Vinyasa is undoubtedly the type of yoga that you hear the most about around you! Having gained many followers and now very commonly taught in yoga studios around the world and in online coursesThe Vinyasa discipline is very successful! Indeed, this yoga dynamicThis is a very popular sport for Westerners who are looking for energetic and invigorating practices because it offers a wide variety of postures and combinations! This article will introduce you to Vinyasa Yoga, its history, origins, characteristics, who it is for and how it is performed!
Vinyasa is a style of of yoga known to be dynamic and more “cardio”, and widely spread today, especially in Europe and the United States and in large cities. Indeed very fashionable in recent years, it is part of the types of yoga contemporary types of yoga but is nevertheless derived from traditional yoga. But where does this current come from? When and how did it develop? And what does it consist of? Let’s go for a tour of this yogic exercise!
Synchronization of the breath
Tirst of all, the Sanskrit word Vinyasa describes the synchronization of the movement with the breath. Vinyasa invites you to reconnect to his inspiration. In other words, he emphasizes the link between the body’s rhythm and the way we breathe. Following the principles of the traditional yogaInhaling and exhaling are key elements in Vinyasa Yoga. Indeed, inspiration and expiration allow the circulation of thevital energy -the Prana– and encourages physical and mental relaxation. Find a video of Vinyasa on youtube made by Cam’s Yoga : Le Vinyasa Flow Yoga special body toning.
The asana sequences
Vinyasa is based on a sequence of postures (named asanas in Sanskrit), in a fluid and rapid way. It has the characteristic of being very diversified and allows you to vary the positions between each session, which makes it accessible and without limits! In contrast to the Ashtanga Yoga which is a traditional discipline and more rigorous with the repetition of sequences in a very precise order, Vinyasa is less academic and more varied. It also aims to work more on the physical and mental abilities compared to the softer ones like Hatha Yoga or the Yin Yoga, which aim at refocusing the mind first.
Vinyasa Yoga is a derivative of Ashtanga Yoga and inspired by the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. There is no single founder but different evolutions and teachers who have evolved traditional teachings and allowed Vinyasa to emerge. The practice of this type of yoga began to emerge in the 20th century thanks to Krishnamacharyawho emphasized all the cadence of a sequence, i.e. not only the positions but also each transition.
Thus, Krishnamacharya has developed a new practice based on both his own and his understanding of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. What Krishnamacharya proposes is based more on a fluid sequence of asanas, always punctuated by inhalations and exhalations. He would later become a yoga teacher, founder of modern yoga and its popularization in the West. The beginnings of Vinyasa are then taking shape: a dynamic, active and fluid yoga. Two of his students, Iyengar and Patthabi Jois will also contribute to the evolution and development of new ones throughout the world (such as Iyengar or Ashtanga Vinyasa).
- Numerous benefits from the Dynamic Yoga called Vinyasafor both students and teachers. Firstly, the cadence brought by the breath allows to put down the consciousness and to refocus on oneself, one’s sensations and to focus on the present moment.
- Breathing in and out during postures and between postures(transitions) allows the blood to circulate better in the body, in all joints and cells.
- The dynamic and fast pace increases the heart rate in a progressive way and allows to purify oneself by eliminating toxins through perspiration. A regular session will bring energy, strength and agility to the body and mind. Being very active, it allows to tone all the muscles for a healthy body, and participates in the elimination of calories and toxins. In addition, the inhalations and exhalations with each movement help toincrease the body temperature.
- Finally, on the mental level, the pace of Vinyasa between inhalation, exhalation and movement encourages coordination and concentration, which in turn helps to reduce stress and anxiety, to think about one’s practice and not to let oneself be overwhelmed by streams of thought.
- From the point of view of the teachers, it is a type of yoga that allows great freedom and creativity in the creation of sequences and sequences. This dynamics and variety also ensures that students never get bored, which makes Vinyasa very popular with beginners and advanced yogis alike! Furthermore, it is essential to understand that Vinyasa involves being in constant motion, without pause. It is not only the posture that counts but all the steps between each asana. The body is constantly in action, constantly solicited, which mobilizes both the muscles and the mind.
To learn more about this discipline, its benefits, how to practice and to initiate or deepen your practice, you can refer to the book by Arnaud Gérard This is the reference book on the Vinyasa current, with explanations of the postures, illustrated photos and sequences to perform at home, independently. You can also find different books on yoga on the E-shop Yogom (yin yoga, history of yoga, positions…).
- Breathing is fundamental in Vinyasa Yoga because it allows to refocus one’s consciousness, one’s presence and brings benefits to both the mind and the body by being coordinated with the positions. The transition from one posture to another is fluid and regulated by the breath. Thus, Vinyasa is not a fixed discipline but a fluid one, less strict, less rigorous and less academic than Ashtanga Yoga.
