What is Vinyasa Flow?
Following on from my YouTube video about choosing a teacher training, a few people have asked me about different styles of yoga and how to know which one to practise. I thought it might be helpful to spend a little time giving you a few pointers to help you get your head round all the different types of classes on offer around the world. So, to kick things off, I thought I should start with the style that I know best – Vinyasa Flow. The word “Vinyasa” in Sanskrit means connection – and so a Vinyasa yoga class is focussed on the link between breath and movement. So typically in a Vinyasa class, each movement is linked to either and inhale or exhale.
The word ‘flow’ is added onto the description of many classes to represent the way in which we typically move between the postures in this style of yoga.
Beyond those two typical aspects of a Vinyasa class, the rest is all down to the teacher. So if for example your teacher trained in Ashtanga Vinyasa Flow, it is likely that the sequencing may follow traditional Ashtanga patterns (more on Ashtanga in another post soon!). Others may have practised something like dance or martial arts which can influence the way in which they connect postures and teach their classes. So there is a HUGE amount of variation from one Vinyasa class to the next which is what I think makes it a really interesting and exciting choice to teach and to be taught.
The great thing about that is that you could go to one class, or a couple of classes and try working with a few different teachers and think that it is perhaps not your thing, but then try out another and absolutely fall in love with it. We all connect differently to different things, so I would urge you not to knock a certain style before exploring different teachers, studios etc.
If you are looking for something sweaty, often classes with a faster flow will be listed with specific titles like dynamic flow for example, but that doesn’t mean you wont get a strong practice in a typical vinyasa class – it really is all down to the teacher. In the same way, if you want a slower flow, there are plenty of vinyasa teachers out there that offer that up as standard! One common theme among most vinyasa classes is that you will ‘take a vinyasa’ at certain points within the class. This is something that I would really encourage you to break down with your teacher if and when possible before launching into a hundred yoga classes without understanding alignment and what it is that you are actually doing.
Often in class, the teacher skips over this bit and there is some sort of expectation that everyone knows what they are doing but having taught in many different classes of mixed levels of experience, there is almost always a handful of people who have never really been shown what they are doing. Familiarising yourself with a vinyasa is a really great way to keep yourself safe in class and to benefit the most from your time on the mat. Don’t be scared to ask questions before or after class, to look online or to speak to students who have been practising a while – just be careful not to pick up any bad habits they may have developed over time! I will be posting a YouTube video which goes through this over the weekend, so subscribe to my channel there if you want to see for yourself!
So Vinyasa is an incredibly diverse style of yoga. Without being based on one set philosophy or sequence, teachers have a huge amount of creativity with what to bring to a class. The best thing you can do is to find a teacher that you really connect to, who’s classes you enjoy. That being said, try not to be a creature of habit. Mix it up if and when you can – explore different teachers, step out of your comfort zone and perhaps you’ll even find another amazing class that you didn’t know existed.