What is Vinyasa?

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The term “vinyasa yoga” and “flow yoga” refers to a popular and mainstream style of Hatha Yoga taught in most yoga studios, health clubs and gyms in the west. In popular vinyasa or flow yoga classes, the teacher leads a group of students through a series of yoga postures linked together with continuous movement and breath.

The Roots of Vinyasa

Most vinyasa and flow styles have their roots in the traditional method of Ashtanga Yoga as taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois of Mysore India. Affectionately called “Guruji” by his students, Sri K. Patthabhi Jois was born on the full moon day of July in 1915. Guruji learned the traditional method from his teacher, Sri T. Krishnamacharya, and has been teaching since 1937.

Breath and Movement

In his definitive text on Ashtanga Yoga: Yoga Mala, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois defines “the method of vinyasa” as a “breathing and movement system”. In the Ashtanga Yoga method, postures are practiced in precisely detailed sequences of inhales, exhales and movement.

For example, in Ashtanga Yoga’s version of Surya Namaskara, the “A” variation has (9) nine vinyasas.


The Nine Vinyasas of Surya Namaskara A

~ Samasthiti ~ (“..standing up in a straight line”)

  1. Inhale: Hands up
  2. Exhale: Fold forward into Uttanasana
  3. Inhale: Head up
  4. Exhale: Jump or step back into Chaturanga Dandasana
  5. Inhale: Up dog
  6. Exhale: Down Dog (take five inhales/exhales here)
  7. Inhale: Jump or step your feet to your hands and lift your head up
  8. Exhale: Fold forward into Uttanasana
  9. Inhale: Hands up

~ Samasthiti ~

By linking one posture to the next with vinyasas, the student builds heat and stamina. This short sequence of vinyasas in Surya Namaskara A forms the CORE of the Ashtanga Yoga practice of asana.

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  1. Surya Namaskara
  2. Ujaiyi Breathing
  3. The Primary Asana of Ashtanga Yoga
  4. The Fundamental Asana of Ashtanga Yoga
  5. The Finishing Asana of Ashtanga

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