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What is Vinyasa Flow Yoga and Why do we Love it?

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What is Vinyasa Flow Yoga? 

Vinyasa is a style of yoga where poses are strung together to form one fluid sequence of movement. I was schooled in mostly Iyengar and Hatha yoga, so when I found Vinyasa, it was a whole new world to me. As much as I love the diligent nature of an Iyengar class, there was something very nurturing about moving with my breath and letting my body flow in new directions. The classes are often fast-paced and rhythmical, with a focus on connecting the movements with the rhythm of the breath. Vinyasa means to move with the breath, which is essentially the core of a Vinyasa class. Often called flow yoga, Vinyasa Flow is a style of yoga with focus on transitions and movements, with less time spent in stationary poses. Ever since I started teaching, Vinyasa Flow has been at the core of my own classes, and I love seeing people connect with their breath and find that inward focus.

Although Vinyasa is often considered a fast and physically challenging practice, it can also be soft and gentle. Moving with the breath can also mean slowing down your transitions with deep inhales and slow exhalations.

As opposed to other styles of yoga like Iyengar or Ashtanga, Vinyasa Flow classes do not have a set sequence or a certain amount or type of poses to get through. No two classes are ever the same, and often the sequences are creative and playful. 

Benefits of Vinyasa Flow Yoga

Range of motion: The variety of movements in a Vinyasa class means you will often be working through the whole body throughout a class, and expand your range of motion by moving in ways you normally would not. This will help you avoid injuries in the future that could happen if you are always moving in the same way. 

Cardiovascular health: A Vinyasa class is great cardiovascular exercise, because it is often fast-paced. Moving with your breath increases your heart rate and generates heat. 

Building strength: A consistent Vinyasa practice can help you build muscle throughout the whole body. In Vinyasa, you often work all parts of your body, which means you will build a balanced and functional strength. 

Stress relief: A Vinyasa class can be a moving meditation. The constant motion and rhythmical movement will help quiet the mind and allow you to focus inward. In this way, Vinyasa helps you connect the body and mind, calms the nervous system and can help relieve stress and anxiety. 

Connecting with the breath: Our breath holds a lot of power over our wellbeing. If we are shocked or tense, we hold our breath and automatically signal to the brain that we are uncomfortable, which in turn results in the brain producing adrenaline and cortisol (the “stress hormone”) to help us push through. Practising to connect with the breath and breathing through pain and discomfort can be a very powerful tool in overcoming both physical and mental problems. Explore “The Alchemy of Breath” in our interview with Anthony Abbagnano here.

Why we Love Vinyasa Flow

I love Vinyasa because it allows me to move intuitively and explore movements and transitions in a way that more stringent styles won’t. I asked a few other teachers what they love about Vinyasa, and this is what they said: 

Emma Newlyn 

“I love teaching Vinyasa yoga because it welcomes creative, meditative and intelligent sequencing, which in turn I believe helps students re-set their movement patterns and re-wire their brains to think more creatively and clearly. Practising Vinyasa yoga myself has been a profound journey of developing strength, grace and trust, and a far better relationship with myself. It’s said so often, but when all the right aspects align, Vinyasa yoga really is like a moving meditation.”

Sarah Highfield

“I love syncing my breath with my body, it’s a moving meditation which helps me to focus my mind and ultimately relax”

Calli Popham

“I love to practise and teach Vinyasa yoga because it gives potent space to be free, to allow the body to move in a primal, intuitive way allowing creativity to flow without dogma. The feeling of moving freely, without an agenda or feeling like you might be ‘getting it wrong’ is pure magic for the nervous system and the soul!”

Vinyasa Flow Sequence

At first, it can be difficult and confusing when you are told to move with your breath. Even more so if the teacher starts cueing inhales and exhales to certain movements, while you are still quite new to the whole world of yoga and the poses aren’t familiar to you. If this is the case, just breathe, don’t try too hard to match your inhales and exhales to the movements. It will eventually feel more natural and you will find that you instinctively breathe in or out with certain transitions and poses. Try this sequence at home and explore finding a rhythm in the breath. You can use a couple of yoga bricks in your forward folds.

Inhale in Mountain Pose and reach your arms up 
Exhale to fold forward 
Inhale to lengthen the spine and look forward
Exhale as you step one foot back and place your hands flat on the mat
Continue your exhale into your Down Dog 
Inhale as you lift one leg up to Three-Legged Dog 
Exhale and bring your knee to the outside of one elbow
Inhale back up to Three-Legged Dog 
Exhale and hug your knee towards your chest 
Inhale back up to Three-Legged Dog 
Exhale and bring your knee to the inside of the opposite elbow 
Inhale back up to Three-Legged Dog 
Exhale and step your foot between your hands 
Inhale to lift up to Warrior ll 
Exhale to Reverse Warrior 
Inhale to lift back up and exhale both hands back on the mat 
Inhale to Plank 
Exhale to Chaturanga 
Inhale to Up Dog 
Exhale back to Down Dog 
Inhale lift your leg to Three-Legged Dog 
Exhale step your foot to the top of the mat 
Inhale to bring the other foot to the top of the mat and exhale here 
Inhale to lift back up to Mountain Pose

vinyasa-yoga-sequence

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