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What is Vinyasa Yoga?

Vinyasa Yoga, often referred to as Vinyasa Flow, focuses on moving rhythmically with the breath for a practice that is both invigorating and graceful. This style is ideal for yogis who are looking for a challenge.

According to T.K.V. Desikachar in his book The Heart of Yoga, the word Vinyasa means “to place in a special way”. A Vinyasa yoga practice then is one in which the practitioner organizes the poses (asanas) into careful sequences for specific desired outcomes.

It is important to know what outcome you are trying to achieve in order to create a favorable Vinyasa sequence. If you desire hips that are looser and more open, you’d organize the asanas to progressively deepen the hip stretches. If the outcome desired is a peaceful mind, you’d arrange the asanas in such a way that the mind becomes progressively more relaxed and calm.

To achieve a desired outcome, it’s important to consider not only the current practice, but also the big picture. A skilled teacher can create sequences to achieve measurable results over time. Consider, for example, a female student who wants to practice yoga for the next six months to reduce back pain. An instructor could spend the first month helping her create better mobility in the hips, the second month lengthening her hamstrings, the third month strengthening the core, and so-on, until the pain is reduced, or disappears completely. Practicing without a focus – in this case, back pain – might not benefit the student, and could even worsen her condition.

The base of the posture and the core are also important when “placing in a special way”.  Whether the weight is in the hands, the feet, or both, a solid foundation sets up a meaningful posture and the support of the core stabilizes it.

There is also significance in the transitions from one asana to another. The practice of yoga is a practice of training the mind to stay in the present moment. It is relatively easy to stay present when we are still, but when the body is in motion the mind quickly tends to jump off to something else. Transition with mindfulness from asana to asana to deepen the ability to stay here and to encourage guidance from the breath.