- It reveals itself to have many facets: depending on the teacher, the session, or your own tastes and own yoga sequences, Vinyasa Yoga can emphasize the creative, dancing, very dynamic or conversely more traditional side of yoga. We often talk about Flow or even a Vinyasa to talk about a class (which takes up the idea of pace and fluidity). Indeed, here, everyone is free to try, explore and shape their practice. It allows great freedom and is particularly appreciated for the “non-routine” aspect it provides in indoor sessions, and is intended for both beginners and advanced yogis!
Transitions between yoga postures
The transitions are also fundamental even if not obligatory, because the Vinyasa values each movement, i.e. the postures -asanas- but also the transitions between each pose.
- Each movement is associated with an inhalation and an exhalation, which increases body heat and can be demanding as it requires constant rhythm and coordination.
- There are often variations in the transitions, to each one to choose according to its energy, its desires which transition to choose. Mastering and focusing on transitions also helps prevent injury.
If we tend to “botch” or go fast in transitions to quickly reach the next posture, the risk is to get injured. In Vinyasa Yoga, the transition is important because by focusing on the transition, timing the inhalations and exhalations and being aware of each movement, the mind becomes focused and calm and the risk of injury decreases. In a logic of fluidity, the flow, the transition allows to make the link between the poses.
Vinyasa sequences are generally done so that one part of the body is worked on and then the other, with yoga poses, transitions and counter poses.
- The Vinyasa sessions are accessible to all but require a certain level of physical fitness. This dynamic yoga, with its freedom of movement, sequences and variety, is popular with everyone, regardless of their level. It is therefore a type of yoga within the reach of all, offering more freedom than traditional types of yoga (such as Ashtanga for example). Vinyasa is particularly popular in Europe and the United States for its dynamic-sporty and creative side. In addition, dance practitioners also particularly appreciate Vinyasa because they find a certain fluidity! Some yogis love to “dance” on their mat, which is possible with this type of yoga.
- Vinyasa is particularly suitable for people who are looking to tone up and relieve stress and tension. It is said to be “dynamic” but it can also be used by less experienced practitioners because the freedom of movements and transitions allows everyone to adapt to their state, their energy and their flexibility. It is a discipline that allows a real evolution and makes it accessible to all. Teachers generally offer more gentle or more dynamic variations to suit individual needs.
Contraindications for the realization of the asanas
Finally, the lack of flexibility, age or physical abilities are not brakes to practice Vinyasa. Nevertheless, it is not recommended for pregnant women to practice certain positions, such as inverted postures, and it is always advisable to ask a teacher if you are unsure and if you are injured or feel particular pain before the yoga session.
To discover the other types of yoga complementary to Vinyasa, go to the article “The different styles of yoga where Yogom presents the different types of yoga as well as their characteristics and benefits.
The place of alignment in Vinyasa Yoga
Although this type of yoga is particularly free, creative, dynamic and fluid in its transitions, alignment as well as breathing are essential in Vinyasa. Indeed, we have a tendency, especially when practicing, to go fast (too fast!), and sometimes botch the transitions or positions to keep a certain pace! Be careful, freedom and creativity does not mean that you should neglect your positioning and postures during your session, at the risk of hurting yourself!
- Indeed, it is important to adjust your postures during the Flow, and to pay attention to your alignment to avoid injury. Proper positioning is essential and goes hand in hand with breathing. Moreover, a good alignment will also bring you more benefits, whether it is physical or mental, because a good alignment will allow a better circulation of vital energy.
- To ensure proper alignment during your session, you can also choose a yoga mat with the Bodyline option . In other words, the Bodyline option corresponds to markings and lines on the mat. These markings show you where to position yourself and allow you to better perceive your position to accurately place yourself. Yogom’s Bodyline mats have a center line (very useful for warrior poses and lunges), as well as lines and markers for the feet and hands. With the Bodylines, your alignment is more accurate, more precise, and it allows you to focus more on your practice! To conclude, the Bodylines facilitate your session, allow you to take the right reflexes in your posture and transitions and allows you to enjoy the benefits of each sequence more!
- To learn the basics of alignment in Vinyasa Yoga, feel free to join the online courses of Yoga Mountains, which has created a specific course on initiation and alignment.
You don’t need a lot of equipment, however, some equipment can be useful for your practice, your learning and your progression in Vinyasa! A Performance Yoga Mat and adapted to your profile is the basis to start practicing, as well as the stretching strap and the cork brick !
Which yoga mat to choose for Vinyasa ?
When you want to start Vinyasa, it is important to choose your mat carefully because not all mats are suitable for this discipline.
