Vinyasa yoga or “vinyasa flow yoga” is a style of yoga I love. It’s a dynamic yoga style, where you flow from one posture to the next, coordinating your movement with your breathing. Coming from a dance background, I was drawn in by its smooth, graceful sequences. It has the strengthening, empowering appeal of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, but with more freedom, creativity and variety in the sequencing.
What does Vinyasa mean?
The word vinyasa is Sanskrit, and there’s room for interpretation in the translation. It’s often said to mean “movement linked with breath.” However, the translation that resonates with me is the idea that nyasa means “to place” and vi means “in a special way.” Vinyasa yoga therefore is the yoga in which you place your body in a special way. It’s not just the “finished” postures, that count – instead the emphasis is on the mindful and deliberate movement into them.
To try to demystify the name, in promoting my own classes, I often refer to it as Dynamic Yoga. This also means students get fair warning not to expect a super-sleepy restorative yoga class!
Why is it so popular?
It’s hard to say exactly why vinyasa yoga has taken off in the West. Perhaps it’s because, as a dynamic practice, it’s easily integrated into a world of gym classes, fitness fanatics and cardio routines. Although vinyasa yoga is unlikely to provide the complete cardio workout of a run (unless you’re flowing so fast I’d be concerned for your safety!), it does build strength, flexibility, stamina and balance. However, I think although many people start vinyasa yoga for the physical benefits, they keep coming back because it makes them feel good – physically, mentally and even spiritually.
So what are the benefits?
Really, this depends on the class you choose. Vinyasa classes can be energetic, playful and challenging or mellow, relaxing and peaceful. The best classes, in my opinion have elements of all of these. But what you can expect is to find a yoga practice which:
- Builds muscular strength
- Improves flexibility
- Enhances focus and concentration
- Promotes mindful movement
The reason I love it so much is that flowing through the postures in a deliberate, intentional way with your breath turns the practice into a moving meditation. Even in the most challenging, tricky transitions, it encourages you to connect more deeply with your body. In fact, the movement of vinyasa yoga can be one of the most effective ways to take your focus out of your head and into your body.
If you’re looking to try Vinyasa Yoga in Nottingham, check out the classes I run with my partner Tom and Yoga Let Loose here.
Or, for those of you who aren’t Nottingham-based, there are loads of vinyasa yoga classes you can try online – my personal favourite is Ekhart Yoga. Let me know how you get on!