Vinyasa (vin-yah-sa) yoga is one of the most popular styles currently practiced in the U.S. Since it’s not confined to one particular sequence, dogma, or structure, vinyasa encompasses a huge range of yoga possibilities and leaves teachers with lots of room for creativity. One vinyasa class can differ greatly from another—either fast or slow, alignment-based or not. What all vinyasa classes do have in common, though, is that movements are linked with the breath.
Vinyasa yoga is sometimes referred to as flow yoga. Students flow quickly from pose to pose in a dynamic, almost dance-like movement. Each movement corresponds to an inhalation or an exhalation. For example, in a vinyasa sequence, students might rise into a standing posture on an inhale, lower into a yoga pushup on the next exhale, and then rise into upward dog on the following inhale. The class would continue in such a flowing rhythm.
It’s easy to work up a sweat in a vinyasa class. Classes can be quite challenging, both in keeping up the pace to match the breath, and in gracefully moving between the postures. The transitions are just as important as the poses themselves.
Vinyasa classes don’t have any trademark sequences. They usually incorporate the Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar) A and B sequences, adopted from Pattabhi Jois’s ashtanga yoga. The postures and sequences taught will otherwise vary greatly depending upon the teacher.
The term vinyasa is also used as a noun. When teachers tell students to go through a vinyasa, they’re referring to a 3-part movement that serves as a transition between other sequences and postures. A vinyasa flows from Plank, to Chaturanga, to Upward-Facing Dog.
There’s no clear founder of vinyasa yoga but we can trace the bulk of its roots back to T. Krishnamacharya. Most of modern yoga is in some way influenced by this yogi, who was also the guru of other prominent names like B.K.S. Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, Indra Devi, and T.K.V. Desikachar.
In the 1930’s, the Maharaja of Mysore offered Krishnamacharya his palace’s gymnastics hall to be used as a yoga school. As his students were mostly energetic, fit young men, Krishnamacharya combined yoga with wrestling and gymnastics. He created a physically demanding practice that flowed between Sun Salutations and other asanas, linked movements to the breath, and developed particular sequences that we now see in ashtanga.
Krishnamacharya undoubtedly influenced ashtanga yoga. Since ashtanga is a form of vinyasa, we can point to Krishnamacharya as an important developer of the broader vinyasa yoga style.
To get certified as a vinyasa teacher, you’ll need to complete a 200-hour yoga teacher-training course. They’re not hard to find. Many, if not most, yoga certification programs teach their students some form of this yoga style. They might call it vinyasa yoga, flow yoga, or the name of a particular teacher or school’s trademark style.
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