What is Vinyasa Yoga?
One of the most frequently asked questions I get from potential students is “what is the difference between Ashtanga and Vinyasa Flow?” – the two styles that I focus on, both in my teaching and my personal practice. I thought it would therefore be useful to have a few FAQ-style posts to explain some of the most popular styles of yoga.
“Vinyasa” is Sanskrit for “to place something in a special way”. This literal translation can mean linking actions together, and is generally interpreted in a yoga context as “synchronising breath with movement“, a central concept for many lineages of yoga. In this sense, Ashtanga, Jivamukti, Power, and many other styles are considered types of Vinyasa Yoga.
Sri K Pattabhi Jois popularised Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga and brought it to the West. The Ashtanga series are all based on that concept of vinyasa – of moving with the breath, and allowing the breath to be the foundation of the practice.
“Breathing is very important. Without breathing, the spiritual mind and body are not coming. There is a method to breathing. That is Vinyasa.”
– Pattabhi Jois
It was Pattabhi Jois’ teacher, Krisnamacharya, who really heralded the term “vinyasa” as being the most transformational aspect of yoga. While Pattabhi Jois’ series of Ashtanga were all based on breath-powered movement, Krisnamacharya was promoting the importance of applying vinyasa to every aspect of life, not just asana (phsyical) practice. Linking each action, whether breath with movement, or moving purposefully yet meditatively through life, cultivates our awareness and consciousness, bringing us closer to Samadhi.
That’s all well and good, but what is Vinyasa Flow? You haven’t really answered my question…
Good point. Above was the in-depth answer 😉
If you see Vinyasa Flow on a class timetable, fantastic! It’s a very popular style of class, which is suitable for beginners as well as regular practitioners.
Sticking with the underlying foundation of “coordinating breath with movement”, Vinyasa Flow classes are fun, fairly fast-paced and flowing, moving in harmony with every inhale and exhale.
While other lineages, e.g. Ashtanga, will follow the same sequence in every class, Vinyasa Flow classes are more creative. Classes can be based on a centralised theme (e.g. surrender or forgiveness) or a particular part of the anatomy (creating space and openness in the hips, for example).
They are highly accessible for every level, as the teacher will tailor the class according to the needs of the student. If you are a beginner, or haven’t done yoga for a while, your teacher will give you easier modifications of poses.
Less rigid than other styles, when it comes to Vinyasa Flow think creativity, exploration and fun. I hope that my classes embody this, and I love seeing my students get fitter, braver and more flexible. I currently run Vinyasa Flow classes at the Edinburgh Yoga Room, and also every other month at Easter Bush. Find out more about my classes here.
Still got questions? Get in touch!