For those new to the yoga scene, all of the different yoga styles can become extremely confusing, including the meaning of vinyasa yoga or vinyasa yoga flow (what do they mean by “flow”?!?!?).
In this article, we will detail cover what vinyasa yoga is, why you would want to do it, and most importantly, vinyasa yoga poses and sequences you can do now so you can start reaping its benefits asap!
I will also throw in some links to vinyasa yoga YouTube practices, and links to premium vinyasa yoga videos from world-class teachers so, if you would like!
What is vinyasa yoga and how is it different than hatha yoga?…
Vinyasa yoga was born from the experience of the great master Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, considered to be the father of modern yoga.
According to the Yoga Journal, vinyasa yoga is:
“a gradual progression or a step-by-step approach that systematically and appropriately takes a student from one point and safely lands them at the next point. It is sometimes described as the “breathing system,” or the union of breath and movement that make up the steps.”Yoga Journal
The vinyasa yoga style is a modern and dynamic yoga practice that combines breathing with every yoga pose.
Every vinyasa yoga sequence is characterized by the fluidity of movement and the smooth and fast transitions between yoga poses which are always coordinated with the breath.
Vinyasa yoga is rhythmic.
What sets this yoga style apart from some others is fluidity, to make each movement pass elegantly and gently from one asana to another, all very similar to a dance or sometimes to the movements of Tai Chi.
This is why it is also referred to as a vinyasa yoga flow! Boom, mind blown!
Vinyasa yoga is a creative form of hatha yoga that combines the principles of ashtanga yoga and iyengar yoga.
If you look at vinyasa yoga vs hatha yoga, a vinyasa yoga flow sequence is done much more quickly than hatha with the yogi moving from one pose to the next much more rapidly.
A vinyasa flow is more physically demanding and it helps if the yogi is familiar with the yoga poses as they will be moving quickly through the sequence without much time to stop and think what “upward facing dog” looks like.
Hatha yoga looks like vinyasa yoga in slow motion.
The yoga sequence may look the same, but each pose is held longer with more breaths taken while holding them.
While hatha yoga allows for more meditative thinking and stillness, a vinyasa yoga flow allows for more constant movement, which can be meditative in its own way.
Both are beneficial and the two yoga styles are complementary to one another.
Listen to yoga instructor Julie Smith describe the difference below.
What are the benefits?…
Aerobics, toning, stretching, and beauty are all included in a vinyasa yoga flow sequence.
Because vinyasa moves relatively quickly and the asanas, or yoga poses, are connected to each other through breath, the heart rate is elevated enough to offer some excellent cardiovascular benefits!
The practice of vinyasa yoga increases muscle strength, endurance, and flexibility.
With the rhythm of the continuous movement being almost dance-like, a vinyasa yoga flow can be meditative, offering relief from stress and anxiety, and science can back this up!
Research published in the International Journal of Yoga Therapy details a study involving college students, stress, and vinyasa yoga and concluded that after an 8-week practice many students reported lower stress levels.
Like other types of yoga, it helps to increase concentration and bring more calmness to the mind of the yogi.
In addition, because there is more movement with vinyasa yoga than some of the other more “static” styles, the practice can help you lose weight and stay fit.
A quick run-down from a LONG list of benefits of the vinyasa yoga style includes:
- increased joint mobility
- increase in muscle tone
- better balance
- posture correction
- cardiovascular benefits
- improved digestion
- heightened concentration
- a decrease in stress levels
Who is vinyasa yoga good for?…
Vinyasa yoga can be a physically demanding practice.
For some vinyasa yoga flow classes, you would want to already have some muscle power, balance, and endurance before showing up, but this isn’t the case for every class, and you can search out a class designed specifically for beginners.
Vinyasa yoga, like all other yoga styles, is based on the principle of respect for the rhythms of your body and there are a HUGE number of modifications available, so even if you don’t feel super athletic right now, with some props and variations you can absolutely be successful as a vinyasa yoga beginner.
As a beginner, keep your expectations in a realistic place, but with perseverance and patience, you could eventually rock any vinyasa class!
Everyone has to start somewhere, right?
It is recommended to older practitioners, those who have osteoporosis problems, expectant mothers, those who have suffered trauma, or have an injury to talk to their doctor first and practice with a certified teacher who can indicate which steps to follow to achieve their goals safely.
What does a typical vinyasa yoga class look like?…
One huge difference between the more traditional styles of yoga and vinyasa yoga is in the sequence and speed of vinyasa yoga poses.
Of course, every class will be different as every yogi teaches in their own unique way, but generally, the class could start with a dharma talk followed by a warm-up and intention setting.
