Vinyasa Flow is a wildly popular school of yoga that synchronizes movement with breath. With classes ranging from Power Flow to Slow Flow, there are styles of this school that match different levels of yogis and their individual wants and needs.
Although this style of yoga has been growing in popularity, there are still many people (yogis and non-yogis alike) who are not totally sure about the essence of this practice.
The following are 15 essential things that you need to know about Vinyasa Flow:
1. Alignment Matters
Regardless of the speed that you practice your flow, alignment definitely matters. Just as imperative as it is to maintain proper form and alignment in static poses to keep your body safe, it is equally (if not more) important to maintain that integrity when flowing through postures dynamically.
Vinyasa tends to move at a faster pace than some other forms of yoga, but moving quicker does not mean you can move mindlessly. After all, it is a moving meditation, so mindlessness has no place in your yoga practice.
2. Breath Matters
The focal point of the practice in any school of yoga is always the breath — it always matters.
Your breath is connection from your mind to your body and vice versa. You know you need to slow down when your breath becomes short and labored, or when you start to hold your breath during challenging poses.
Once you’ve lost control over your breath, you’ve also lost control over your body and this can lead to injury. Vinyasa Flow is meant to sync the movement with the breath so the breath matters a lot: it is your ultimate guide through the physical practice.
3. There Are Always Options
Vinyasa Flow is typically said to be an “all levels” practice. This means that yogis of all shapes and sizes, all ages and abilities are welcome to join in the practice and flow and move together.
Because of the wide variety of students, there are always options and steps to take along the way. Can't go into Forearm Stand just yet? Build strength and confidence in Dolphin Pose to prep for it.
You always have options within a Vinyasa practice to slow things down or speed things up, to rest or to simply take a modification or a deeper variation of different postures.
4. Faster Isn't Necessarily Better
Oftentimes, when we flow quickly through movements that our bodies have visited countless times before, our muscle memory kicks in and we return to old habits of postures that we think are correct (keyword here being think).
It's important in Vinyasa (as well as any other form of yoga) to take the time and mindfulness to appropriately align the postures within our own personal physicality. The trick is to learn how to move with integrity as you start to speed up your flow.
However, sometimes the practice of slowing down is exactly what we need. Sometimes moving with care and attention is more beneficial to our practice than moving with speed.
5. Resting Is Always An Option
Resting postures like Child's pose are always welcome and completely acceptable in a Vinyasa Flow class. As with all forms of yoga, Vinyasa is all about honoring and respecting your body, which means that if something is pushing you a little bit too hard, then you should take a moment to rest, relax and return to your breath.
There is no shame in honoring your body and your breath. Resting is always a welcome choice.
6. Never Push Through Pain
Similarly, as in all forms of yoga, Vinyasa does not encourage “pushing through pain.” The yoga practice is all about finding balance between strength and surrender, and Vinyasa is no exception.
7. When In Doubt, Go Slow
Whenever you find yourself unsure about a posture or a transition, move slowly. Vinyasa can tend to move fairly quickly but, when in doubt, move slowly and carefully with mindfulness. You’ll learn much more going slow and steady than by flowing quickly and mindlessly.
8. The Magic Is All In The Transitions
Just as in dance, Vinyasa Flow links every movement together; there is no stop and go. This is why the magic of the practice lies in the transitions. Gracefully linking each position to the next becomes a moving meditation and a graceful dance between effort and ease. Tying it all together with the breath creates all the magic.
9. Chaturanga Eventually Gets Easier
The term “Vinyasa” has come to be known as the transitional flow from Plank to Chaturanga to Up Dog to Down Dog. Although this is not the original meaning of the word, it got this reputation because this sequence is continuously repeated in Vinyasa Flow practices.
And the thing is, this flow is hard. Like really, really hard. It takes great strength and muscular control to perform a “Vinyasa” with correct anatomical alignment. But don’t worry, the more you practice, the easier it becomes.
Eventually, you'll build the muscle strength and body awareness to flow through this transition and it'll become almost second nature. Just make sure you’re not on “auto-pilot” but rather, still mindfully moving while following your breath.
10. Props Are Your Best Friends
As in all forms of yoga, props are always your friends. Use them, befriend them, and even fall in love with them. They will keep you safe, offer challenges in your practice, and help you in ways you couldn’t have expected. There is no shame whatsoever in using props so take advantage of their versatility in every practice.
11. Every Teacher Is Different
You will never find two Vinyasa teachers who are the same. This is the beauty of Vinyasa Flow: it is such a personal and creative practice. Some teachers are super tough and hold poses for longer while other teachers are also super tough and move constantly.
Some teachers are gentle and slow while other teachers are dance-y and choreographed. Every teacher is completely different and every practice they share with their students is completely different from the last.
12. It’s Creatively Different Every Time
Again, the beauty of Vinyasa Flow is the creativity that can stem from this practice. There is no “set” sequence, no predetermined rules or guidelines. There is only the practitioner and their practice.
Sometimes you’ll flow furiously with music and sometimes you’ll move slowly with silence. The only constant throughout the practice is the breath, but all else changes. One day you may be opening your heart while the next day you’re flipping your world upside down — the possibilities are endless.
13. It Can Be A Powerful Workout
Despite its global popularity, many people still believe that yoga is just stretching. While some schools of yoga are characterized by slow movements and deep stretching, Vinyasa Flow has the potential to be extremely vigorous.
It’s pretty much a guarantee that if you show up to a Vinyasa class, you’re going to work hard and definitely break a sweat. It can be a powerful form of exercise that builds strength while also stretching deeply into your muscles.
14. ...But It is More Than "Just Exercise"
Yoga is always more than just physical fitness. The real practice is the practice of the mind. Moving with your breath, quieting the “monkey mind,” flowing with grace and intention…these are all the real benefits and challenges of the practice.
“Yoga is an internal practice. The rest is just a circus.” – Sri K. Pattabhi Jois
15. It's A Moving Meditation
As with all forms of yoga, the physical practice is the embodiment of meditation in motion. Vinyasa links the physical body to the breath. The breath guides the practice and initiates every physical movement of the body.
This perfect synchronization is euphoric, mesmerizing, relaxing and truly yoga. It is a union of body, breath and mind: the physical body, the ephemeral body and the mental body. Vinyasa Flow is truly a moving meditation.