What is Vinyasa Yoga?
An introduction to Vinyasa Yoga in Toronto
Understanding each style of yoga can also help you choose an intention for each practice that is best supported by the class style. For example, ending up in a fast-moving Vinyasa class in the hot studio when you’re feeling ungrounded or anxious can be counterproductive if you weren’t sure what to expect or aren’t familiar with the sequence. However, knowing what to expect in the class can help you set an intention and a focus that can help you get grounded even when the class moves quickly.
The Vinyasa class incorporates the concept of Flow first discussed by the academic Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. You know that feeling of being “in the zone” or losing track of time because you’re so absorbed in what you’re doing? That’s what Csikszentmihalyi defined as “Flow,” and that’s the feeling that a Vinyasa yoga class is meant to evoke.
There are several aspects to achieving a state of Flow – going to a Vinyasa yoga class doesn’t automatically get you there (we wish). The first is a match in the level of challenge versus your level of skill. If the class is too easy, we get bored; if the class is too hard, we get frustrated. Keep in mind that the class level is not entirely dependent on the sequence the teacher is leading; it also has to do with how you challenge yourself to focus on certain aspects of the practice. The teacher could guide a fairly simple sequence, and experienced practitioners would be expected to focus on refining each pose, matching breath to movement, and staying present, while beginners might be primarily focused on following the flow of the class and keeping their breath even.
The second and third aspects of Flow are clear goals and immediate feedback. What these translate to in a Vinyasa yoga class are clear instructions so you know exactly what you’re supposed to do and feedback in the form of alignment cues and adjustments. Feedback can also come in the form of self-adjustment depending on the feeling of the pose for those who have been practicing for longer. There are other aspects of Flow, but these are the primary ones that we focus on in an Vinyasa class.
In terms of the sequence, the defining piece of Vinyasa yoga is the use of a Vinyasa as a transitional sequence between poses. The Vinyasa we typically use is based on the Ashtanga version of a Vinyasa, which moves from standing to stepping or jumping back into plank, lowering through chaturunga (a push-up), then moving into Upward Dog (a backbend) and then Downward Dog. The overall focus of an Vinyasa is moving seamlessly from pose to pose while matching your movement to your breath.
This practice can be very challenging in the hot room, especially for beginner yogis. In a Vinyasa yoga class, we typically do not spend more than five breaths in a single pose, so there is not a lot of time to spend exploring how each pose is set up and aligned. Some teachers may incorporate movement within each pose as well as between poses: for example, you may be moving your arms with your breath in a Warrior pose rather than staying completely still.
A Vinyasa yoga class with Iam Yoga typically starts with several full Vinyasas to warm up, moves into a sequence of standing poses linked together with more Vinyasas for the bulk of the practice, then spends the last 15-20 minutes in seated or supine (lying on the floor) poses. Most classes will open with some kind of grounding and tuning into your breath, and all classes will end with Savasana (lying on the ground in stillness).
No matter how you’re feeling, you are always welcome to take any kind of class you wish. However, it can be helpful to understand how to either supplement or counter the energy of the class to get what you need from the practice. For example, Vinyasa yoga classes tend to be busy, high-energy, fast-moving practices. If you’re feeling anxious, ungrounded, or overwhelmed, this may be the wrong class for you and you may want to try something slower like Hatha. On the other hand, you could attend a Vinyasa yoga class but make your intention to slow down the pace and focus on your breath and the sensation of your body against the ground (all helpful things in grounding your energy). That way, even in a fast-paced, high-energy class, your practice is getting you exactly what you need – allowing you to let go of anxiety and feel more stable and grounded by the end of the class.
Book a Vinyasa Yoga Class
No matter how you’re feeling, you are always welcome to take any kind of class you wish. However, it can be helpful to understand how to either supplement or counter the energy of the class to get what you need from the practice. For example, Vinyasa yoga classes tend to be busy, high-energy, fast-moving practices.
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