Why You Should Add Vinyasa Yoga to Your Exercise Routine
Steeped in history and a cherished form of exercise, yoga ties breath and movement together for a workout for both the body and mind. Vinyasa yoga, a specific style of yoga, is all about movement. "It's a movement-based physical practice that can be very beneficial for those with a busy lifestyle or enjoy fluid movement," explains Heather Peterson, chief yoga officer at CorePower Yoga. Vinyasa yoga stems from the Ashtanga yoga lineage, taught originally by Sri Krishnamacharya teachings to Patthabi Jois in Mysore at the beginning of the 20th century, according to Peterson.
What Is Vinyasa Yoga?
Vinyasa yoga connects one movement to each breath, says Dr. Chelsea Jackson Roberts, Peloton yoga and meditation instructor. "This style flows from one movement to the next while connecting the asana (posture) intentionally to each breath," she says. Peterson says that Vinyasa yoga actually stems from a different type of yoga, known as Ashtanga yoga. "Vinyasa Yoga is a type of yoga that is based on the Ashtanga Primary series involving Sun Salutations A and B (Surya Namaskar A & B) that flow poses like Chaturanga Dandasana, Upward Facing Dog, and Downward Facing Dog while incorporating a breath to movement approach with other standing, balancing and floor poses," says Peterson.
Vinyasa yoga is similar to power yoga, according to Nikki Glor, creator of Nikkifitness app fitness videos, which include vinyasa yoga for hip openers, heart openers, yoga with kids, and the Slimnastics workout. "[Vinyasa yoga] is a flowing practice that strings together yoga poses with breathwork, often inhaling to hold the pose and exhaling to flow into the next pose."
Why Should You Practice Vinyasa Yoga?
"Vinyasa yoga is great for the cardiovascular system because of the emphasis on the breath and movement," says Dr. Jackson Roberts. "Vinyasa yoga is also a powerful way to build muscle strength because of the repetition and sometimes [swifter] movements. There are a variety of styles across yoga that have tremendous benefits; and, vinyasa is quite beneficial for those who are looking to physically challenge the body, heart, and mind."
Glor agrees, adding that the benefits of this form of yoga are vast. "[Rather] than holding each pose for five or more breaths, each pose is usually three breaths or less, often one breath per pose, creating more of an exercise class with sweat, [increased heart rate], and increased calorie burn compared to other forms of yoga that are more relaxing or restorative." Glor says each practice will involve different poses—and usually not the same set number or order—with continuous, smooth transitions between each. "So that you can focus on different body parts and needs with each practice, like heart-opening, hip opening, twists, and upper body strength for example," she says.
What Should You Expect If You're New to Vinyasa Yoga?
While Vinyasa yoga does not include a set order like Ashtanga yoga, there is a loose order that the practice typically follows. "You can expect slower poses at the beginning of class that start on the ground, them moving to the basic form of Sun Salutation A and B with variations, then standing, balancing, then finally floor poses with backbends and twists," says Peterson. "The overall arc of the class starts slow, [builds] to a peak then generally slows down to a final resting pose (Savasana) for deep rest at the end of the practice."
While the frequency of your practice will ultimately determine how quickly you see results, Peterson says to give vinyasa yoga five to seven practices before you feel more comfortable and start to access what you've learned. "To begin, start with three to four days a week and integrate it with your other activities," she says, recommending more days on than off, "for the first one to three months will help you integrate the movements and experience the benefits fully."