Vinyasa Yoga definition/types
Vinyasa literally means to place in a certain way or put together. The Sanskrit breakdown of vinyasa is as follows:
Vi – a particular way
Nysasa – to place
So, what does vinyasa mean in a yoga context? Here are some examples:
A Vinyasa yoga class, as defined by Mark Stephens, is a “Continuous sequence of breath-linked postures.”
Vinyasa yoga is an umbrella term referring to a yoga practice that uses the breath, body, and mind to ‘flow’ through postures. The counterpart of a Vinyasa-style yoga class would be Yin or Restorative yoga which promotes long holds with less focus on transition. The key component to a Vinyasa practice is the synchronization of the breath and movements. If your breath is in harmony with the movements of your body (ex: inhale arms above your head, exhale arms at your sides), you are doing Vinyasa yoga!
Krama means progression of movements. Vinyasa Krama is the progression from simple to complex. In a yoga class, this means starting with a basic technique then adding on, working towards a more advanced technique. An example of this could be:
wide-legged forward fold > tripod > headstand
This can be either a sequence within a class, or the entire Vinyasa class preparing for an advanced posture (also known as a “peak pose”).
Vinyasa can also refer to a specific sequence of postures within a yoga class. The most common being:
exhale: low plank > inhale: up dog > exhale: down dog
This vinyasa can be cued in ANY yoga class, not just a Vinyasa yoga class. Sometimes a short flow can feel nice after a long hold in a Yin practice.
Elements of Practice
Vinyasa is the 5th element of yoga according to Ashtanga tradition and refers to putting elements 1-4 (breath, lock, focus, posture) all together to form a whole yoga practice. If you want to learn more about the 5 Elements of Practice, click here! [insert link to YOGA FOR BEGINNERS article]
Helpful Tips for a Vinyasa Practice
- Ujjayi pranayama
(Also called ‘victory breath’) is commonly cued during a vinyasa practice. Ujjayi involves breathing in and out of the nose with a slight constriction at the back of the throat. This constriction causes the breath to sound like ocean waves or Darth Vadar’s breath. If you are uncomfortable doing Ujjayi breath, simple deep breathing in and out of the nose is an excellent alternative. Either way, try to match your inhales and exhales.
- Mind/Body/Breath Connection
If you are having trouble keeping up, don’t stress! Breathing is the most important part of any yoga practice. Come back to your breath at any time in an easy posture, such as a child’s pose.
- Ask questions!
Vinyasa classes can vary from high-intensity power yoga to slow flow. If you are unsure about the nature of a class, ask the teacher or call the studio. Yoga teachers are always willing to suggest modifications for postures or techniques beyond your comfort zone. We want yoga to be accessible and fun for everybody!