What is Vinyasa yoga?
Vinyasa yoga is a smooth transition between asanas in styles of modern yoga as exercises such as Vinyasa Krama Yoga, Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, and Bikram Yoga. Especially, Vinyasa yoga is practiced when movement is paired with the breath.
Table of Contents
- 1 - Description of Vinyasa yoga
- 2 - Origin of Vinyasa yoga
- 3 - History of Vinyasa yoga
- 4 - Characteristics of Vinyasa yoga
- 5 - How to do Vinyasa yoga
- 6 - Benefits of doing Vinyasa yoga
Description of Vinyasa yoga
The vinyasa forms of yoga used as exercise including Pattabhi Jois’s 1948 Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga and its spin-off schools such as Beryl Bender Birch’s 1995 Power Yoga and others like Baptiste Yoga, Jivamukti Yoga, Vinyasa Flow Yoga, Power Vinyasa Yoga, and Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga, derive from Krishnamacharya’s development of a flowing aerobic style of yoga in the Mysore Palace in the early 20th century.
According to Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga’s official history, Krishnamacharya learned the complete system of asanas and vinyasas from an otherwise unknown document, the Yoga Kurunta, supposedly written 5,000 years ago by Vamana Rishi. The history tells that Krishnamacharya copied it out and taught it unmodified, to Pattabhi Jois. However, the original manuscript was supposedly destroyed by ants and no copy survives.
Krishnamacharya used vinyasa in at least two different ways. One was in a broad sense to mean an appropriately formulated sequence of steps (krama) for approaching a given posture. The other was a stage in the execution of an asana.
Pattabhi Jois’s Practice
In contrast, Pattabhi Jois used vinyasa in a narrower sense to mean the repetitious linking movements between the asanas of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. The Ashtanga yoga teacher Gregor Maehle explains that this flowing style creates a movement meditation. The vinyasa sequences used in the touring demonstrations of Krishnamacharya’s yoga were, according to an interview with Jois, “virtually identical to the aerobic schema” of modern Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, namely “several distinct ‘series’ within which each main asana is conjoined by a short, repeated, linking series of postures and jumps based on the Surya Namaskar model”.
Sharath Jois’s Practice
Modern vinyasa yoga is taught by Sharath Jois who is the grandson of Pattabhi Jois coordinates the breath with the vinyasa transition movements between asanas. A particular sequence of asanas also called a vinyasa is used repeatedly in Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga classes. It involves Chaturanga Dandasana (Low Staff Pose), Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Dog Pose) and Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog Pose) to link other asanas.
Sharath Jois defines vinyasa as a system of breathing and movement.
Origin of Vinyasa yoga
The origins of Vinyasa Yoga can be traced back to 200 B.C. When Patanjali began constructing his ashta-ang, or eight-limbed discipline that involves meditation, mental, and physical conditioning. Since then followers like Sri K. Pattabhi Jois from Mysore, India have committed themselves to refine the techniques of Patanjali to use more movement with breath as opposed to remaining in poses, or asanas, while breathing.
In 1964 Andre van Lysebeth visited Jois and studied with him for two months, after returning to Belgium he wrote a book entitled “Pranayama,” which included Jois’ photo and address. As a result, mostly European westerners began seeking out Jois, and gradually the practice of Vinyasa began to spread. Later in 1973, Norman Allen attended a seminar taught by Jois and became the first American to be exposed to, and consequently spread, the theories of Vinyasa in the United States.
History of Vinyasa yoga
Vinyasa Flow Yoga was born out of the Ashtanga lineage. The Ashtanga school was developed by a yogi named Sri Krishnamacharya who taught it to Patthabi Jois. Jois taught in Mysore, India in the first half of the 20th century.
Ashtanga has since been popularized in the west by his student. Ashtanga yoga was taught by Jois as moving meditation. He believed that the movements between each asana should be considered just as important as the postures themselves.
The idea behind this is to deepen concentration and body consciousness through the entire practice. Rather than focusing on “getting into the posture” and then breathing, in Vinyasa, we try to keep the deep breathing and correct alignment consistent throughout all movements during the class.
Ashtanga Yoga prescribes a specific sequence of postures (known as the Primary Series), done in a very specific way each posture is held for 5 complete breaths and the transition between postures should take no more than 1 breath.
