What is Vinyasa Yoga

What is Vinyasa Yoga?

Vinyasa Yoga 101

So you’ve taken a Vinyasa Yoga Class and may have even heard your favorite teacher call out “take your Vinyasa”. This can be confusing. The term Vinyasa actually has a few different meanings that are used quite frequently and are not mutually exclusive.

The word Vinyasa can be translated into arranging something in a special way, such as yoga poses. Vinyasa is one of many different styles of yoga and is a practice where we link the breath with movement. We coordinate and flow poses together from one pose to the next and do each set of poses on each side of the body.

Before transitioning to the other side of the body we hear the teacher call out “take your Vinyasa” or “take your Chatarunga”. This means that we move through the transitioning poses of Downdog, Plank, Cobra/Updog, and then back to Downdog to neutralize the body before beginning the other side. These transitional poses are part of the tradition of yoga and have been practiced this way for thousands of years. So again, linking poses together using the breath. These 4 poses are linked together as transitions and are considered a “Vinyasa”.

Vinyasa is one of the most popular styles of yoga

We understand why Vinyasa Yoga has become so popular. It’s a momentum style practice that burns calories, kicks up your heart rate, AND builds strength and flexibility. What’s not to love?

By consciously flowing with breath and movement we anchor ourselves in the present moment. It is often referred to in classical yoga as the “breathing system”.

Vinyasa Yoga Classes are always different

There is a ton of variety in Vinyasa Yoga Classes. Normally, no two yoga classes are the same. Teachers choreograph and link together poses that open certain areas of the body. Some days you may work hips and quads, other days shoulders, core or low back. Some days, you get a mixed bag where you get a little bit of everything! Almost certain though, you will get a spine lengthening and strengthening session regardless if you work the upper or lower body. All yoga poses revolve around the axis of the spine.

There is a saying in yoga…

‘Age is not defined by a number but by the flexibility of your spine’

We agree wholeheartedly~

There are many styles of yoga to explore

Hatha yoga is a set of postures for physical and mental exercise used to open up the channels of the body. “Ha” means sun and “tha” means moon. We balance the sun (masculine) and moon (feminine) energies of the body to develop strength and flexibility. This is a transformation style of yoga that focuses on the 8 limbs of yoga designed by Patanjali, the Father of Yoga.

Restorative yoga is where we utilize gravity and many props to hold poses for long periods of time. These poses are normally close to the ground or practiced on the belly, seat or back. It is the opposite of a “yang” practice which revolves around dynamic energy. This practice is meant to offer up more stillness and challenge the mind by slowing down.

Ashtanga yoga was the first style of yoga and is the foundation that all yoga derived. It was developed by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in the early 1900’s. Ashtanga Yoga is a progressive set of postures or asanas that is linked together with the breath to induce an internal heat that purifies the muscles and organs. It is the same set of postures each time. This yoga creates a strong body and calm mind. There are 3 sets or series in Ashtanga Yoga. The short-form primary series is usually what is taught in most yoga studios that offer Ashtanga Yoga.

There are several other types of yoga to explore such as Kundalini Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jiva Mukti Yoga and more. Finding the right fit for your lifestyle is key.


What is Ashtanga Yoga?

What is Ashtanga Yoga?

Ashtanga yoga is a traditional series of postures performed in the same order every time. It’s incredibly structured and, after just one class, you’ll know exactly what to expect. The predictability allows some studios to offer classes where students move through the Ashtanga series without guidance.

The majority of poses you work through in a traditional Vinyasa class are the same ones you’ll find in an Ashtanga class. However, in Vinyasa our teachers have the creative liberty to build unique sequences each time. They can vary their sequences to match the class composition and desire for that day. As students move through a Vinyasa class, they warm up, often work toward a peak pose, then slow down with stretching and an opportunity to recover.

Ashtanga Asana Series

There are five Ashtanga asana series, and students must master each pose of the first series before moving onto the second.

The first one—the Primary Series—begins with ten sun salutations, moves into a series of standing poses, and finishes with a set of inversions and seated poses.

The Intermediate Series focuses on backbend asanas designed to encourage and maintain the suppleness of the spine by focusing on your nervous system.

Finally, there are four Advanced Series that are only reached once a yogi has mastered the primary and intermediate sequences. There are 35 difficult asanas to learn, practice and master with Vinyasa in between, and it can only be mastered completely with the assistance of an experienced teacher.

Benefits of Ashtanga

Ashtanga brings all the benefits of Vinyasa yoga practice, including strength, flexibility, stress management, and inner peace. In traditional practice, Ashtangis are expected to practice about six days per week.

Your entire body will work hard in this practice. Yet, it’s completely open to beginners and there’s no need to research or memorize the sequence ahead of time. Ashtanga instructors guide practitioners through each and every pose, with the eventual goal being that you can move through at their own pace.

It involves syncing your breath with a progressive series of postures, resulting in improved circulation, a light and strong body, and a calm mind.

As with Vinyasa styles, the essence of yoga is that through the practice of postures, breathing, and focal points, you can gain a direct experience of your inner self. While it might sound boring to perform the same postures over and over again in Ashtanga yoga, this repetition is what helps you tap into your inner being.

It brings me great joy to draw upon the incredible talent of our instructors to bring varying styles of yoga to our community. Join Elaina on August 4 from 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. for a short-form version of Ashtanga’s Primary Series and a portion of the Finishing Series.

Space is limited, so sign up today!

Photo: Mere Koert