Going with the Flow of Vinyasa Yoga

Last evening I had the pleasure of attending a vinyasa yoga class at Windhorse Yoga. It was a special class for a couple of reasons. A friend of mine, who is taking a yoga teacher training certification along with me, was co-teaching her first class with her mentor. I felt honored to be a part of her first teaching experience and thought she did an amazing job. This was also the first time I had tried this particular style of yoga class.

What is Vinyasa Yoga?

Vinyasa is a term that is applied to a broad range of yoga styles. The underlying principle links breath with movement. I have attended vinyasa classes before where static postures are followed by a sun salutation (the linking element is referred to as the vinyasa). But this class was different. Rather than holding asanas statically, there was movement within the postures. It reminded me of a gentle dance. For example, in extended triangle pose, we used our upper arm to make circles while we held our base steady by engaging leg muscles.

Vinyasa is a Sanskrit word that means “breath-synchronized movement.” Vinyasa yoga is also called flow yoga. Breath leads the way followed by the integration of form and movement. Vinyasa is about breathing, movement, change and initiating action. Energy (prana) is moved throughout the body as you move through postures. In her article for Yoga Journal, Consciousness in Motion, Shiva Rea gives a poetic description of vinyasas: “progressive sequences that unfold with an inherent harmony and intelligence.”

Krishnamacharya, an Indian master, believed that the meaning of vinyasa extends to a way of living and that we can apply what we learn in (vinyasa) yoga to the rhythms of everyday life.

What to Expect in a Vinyasa Class

  • You will stretch, strengthen, breathe and move.
  • In the class I attended last night, I really enjoyed the freedom to explore postures within the structure presented.
  • Usually sun salutations are included as part of the class.
  • The class may be alignment oriented, fast or slow. It depends on the level and focus of the class, and the particular style of the teacher.
  • Postures are generally not held in a fixed position for long periods of time.
  • Depending upon the pace of the class, you may also get an aerobic workout.

I encountered a great new posture (well, new to me!) in last night’s class. It was called Serpentine Cobra. Rather than the traditional static Cobra (Bhujangasana), we were led through a series of alternating shoulder rolls that brought us from our bellies to the upright cobra position. Who knew that Cobra could be so sensual?!

Is Vinyasa Yoga for You?

I loved the sense of ease and element of fun that I felt throughout last night’s vinyasa class – this is not always apparent in many yoga classes. Sometimes, in our attempts to really focus, we can take ourselves very seriously. Perhaps the inherently graceful and strong style of vinyasa yoga allows for a more relaxed approach. Of course, the teacher has a lot to do with it as well.

The class I was at last night would have been appropriate for beginner to intermediate level practitioners. Some vinyasa classes may be too challenging if you’re just starting out so be sure to read the class descriptions or give the studio a call to find out the intended level. There is a lot of diversity within this style so you may want to try a few different classes until you find one that suits you. If you’re in the Ottawa area, I highly recommend Windhorse Yoga – it’s a great place to try a vinyasa class.

Below, find a video from renowned yoga teacher Shiva Rea as she demonstrates her style of vinyasa yoga.


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