Characteristics of Vinyasa yoga
Some of the characteristics of Vinyasa yoga are:
- Movement is always synchronized with the breath
- Inhalations generally correspond with upward movements and exhalations with downward movements
- Ujjayi Pranayama is often the technique used for breath control
- Similar poses as Ashtanga Yoga, but the order and variance of the poses often differ
- Postures and sequences are generally repeated multiple times within the same session
- Typically provides a mild cardiovascular response in the body
How to do Vinyasa yoga
Some of the steps of doing Vinyasa yoga are:
The first step of vinyasa yoga is Plank. In Plank Pose, you should put your shoulders over your wrists, hips in line with your shoulders, legs straight, and toes tucked under. Pull your navel into your spine to keep your core engaged and hips lifted. Feel your heels reaching toward the back of your mat. Your whole body should feel like it’s working in this pose.
The second Sept of vinyasa yoga is Chaturanga. In Chaturanga, you should look towards the top of your mat and keep your gaze forward. Shift your weight forward so your shoulders surpass your wrists. Maintain your plank shape (open chest, engaged core, active legs) as you bend your elbows straight back and lower your body in one straight line, halfway. Hug your elbows in toward your ribs to hover just for a beat.
The third Sept of vinyasa yoga is Upward-Facing Dog. In Upward-Facing Dog, you should flip the tops of your feet to the mat, keep your legs engaged and straighten your arms, feeling your chest pull through your upper arms. Press the tops of your feet into the mat to keep your knees, thighs, and hips lifted above the mat and make sure your shoulders are away from your ears.
The fourth and the last Sept of vinyasa yoga is Downward Dog. In Downward Dog, you should tuck your toes and lift your hips up and back. Your arms should remain straight, with hands and wrists in front of your shoulders. Try to straighten your spine by lifting the hips high and pulling your navel in toward your spine. Your heels will be lifted slightly off the mat.
Benefits of doing Vinyasa yoga
Some of the benefits of doing vinyasa yoga are described below:
This form of yoga works on strength training and helps you build lean muscle mass throughout the body. Yoga of this kind helps you build resistance in the body as your stress and work out the muscles while you practice the backbends, arm balances, inversions, and standing poses. Vinyasa Yoga is extremely beneficial as a lean muscle mass builder as it gives equal attention to all the muscle groups. This creates a balanced strength throughout.
In improve Flexibility, Sedentary lifestyles lead to stiff muscles which are not only uncomfortable but also make it difficult to move. As you indulge in the Vinyasa flow, continuous movements help you stretch each muscle and strengthen it simultaneously. This increases your range of motion as well as mobility.
Also, since your breath is in sync with the movement, fresh oxygen fuels and loosens up all the muscles. When the muscles are flexed, the stress is released and reduced from the ligaments, joints, and tendons. This prevents injuries, tears, and muscle pulls.
Vinyasa Yoga is said to work at the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual levels, thus helping to connect the mind to the body. This helps relieve anxiety and stress. When you mindfully practice Vinyasa Yoga, it allows you to shun the static thoughts running through your mind.
As you focus on inhaling and exhaling, your central nervous system is calmed down. It has an extremely positive effect on your being. When your mind is relaxed, you tend to lose more weight.
Vinyasa Yoga is also called a moving meditation. It steadies the mind and shifts your focus from the external to the internal, which is in itself a great feat.
When you practice Vinyasa, you are forced to concentrate on your breathing for the duration of your session. This means that you practice with full awareness. The Ujjayi method of breathing, which the Vinyasa Flow adopts, not only allows you to fill your lungs with oxygen to its full potential but also removes toxins.
The breathing calms your mind and also reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart diseases, and high blood pressure. Your organs are healed, and they begin to work to their full potential. Metabolism is regulated. You sleep better and lose weight.
Vinyasa Yoga is a fast-paced practice as compared to the other forms of Hatha Yoga. It gives your body a cardio workout. Many postures require you to support your body against the force of gravity which uses up lots of energy.
This also works on many muscle groups, and the building of muscles results in the burning of calories. The link between the breath and the movement increases your heart rate. There is a whole lot of heat generated in the body, which, in turn, results in the burning of calories. It is said that in a fast-paced one-hour Vinyasa class, you can lose up to 450 calories.
The heat created in the body while you practice cleans the thick, impure blood and makes it thinner. This helps improve blood circulation throughout the body. Even as you breathe in and out, you eliminate toxins through your breath, thus inducing a total body detox.