Vinyassa Yoga

Bee You Yoga and Wellness offers Vinyassa yoga and Vinyass yoga blended classes.

Vinyasa is a style of yoga characterized by stringing postures together so that you move from one to another, seamlessly, using breath.  Commonly referred to as “flow” yoga.

Vinyasa classes offer a variety of postures and no two classes are ever alike.  The opposite would be “fixed forms” such as Bikram Yoga, which features the same 26 postures in every class, or Ashtanga which has the same sequence every time.

As with many things in yoga, the definition is dependent on the context and on who you ask.  Below are the more common definitions.

“The Sanskrit word Vinyasa comes from a prefix vi, which means variation, and a suffix, nyasa, which means ‘within prescribed parameters.’”  Srivatsa Ramaswami, student of Krishnamacharya for more than thirty years.

He goes on to refer to classical yoga, from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, for the specific parameters:

  • Steadiness (Sthira)
  • Comfort (Sukha)
  • Smooth and Long Breathing (Prayatna Sithila)

The term Vinyasa is derived from nyasa, meaning “to place,” and vi, meaning “in a special way.”  This indicates that we are not “throwing our bodies around” but are bringing consciousness to each movement in each moment.

Shiva Rea adds, “Vinyasa in its original meaning from the early Tantras is understood as the ‘sequence of consciousness,’ or how life unfolds from…the creative pulse of life.”

Vinyasa can be defined as our external movements that are an expression of how we think and feel.

Characteristics of Vinyasa Flow Yoga

  • Vinyasa Yoga connects one posture to the next using the breath.  This can be thought of as linking or flowing into postures which is sometimes why it’s called “Flow Yoga”.  The opposite of this would be an alignment based class where students engage with a posture, explore it for a period of time and then “break the posture” by coming out.
  • “Transitions” are what connect one posture to another in Vinyasa.  They are the in-between part.  What is not always appreciated is that transitions are considered postures themselves.  To move in a more graceful, connected way, allot just as much time developing skill in the transitions as you do in the asana.
  • Vinyasa is synonymous with movement.  Moving in and out of postures is the obvious movement but even in stillness Vinyasa is represented by the beat of your heart and inhale/exhale of your breath.
  • Move with breath.  Breath initiates the movement of Vinyasa which is why you’ll hear it referred to as a “breath-synchronized” practice.
  • Vinyasa practice generates heat and can add a cardiovascular component not always present in other forms of postural practice.
  • Often equated with high-energy, there are many ways to approach Vinyasa from rapid to slow.  Build strength, coupled with flexibility, by emphasizing and exploring slower options.  Doing so will help you create a sustainable, life-long practice.
  • Vinyasa Yoga is a more complete type of class as it typically moves through all of the various asana families in a single session.  The families, also called categories or classes, are the groupings the postures belong to such as standing postures, backbends, forward bends, etc.
  • Contrast this to alignment based classes that cycle through the asana categories over a series of weeks, instead of every class.  The benefit is greater depth of postural understanding, in a particular class, at the expense of single session balance.

Vinyasa Flow classes have variation in sequence from class to class.  (A sequence is any time two or more postures are strung together.)  No two classes are alike.

In a fixed form system, such as Bikram, or Ashtanga Yoga, the sequence remains the same to reveal what changes day-to-day—mainly us. A variable form system, like Vinyasa, exists to help us see what is changeless and permanent throughout all of the change.  This might be an intention or purpose, a way of thinking or connection to something greater than ourselves.

One other key aspect of the variation is it keeps your interest.  Many practitioners move from the fixed forms to Vinyasa because they become bored.

  • Vinyasa meets you where you are—which in today’s world is usually high energy, going in a million directions at once.  It meets you there and leads you by the hand back to an inner peace that exists within you.
  • Vinyasa Flow can induce a Flow State, a type of consciousness defined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as, “That place of being fully absorbed and highly focused,” on what we are doing.  During “Flow” everything feels easy and connected, what can be called “effortless effort.”
  • Vinyasa ends where it begins.  We start in a posture, such as tadasana, travel through a myriad of options and come back to tadasana.  If we listen, though, and pay close attention, the experience changes us.
  • Considered a “moving meditation,” Vinyasa is about harmony and balance, grace and fluidity.  We move and notice how we are moving and what moves us.
  • In Vinyasa we move together to support one another.  This reflection reminds us we are all in this together and that the practice, and life, is bigger than ourselves.