April 24

What is a vinyasa?

I’m very excited about this post because vinyasa is my jammm! It’s my absolute favorite. Nothing makes me happier than getting on my mat and flowing to my breath. So let’s get into it!

Vinyasa in context

The word vinyasa is heard in the yoga world in a couple of different contexts. When you ask someone (like me) what type of yoga they practice, they might say “vinyasa” (with a giant smile 🙂 ). You might see classes on a schedule listed as Vinyasa, Vinyasa Flow, or just Flow classes.

When you go to such a class you might hear the teacher say “take your vinyasa” or “flow through your vinyasa.” I use these cues all the time and I have had students ask me afterward just what the heck a vinyasa is! I had the pleasure of teaching some new students what this means, and it inspired me to write this post.


Let’s start with what the word vinyasa actually means. It’s a Sanskrit word meaning “to place in a special way.” In this case, we’re talking about yoga postures and breath. Each pose is placed in a special and specific way within a sequence, and is linked to breath.

We’re also talking about how we move our bodies. We’re not throwing our limbs around, coming haphazardly into postures, but moving deliberately and with intention.

So in a vinyasa class, expect to flow from one pose to the next, and to coordinate your movement with your breath (inhale on one movement, exhale on the next, hold a pose for X number of breaths, etc.).

A word about transitions

Transitions are an important part of vinyasa yoga, as they are what connect one posture to another – they are the in-between parts. The transitions are often rushed through, but they are just as important as the postures themselves.

I like to think of the transitions as the poses between the poses. To move in a more graceful, mindful way, I invite you to spend as much time developing your transitions as you do your postures.

Take your vinyasa

Vinyasa is also the term used to describe a specific sequence of four poses. This sequence is what teachers are referring to when they say “take your vinyasa” or “flow through your vinyasa”:

1. Plank
2. Knees Chest Chin or Chaturanga/Modified Chaturanga
3. Cobra/Baby Cobra or Upward Facing Dog
4. Downward Facing Dog

This cue is commonly used throughout a vinyasa class, and there are a few different variations or modifications you can take when you hear this cue. Check out the video below for a breakdown of a vinyasa and those modifications!

Variability and temporality

Vinyasa classes offer a variety of postures and each class is different and unique; unlike Ashtanga yoga, which has the same sequence every time. The variability of vinyasa yoga helps to develop a more balanced body. It also helps prevent repetitive motion injuries that can happen if you are always doing the same thing every day.

Vinyasa yoga recognizes the temporary nature of things; we come into a pose, we’re there for a while, and then we move on. As in life, some poses will feel wonderful, and others won’t, but all things come to an end. The connection between movement and breath really allows you to take your attention inward, making vinyasa a moving meditation.

I hope this post and video have helped; if you have any questions at all, please drop me a comment or shoot me an email!

Happy flowing!

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