Vinyasa yoga is a type of yoga that links breath and movement together in a flowing sequence. It can include postures from other styles of yoga in a series and usually includes a version of Sun Salutations.

Vinyasa yoga is a popular form of yoga that is often practiced in studios, gyms, and health clubs. It can be taught or practiced at any level by changing speed, sequence, temperature, posture accessibility, posture duration, and intensity of the posture by accessing large muscle groups.

Power vinyasa yoga classes are typically more vigorous than other types of yoga classes and are known for being a great workout.


What is Vinyasa Yoga?

Vinyasa uses a sequence of yoga poses (asanas) called sun salutations (Surya Namaskar) at the beginning of class as a warm-up which includes these common yoga poses (Chaturanga to Upward-Facing Dog to Downward-Facing Dog). 

Vinyasa yoga is also called: 

  • Yoga Flow
  • Power Yoga
  • Baptiste Yoga
  • Ashtanga
  • Jivamukti
  • Prana Flow.

Classes often move in an easy, slow flow or faster with strength or power. Some classes may include heat and/or music. 

No two classes or instructors are the same, so there is plenty of variety for those who want a challenge in their workout.

Your vinyasa flow intensity and accessibility can be adjusted up or down depending on your fitness or skill level. Give yourself permission to move in a way that is perfect for your body, and classes will better fit your needs.

Athletes and fitness junkies alike often favor vinyasa yoga because they can quickly get into the zone and connect to their breath while constantly moving and transitioning from one pose to the next using gross and fine motor skills, which are all similar to a traditional workout routine.


Benefits of Vinyasa yoga

Some of the benefits of Vinyasa Yoga include:

  • Entering the zone, also known as the flow state where your brain waves shift, your conscious mind quiets and your subconscious mind becomes focused and engrossed in the experience.
  • Improved gross and fine motor skills
  • Improved balance, which prevents falls or injury
  • Improved joint movement, stability, and mobility
  • Improves circulation, which is essential for providing nutrients, hormones, and oxygen to tissues, muscles, and organs throughout your body.
  • Aides in recovery due to circulation benefits
  • Reduces stress by shifting brain waves and hormones
  • Improves sleep-wake cycles by providing an opportunity to rest and digest, and shift hormones

An added benefit to hot Vinyasa yoga is aiding in heat acclimatization. Heat acclimatization is the improvement in the ability to function in heat that comes from increasing the duration or intensity of work performed in heat.

If you are new to yoga or looking for a more challenging practice, then vinyasa yoga might be for you. Remember to listen to your body and mind, and take breaks when you need them.


How to start practicing Vinyasa yoga

If you are interested in trying out vinyasa yoga, there are a few things you can do to get started.

  • Look for classes at your local gym or yoga studio. Many studios offer beginner-level classes that will introduce you to the basics of vinyasa yoga.
  • You can also find online videos and tutorials that will teach you the basics of vinyasa yoga.
  • Once you have a basic understanding of the poses and movements, start practicing at home.

Can you get injured doing Vinyasa Yoga?

Just like any other form of exercise, there is the possibility of injury. However, the risk of injury is significantly lower with any form of yoga compared to other forms of exercise.

  • Of a sample pool of approximately 7,400 subjects, it was determined the overall injury incidence was about 1.18 injuries per 1000 hours of practice, according to a 2018 study.
  • According to a 2016 study, using a different metric, the risk of injury was 11.9 per 100,000 for people aged 18 to 44, 17.7 per 100,000 for people aged 45 to 64, and 57.9 per 100,000 for people 65 years of age or older.

In contrast to running, 30 to 75% of runners are injured annually, based on an article from Harvard University in 2016.


Tips for Your First Vinyasa Class

Once you have determined the type of yoga class you would like to take, it is time to choose a yoga studio.

  1. Find a yoga class that fits your schedule and level of experience. Most cities have at least a couple different studies offering a variety of classes. College students may have access to on-campus classes through their recreation and fitness center.
  2. A yoga mat, water, and athletic clothes are the bare-bone essentials to getting started with most practices. Most yoga studios will have mats available for rent or purchase, but you may want to bring your own if you have one. It's customary to practice yoga without shoes.
  3. Start slowly and focus on your breath. Yoga is not about how flexible you are or how many yoga poses you can do. It's more important to focus on your breath and be present in the moment. Yoga is a practice that will allow your mind and body to move with steadiness and ease.
  4. Listen to your body. If a yoga pose feels uncomfortable, don't force it. There are many different yoga poses and alternative options for each posture that can be made to make them more comfortable for you.
  5. Practice yoga without judgment towards yourself. Don't compare yourself to others. Everybody is shaped unique and moves differently. No two poses will look exactly the same on everybody. 

Common Flows in Vinyasa Yoga

Most Vinyasa yoga classes have a format.

  1. Integration is the start of class which introduces gentle movement and range of motion of your spine. Integration can include breath work or meditation to center and ground the practitioner.
  2. A warm-up using Sun salutations A, B, or both to invite and increase movement and breath. Sun Salutations may include postures such as Mountain (Tadasana), Standing forward fold (Uttanasana), Half Lift (Ardha Uttanasana), High to Low Plank (Chaturanga Dandasana), Upward facing dog (Urdvha Mukha Svanasana), Downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana), Warrior one and Warrior two (Virabhadrasana I and II).
  3. A Peak flow portion. A reminder that Vinyasa peak flow can be at any level needed for the practitioner. A peak flow includes core strength, leg, spine, shoulder, hip stability, and mobility combined with seated and balancing poses. A peak flow happens after warm-up and sun salutations, which may include poses that increase the level of challenge for the class in any of these areas:
  • Length of holding the pose
  • Increase flow speed
  • Sequence of poses
  • Temperature of room
  • Posture accessibility or level of difficulty
  • Accessing large muscle groups

4. Surrender series or cool down. This is an opportunity for your body to transition from movement and start to slow down, lengthen stretches and go deeper into muscle and joint mobility. Postures might include Seated forward fold (Paschmimottasana), Happy baby pose (Ananda balasana), Supine twist (Jathara Parivartasana).

5.Meditation or stillness. Class usually ends with Corpse Pose (Svanasana, Savasana, Shavasana, Mritasana)


Summary

It is important to start slowly and focus on your breath, as yoga is not about how flexible you are or how many yoga poses you can do. You should also listen to your body and not force any poses that feel uncomfortable. The easiest way to get started is to reach out to your local gym or studio and get into a class as soon as possible!


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