You can think of Vinyasa as the love child of fitness and yoga. This one-breath-per-movement style of yoga is perfect for those who love to pick up the pace and indulge in plenty of rest and relaxation along the way.
“I like to think of Vinyasa yoga as a free-flowing class where you sync breath and movement,” says Michaela Seckarova, performance coach and yoga teacher with FutureVinyasa. “This style feels more like a dance because it allows you creativity and expression, and you are constantly moving your body in a way that feels good to you.” And it doesn’t just feel amazing: A consistent Vinyasa yoga practice offers benefits to both the mind and body and may even help you discover autonomy and joy in your practice.
Curiosity peaked? Grab a mat and keep scrolling along to learn more about Vinyasa yoga, its benefits, and what you should know before you arrive at the studio for a class.
What Is Vinyasa Yoga?
Vinyasa is a style of yoga that falls under the “Hatha yoga” umbrella. Hatha yoga dates back to at least 1200 A.D. and can be translated to sun (“ha”) and moon (“ta”). The word “yoga,” meanwhile, means “unite,” “to yolk,” “or to join.”
A distinct and fast-moving form of Hatha, Vinyasa yoga calls for one breath per movement. This means you inhale into one asana (or pose), and by the time you exhale, you’re already moving on to the next. “The beauty of Vinyasa is that every practice will bring a different experience through variations in sequencing, poses, and transitions,” says AloMoves yoga instructor Bentley Fazi.
This freedom of movement encourages you to explore on your mat. Many studios — like Y7 or Sweat Yoga — will even offer you the chance to freestyle in the middle of class.
What To Expect at a Vinyasa Yoga Class
Expect to sweat in your Vinyasa yoga class. The quicker pace of this practice will raise your heart rate and challenge your endurance. “When compared to other styles of yoga, such as Bikram or Ashtanga — which focuses on repetition through practicing the same set sequence each time — the essence of Vinyasa is its variability and creativity,” says Fazi.
Components of a Vinyasa Yoga Class
“Vinyasa yoga packs a huge punch — combining physical movement, breathwork, and mindfulness into a well-rounded, full-body experience,” says Fazi. Like any yoga class, Vinyasa usually starts with a warm-up before transitioning into choreographed, lightning-fast flows. In most cases, you will repeat the same sequence of poses a few times with slight — or, sometimes, major — variations before heading into a nice cooldown and a savasana (a resting pose where you lie on your back).
Poses in Vinyasa Yoga
In many styles of yoga, like Hatha or Bikram, teachers may ask you to hold a pose for several breaths. With Vinyasa yoga, you probably won’t be hanging out in any asana for too long. Instead, you’ll switch postures with every breath. For example, you may inhale to Warrior I and exhale to Warrior II.
“You can expect an active, aerobic, and heat-building experience in these classes. Those looking to get out of their heads and into their bodies and anyone looking to find a moment of reprieve from the stressors of daily life may enjoy the energetic cleansing, mindfulness, and physically challenging elements of a Vinyasa practice,” says Fazi.
Breathwork in Vinyasa Yoga
Even though you’re moving quickly during Vinyasa yoga classes, measured, intentional breathing is still important. “The focus on ujjayi breath — breathing in and out of the nose in a rhythmic pattern — can impact lung function and support building a strong respiratory system,” says Fazi. Ujjayi, or “victorious” breath, involves keeping your lips sealed. As you exhale through the noise, imagine steaming up a mirror. On your inhale, try to feel the intake of air moving into the back of your throat.
Benefits of Vinyasa Yoga
Vinyasa yoga offers a whole host of both mental and physical benefits — so let’s break it down.
First, “Vinyasa yoga increases core stability and strength,” says Seckarova. “There are many poses that require you to use the power of your core for power, strength, and stability.” Developing core stability may help prevent injury in your lower back.
Vinyasa yoga also improves your mobility and range of motion, which can make daily tasks and movement more effortless for your body. For instance, you may find that carrying grocery bags or sitting at your desk while maintaining good posture suddenly feels (dare we say it?) easier.
“One of my favorite benefits from this practice is the mindfulness portion,” says Seckarova. “The flow of the movements forces you to remain present and turn off your thoughts in order to focus. The synchronicity of breath and movement also calms your nervous system and relieves stress.” Research suggests that moving your body in this way may also boost your immune system and help your lymphatic system flush out toxins.
Vinyasa Yoga Beginner Tips
Because Vinyasa yoga is more of a workout than many other forms of yoga, it’s a good idea to see if a studio near you offers a beginner or “all levels” class. The pace of this style of yoga may leave less time for modifications and instruction, so taking the time to learn the basics will help you remain motivated and injury-free as a Vinyasa newbie.
What to bring
“In addition to your yoga mat, a towel, and a water bottle, the best thing you can bring is an open mind and no expectations,” says Fazi. “The unique nature of Vinyasa yoga, is that every time you come to your mat, it will give a different experience. So be open to anything and everything that can happen!”
Depending on your flexibility levels, you may also consider grabbing yoga blocks, a strap, or a bolster to support and modify your practice. And don’t be afraid to pull the teachers aside before or after practice to ask questions about how to put these props to good use.
What to wear
Make sure the day’s fit is something you don’t mind sweating in. “Show up wearing your favorite stretchy, comfortable, and breathable yoga set,” says Fazi. Opt for opaque fabrics without zippers or buttons. These may pinch your skin in certain poses.
Try to read the vibe when you walk into your local yoga studio. While some spaces may be serene, calm, and quiet, others may be blasting hip-hop music and buzzing with conversation. If you borrow a mat, make sure you clean it and return it at the end of class. The same goes for props. Many studios will offer spray bottles and rags so you can leave the space as clean as you found it.
As you enter the room, keep an eye on the floor. Has the studio placed tape or dots to indicate where mats need to go? Post-pandemic, many studios have increased the amount of space to help prevent the spread of COVID and other illnesses — so respect the space!
Finally, despite what Sex and the City and Selling Sunset would have you believe, talking during a yoga class is a hard no. Save your commentary for after savasana, and try to sink into yourself and enjoy the peace and quiet. “Remember, you are there for yourself,” says Seckarova. “Focus on your own practice, and don’t compare yourself to others. Remember that everyone started as a beginner once.”