over 3 major benefits of a Vinyasa Yoga practice.
Encourages Weight Loss
Just taking 5 minutes to move through a few rounds of Sun Salutations will certainly get your heart pumping!
Different from a traditional run, you can use a Vinyasa flow to target every part of your body, making it as strengthening and softening as you need during that moment. You are always focused on posture, where in other forms of exercise it is easier to let posture slip. Posture is very important when targeting belly fat in particular…slouching is your enemy!
To target your core, you may fuse some Planks and Downward Facing Dogs together, taking a more dynamic approach. Another one of my favorites is coming into 3 Legged Dog, and then bringing your knee through to meet your opposite elbow (Knee to Elbow). From then you may move into some Side Planks, and you can even make those dynamic by taking a small and conscious twist of the torso.
You may incorporate a number of lunges and Warrior poses if you are trying to target strengthening your legs. I encourage you to focus on Kramas, or baby steps, as you ease into your practice. Maybe starting with a Low Lunge, moving into a High Lunge, and into Warrior III. You can even incorporate some yogi squats or squat holds into your practice for some extra build and tone. There are also many one legged balancing poses such as Tree Pose, Standing Figure 4, and Dancer that are all great extremely effective. In these kinds of poses, I typically hold then for 5 breathes.
Continuing with the core, you may also add a few yogi push ups to engage not only the belly, but also your arms. Many woman in particular struggle with upper body strength, and I highly encourage everyone to start somewhere with these! This could look like being on your knees, lowering yourself down (core engaged), and holding yourself at your lowest point. Then, work on building up the strength to push yourself up. This is especially key in Vinyasa, because a flow of Chaturanga into Upward Facing Dog is typically incorporated somewhere within a Vinyasa sequence. In addition, Crow Pose is a pose that I see a lot of yogis trying to accomplish, and everyone has to start somewhere! This is exactly where I started. 🙂
As I mentioned before, while practicing yoga, posture is on the top of your mind. In any Lunge, Warrior, Side Bend, Back Bend, or really literally any other pose, it is always good to think about engaging your core, and bringing your navel in toward your spine. That my friend, that is the recipe to aligning the rest of your body as well. Foundation is key.
Just remember to go with your breath! If you do not, it is no longer considered yoga, but just simply a work out. And, if you do decide you just need a raw workout, please take some of the principles mentioned above with you. 🙂
Utilizes Breath Control
Vinyasa Yoga is a great way to get the blood flowing, while also paying close attention to the quality of your breath. You never want to take short, shallow breathes, but rather steady, controlled inhales and exhales. Short breathes make your nervous system go into panic mode, sending fight or flight signals to your brain.
Yoga is commonly thought of as a way to relieve stress and anxiety. That is true because in all forms of yoga, being conscious of your breath is always a key part. Although people get themselves into some extremely advanced poses, those poses are not truly accomplished until you have learned to control your breath within them. A true yogi understands this.
“In asana practice we learn to cherish each breath, to cherish every cell in our bodies. The time we spend on the mat is love in action.” — Rolf Gates
Vinyasa practices are typically taught one breath per movement. For example:
Inhale: Arms Up/Urdhva Hastasana
Exhale: Forward Fold/Uttanasana
Inhale: Half Lift/Ardha Uttanasana
Inhale: Up Dog/Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
Exhale: Down Dog/Adho Mukha Svanasana
Because there is almost constant movement during a Vinyasa practice, your focus is on the breath over the form. Although form is still important, this means you want to make sure you are flowing with your breath, rather than focusing on being in the perfect shape within a pose. In other forms of yoga, such as Iyengar, it is more alignment based. That’s why it’s always great to explore different types of yoga, and find what works best for you! In addition, breath is your #1 guide. The teacher is there to instruct, your breath is there to guide.
Prepares You For Pranyama
For those of you who are already familiar with Pranayama, this may be the realization you needed to make your practice feel complete!
Pranyama is the regulation of your breath, or breath techniques. I know, I know. I have been talking about using your breath this whole time. But, not only does Vinyasa utilize breath, it also prepares you for specific breath work afterwards. Some methods include the following:
- Samavrtti (equal part breathing)
- Visamavritti (unequal ratio breathing)
- Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing)
- Kapalabhati (skull shining breath)
- Agnisara Dhauti (fire wash)
- Ashwini Mudra (horse mudra)
- Ujjayi Breath (victorious breath)
- Puraka (focusing on inhale)
- Recaka (focusing on exhale)
- Chandra Bhedana (inhaling left nostril, exhaling right)
- Surya Bhedana (inhaling right nostril, exhaling left)
- Sama Vritti Pranayama (box breathing – inhale, hold, exhale, hold)
Any kind of breath work balances and cleanses your internal organs. Making Pranayama part of your everyday practice will ultimately limit carbon dioxide from the body, and replace it with healthy and much need oxygen. When we are full of clean oxygen, our organs, cells, and tissues within us can work optimally. Find other great benefits of Pranyama by clicking here!
Home Practice vs. Attending a Class
Which is better for Vinyasa style yoga?
During a home practice, it is much easier deepen your breath and really feel that connection with your movements. You are able to flow how your body wants to flow, without judgement from others. I consider doing Vinyasa yoga at home a very spiritual practice, that I feel great about afterwards. I feel rejuvenated and ready to conquer what’s next in my day. I love the flexibility of being able to chose to hold poses longer where I need to, and not get ‘behind’ in a class.
Sometimes when attending classes, it is hard to keep up. There are some teachers that I absolutely love and it seems almost natural for me to go with their rhythm, while most others I feel rushed. Feeling rushed makes me loose the sense of spirituality that I receive within a home practice. Yet, I absolutely love being around other beating hearts. The feeling of being in a room filled with other beautiful souls is something that is irreplaceable. Also, attending Vinyasa classes, especially when you switch up your teacher, will certainly deepen your home practice. With that being said, I encourage everyone (especially beginners!) to get out and try a group Vinyasa class!
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