“Vinyasa” is derived from the Sanskrit term nyasa, which means “to place,” and the prefix vi, “in a special way.” This commonly refers to the mindful movement from pose to pose.
In yoga, the most common understanding of vinyasa is as a flowing sequence of specific poses from breath to movement.
Origin + Founder:
Vinyasa, like all styles of yoga, originated from Hatha yoga.
It comes from the six series of Pattabhi Jois’s Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga in the 20th century. The poses from these series are the best known and influential vinyasas. However, Ashtanga's origins date back to 200 B.C. However while Ashtanga is rigid, Vinyasa is typically creative and exploratory.
Jois's teacher, South Indian master Krishnamacharya, was perhaps the first to champion the vinyasa approach to the transformation of yoga, although he had a wide vision of the meaning of the word.
According to Krishnamacharya’s teachings, the Vinyasa method included assessing the needs of the individual student and then creating a step-by-step practice to meet his needs.
Krishnamacharya also emphasized Vinyasa as an "artful approach to living, a way of applying the skill and awareness of yoga to all the rhythms and sequences of life, including self-care, relationships, work, and personal evolution."
Vinyasa yoga typically contains almost all of the poses from the Ashtanga sequence but is much more imaginative. Vinyasa teachers usually encourage their students to explore the poses and listen to their bodies.
While Vinyasa yoga classes vary regionally and even locally, all classes utilize "Ujjayi Pranayama" and typically contain flowing from breath to movement with the Ujjayi breath, although static holds containing multiple breathes are also common.
Vinyasa classes are defined by their transitions and "vinyasas," in between poses, sequences or sides.
Vinyasa classes may contain music, meditation or chanting. They also typically include a broad range of poses, including standing and balancing postures, twists, backbends, inversions, seated poses and forward folds. Classes typically end with Savasana, the final relaxation posture.
What Makes It Unique:
Vinyasa yoga is perhaps the most creative and playful style of yoga, making room for the practitioner to explore her body. It's not as rigid on alignment as other styles and varies heavily. For people who like changing it up, Vinyasa is the ideal style.
Vinyasa yoga is often an athletic, more aerobic approach, which can improve cardiovascular health. It's also referred to as a moving meditation. Practitioners discover that the ability to "flow" through a challenging yoga class has benefits off the mat, allowing them to flow through life as well.
Photo Cred: Shiva Rea