- Specifically, to achieve smooth transitions, the ideal mat for Vinyasa should be soft with a “smooth” surface that allows you to move and perform all of your exercises in a smooth and fluid manner. A yoga mat with a “peach skin” effect coating allows you to exercise freely without being blocked or slowed down by the mat. Yogom has developed a yoga mat that really fits the bill: a natural rubber-based yoga mat that provides great stability on the floor (no risk of your mat moving or slipping under your feet) combined with a soft microfiber cover (suede) which does not block any gesture but allows to slow down the hands and the feet in contact with the perspiration. This allows you to keep a fluidity in your sequences, while being slightly slowed down in some positions (not to completely slide down in a head-down dog for example). You can also make sure you choose a ecological yoga mat (made from natural, recycled or recyclable materials).
- Conversely, avoid mats that are very non-slip, which will prevent you from making smooth transitions between your postures. It is important to make sure that your mat is also very stable on the ground (that it does not come unstuck or “bounce”) to avoid injury. Indeed, the dynamic cadence and balance positions performed in Vinyasa Yoga require perfect stability on the floor!
- Discover the specificities of the Yogom Performance Yoga Mat specially designed for Vinyasa.
- These mats are also very suitable for all gentle yogas and relaxation thanks to the softness of its coating
Carrying your yoga mat
Finally, think of equipping yourself with a yoga bag to carry your yoga mat!
Quality yoga mats (very good stability on the ground, thick enough and dense enough not to sink) are also generally quite heavy (around 2.5kg). In this case, the mat bag will make your life easier to carry, whether you’re in the studio, on vacation, practicing outside or riding your bike! Don’t forget to take a yoga mat carrying bag with the right dimensions for your mat.
Discover the Yogom yoga bags! Colorful and inspiring with the brand’s mantra!
The Bodyline option for precise placement
The Bodyline option is a specific design on yoga mats: they are yoga mats with alignment (i.e. markers and lines) that accompany you in your placement. A yoga mat with alignment allows you to better position yourself, to have the right reflexes in terms of alignment, to make transitions without hurting yourself and to concentrate more on your practice and your breathing.
Your practice is thus facilitated (optimal placement of the body, hands and feet), and you avoid injuries (the asanas are not necessarily difficult to perform but imply a very precise positioning to be carried out without pain). Thirdly, your attention will be focused on your breathing and you will fully benefit from the postures, both on a physical and psychological level. Since alignment is just as important in Vinyasa Yoga (and essential to avoid injury in a physically demanding practice), choosing the Bodyline option will be of great help.
The yoga brick: the essential tool in yoga
The yoga brick is a very useful accessory which brings support in the realization of many yoga poses (that it is for the postures of balance, to start its session with softness when the body is stiff and not warmed up, for the meditation, the restorative yoga or to gain flexibility gradually). It is preferable to take 2 yoga bricks, because one is not enough in the realization of certain positions (for example Chaturanga). The brick is the basic accessory essential to progress in yoga and particularly in vinyasa yoga.
The stretching strap: the accessory for flexibility
The stretching strap is an accessory used to improve flexibility, to stretch but also to accompany certain yoga poses. It is an accessory that allows you to develop your flexibility gently and progressively and that can help you achieve certain positions that require great flexibility (the strap acts as an extension of your arms). Finally, the strap allows you to better align yourself, gain ease in the asanas and warm up before a session.
You are now ready and motivated to start Vinyasa, but you still need to find the session that suits you! Would you prefer to practice at home with a home teacher or online, in person on a regular basis for a time slot each week, on your own? These are just some of the questions you should ask yourself to find the right Vinyasa Yoga session for you!
- First of all, find out about yoga classes in your city from sports associations. For people living in big cities, OlyBe offers a variety of courses with different teachers and in different locations (OlyBe also offers online sessions). If you’re looking for flexibility, sports brands like Neoness or Swedish Fit among others, allow a great flexibility on the schedule of the classes and work under the form of subscription, with a mix of yoga classes, fitness etc.
- Online, Yoga Mountains courses (Estelle) are very complete, and allow you to choose according to your level, your practice and your needs. Ideal for progressing and developing your knowledge of yoga in depth. Estelle also offers face-to-face classes in the Annecy area! To see a preview of her classes, watch a free replay of her Power Vinyasa !
Finally, don’t hesitate to ask the question on the yoga facebook group to find a teacher, a session and tips to get started!
Which Vinyasa teacher to follow?
Many teachers have trained in this dynamic yoga, so it is very easy to find a good Vinyasa Yoga teacher no matter where you live!
On our side, we strongly recommend you to follow Yoga Mountains (and its great yoga retreats!) and Mathieu Boldron (creator of the YinYasa (a mix between Yin Yoga and Vinyasa). They are inspiring teachers, who have a lot to share about yoga!