Your Guide to Vinyasa Yoga: Is It For You?

    Published 17 April 2019
    Fact Checked
    Reviewed by Kate Shkodzik, MD, Obstetrician and gynecologist
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    If you’re looking for a way to improve your flexibility, breath control, and reduce stress, you may want to explore vinyasa yoga. But what is vinyasa yoga, and how does it benefit the body and mind? What makes it different from hatha yoga? We tackle all these questions and more in this article.

    What is vinyasa yoga? 

    Vinyasa yoga is one of the most popular modern forms of yoga. In this type of yoga, you do a series of poses (or asanas) in a smooth, uninterrupted sequence. It’s also called vinyasa flow or flow yoga for the smooth way you transition in between the poses. 

    Vinyasa yoga is a broad term under which a variety of yoga styles can be grouped, such as Ashtanga yoga and power yoga. In vinyasa yoga, the focus is on linking one’s breath with the movement while transitioning between the poses.

    Benefits of vinyasa yoga 

    From calming the mind to giving your body an invigorating workout, there are several benefits of vinyasa flow yoga.

    Physical benefits

    Vinyasa can be a good way to get your body active. The smooth, uninterrupted flow of the poses ensures that you keep moving. It can help with keeping your joints healthy and can even be a way to lose weight if paired with a healthy, balanced diet. Indulging in such activity is beneficial, even when you’re on your period. Studies have shown that long term practice of vinyasa yoga can lead to improved muscle tone and a higher metabolic rate. 

    Mental benefits

    One of the most important benefits of vinyasa yoga is its use as a tool to calm the mind and reduce stress. Studies have shown that participants practicing vinyasa yoga reported reduced stress, improved mood, and feeling calmer for longer periods of time. They also mentioned that it helped them avoid binge eating and be more mindful of their fitness and eating habits. 

    Hatha yoga vs vinyasa 

    Like yoga vinyasa, hatha yoga is also a broad term under which different types of yoga can be grouped. But there are some important differences in the overall pace and goal of each style that make them different from one another. 

    In hatha yoga, you hold a specific pose (or asana) for a certain number of breaths before moving to the next. The main aim of hatha yoga is to calm the mind and reap the benefits of each pose by holding it for a long time. Because of this, hatha yoga may not be the way to go for people who are looking for a vigorous physical workout that boosts the heart rate. 

    On the other hand, a vinyasa yoga routine is relatively faster in its pace. Instead of pausing and holding each pose, the poses flow into one another in a quick but smooth sequence. The focus is more on coordinating your breath with the transitions in between the poses. Because of its active pace, vinyasa yoga can be a great choice for those looking for a moderate physical workout. 

    Vinyasa yoga for beginners 

    If you’re thinking of trying out vinyasa yoga, you can expect to learn not only the yoga poses, but how to smoothly move and control your breath in between them. The connection of the breath to the movements is crucial, and you will be taught when and how to inhale, hold, and release the breath. You may consult your vinyasa yoga teacher to decide the pace and intensity of the routine that works for you. With time and regularity, your flexibility will improve and you may progress to higher intensity routines. 

    Vinyasa yoga poses 

    Here are some basic flow yoga poses to give you an idea of the asanas involved. To fully understand how to transition in between poses, visit a certified vinyasa yoga instructor for classes. 

    Downward dog (adho mukha svanasana)

    On the floor, place your hands under shoulders and knees under your hips. Spread the fingers wide and press them onto the floor. Lift your hips upwards towards the ceiling. Press your heels into the floor as you straighten your legs as much as you can without pain. 

    Mountain pose (tadasana)

    Stand straight with the toes together and heels slightly apart. Spread the toes so the weight is equally on both your feet. Keep your core muscles tight and slightly tuck your hips so that your lower back is pointed to the floor. Inhale and raise your arms in the overhead position, while keeping your feet firmly planted on the ground. 

    Triangle (trikonasana)

    Take a big forward step with your left foot so your legs are wide apart. Extend your arms outwards, parallel to the floor. Point your left foot forward and keep the left leg straight. At the same time, turn the right foot perpendicular to the left one and keep your right leg straight. Turn your body so that your left arm tracks over your left leg, then bend slowly to reach your left arm to your left foot. At the same time, raise your right arm straight up towards the sky. Keep your torso slightly twisted forward.

    Plank pose (kumbhakasana)

    Start the pose on all four on the floor. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders, and your knees in line with your hips. Now, lift the knees off the floor and straighten your legs behind you. At this point, your hand and toes touch the floor, and the body makes one long straight line. The hands should stay shoulder width apart, the core tightened, and the spine and neck neutral. 

    Hot vinyasa yoga

    Vinyasa yoga places importance on warming the body up sufficiently before practice. This is typically done to loosen up the muscles to allow them to stretch, so you may practice the poses to the fullest extent that your body allows. This heat is brought upon both by a series of arms-up stretches, along with heating the space around you to a certain temperature. A hot or heated vinyasa yoga class is generally conducted in a space heated to between 78 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Since hot vinyasa yoga can cause you to sweat more than usual, it’s important to stay hydrated.

    Vinyasa yoga focuses on linking the breath with a smooth flow of a series of yoga poses. This type of yoga is an active one, where you move quickly from one pose to another. Studies have shown that vinyasa yoga helps with staying active, reducing stress, and improving mood. It may also help with weight loss if paired with mindful eating habits. 

    While you can do most yoga poses even while on your periods, certain poses should be avoided to prevent additional stress on the pelvis. Also, don’t forget to follow these cool-down tips to help you recover after your routine. 

    If you’re keen on exploring vinyasa flow yoga, it’s a good idea to approach a certified vinyasa yoga instructor that can help give you the best start. If you’ve been injured in the past, consult your doctor before proceeding with a yoga routine. Happy health to you!

    History of updates

    Current version (17 April 2019)

    Reviewed by Kate Shkodzik, MD, Obstetrician and gynecologist

    Published (17 April 2019)

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