This may be followed by a few rounds of sun salutation.
Next, there will be a vinyasa sequence that flows from standing poses to standing balancing poses.
There may be some inversions next followed by forward bends and then backbends.
The end of the class often includes a cool-down and, if you’re lucky, a looong shavasana, or yoga nap (my favorite part).
A vinyasa yoga sequence will move rather quickly from one of these postures to the next, although some can be held for 3-5 breaths or more, depending on the focus of the class.
Among the yoga styles, vinyasa yoga is one of the most energetic, fitness-oriented, and most “westernized.”
Some classes may even have you flow through sequences with lively music playing in the background, which can actually help you maintain the rhythm of your breath.
One characteristic of this yoga style is a choreographed set of vinyasa yoga poses that transitions you from pose to pose.
A common transition will feel familiar as it is also found in Sun Salution: Chatarunga Dandasana to Upward Facing Dog to Downward Facing Dog.
1. Chaturanga Dandasana – Low Plank
2. Urdhva Mukha Svanasana – Upward Facing Dog
3. Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward Facing Dog
If you look at this sequence and think “ummm….no,” there is a variation with a couple of different vinyasa yoga poses you may be more successful with:
1. High Plank
2. Bhujangasana – Cobra Pose
This could be a high cobra, as you see the model above doing, or you could do a low cobra where your chest is barely lifted and your forearms are on the mat.
3. Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward Facing Dog
Using yoga props…
One thing that levels the playing field for vinyasa yoga beginners is props!
A new yogi’s best friend is the yoga block.
Anytime you feel like the floor needs to be closer to you, the yoga block comes to the rescue.
Can’t reach the floor in triangle pose?
Boom, yoga block.
Trying to do a standing balance pose that you are still a bit shakey on?
Boom, yoga block.
There are numerous ways that yoga blocks can come in handy for vinyasa yoga beginners, so definitely have one of two ready during your practice.
Another SUPER helpful prop for vinyasa yoga beginners is the strap!
You could honestly use a fabric belt you already have to start with, but yoga straps are longer and have an adjustable buckle that can bind you into a pose to make it easier.
Whenever you wish your arms were longer, it is the yoga strap’s time to shine!
Have trouble reaching your feet?
Bring out the yoga strap!
Yoga straps can be used to come into standing balance poses that you may struggle with otherwise.
Want to try Lord of the Dance pose but can’t grab your foot?
You guessed it, yoga strap!
For beginners, yoga straps are beyond helpful in making vinyasa yoga poses accessible, and luckily they are pretty affordable with most being under $10 like this one from Amazon.
Vinyasa yoga YouTube videos…
If you want to dip your toe into a vinyasa yoga flow, there are many available on YouTube (what isn’t available on YouTube?!?).
Here are some vinyasa yoga YouTube videos broken down by time so you get in a quick one if you are short on time, or try a longer one for a more challenging workout!
Here is a high quality 20-minute workout brought to you by YogiApproved.
Alo Yoga brings us an awesome 30-minute vinyasa flow in the video below!
From the makers of your favorite yoga pants, lululemon, comes this 45-minute, sweaty vinyasa yoga flow.
Have a full hour to get some zen and build some muscle? Cat Meffen brings us this 1 hour-long vinyasa class for the ultimate workout!
Premium vinyasa yoga videos…
YouTube yoga is free and has some quality classes, but if you find yourself wasting too much time searching for a decent class, take your practice up a notch!
YogaDownload offers classes in probably any yoga style you have heard up and then some. They offer monthly subscriptions which are super-affordable.
My favorite part of YogaDownload are the programs where they have bundled together classes to help you reach a specific goal, and they offer a program for vinyasa yoga!
This program features world-class instructors like Jackie Casal Mahrou who teaches a vinyasa yoga flow focused on empowerment.
I gave this program a try and one of my favorite classes was The Body Mandala: Level I where yogi Mark Morford instructs a patterned vinyasa yoga sequence that is both incredibly meditative and energizing.
Jump into a high-quality vinyasa yoga flow with YogaDownload!
Getting started with vinyasa yoga doesn’t have to be challenging if you find a class that is designed for beginners and use modifications and props. Remember to always respect your body. If you feel a vinyasa yoga pose is not for you just skip it and go straight to a child’s pose to relax and rest. Do the same thing if the pace is a bit too frantic. Take your time and you will find yourself flowing with the best of them!
Thank you for reading and take care!
FIND MORE YOGA EXPERIENCES
Ronnesia Gaskins, Ernestine Jennings, Herpreet Thind, Bruce Becker, and Beth Bock (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 Therapy: 2014, Vol. 24, No. 1, pp. 63-70.