For most people, yoga is more than just exercise. Today it must be one of the fastest-growing movements and philosophies for life, all around the world, including South Africa. Yoga classes are available everywhere you go and the practices of mindfulness, meditation, and breathing that go with it, have never been more popular.

Like most things, yoga comes with a variety of different options or practices. Some of these are called Ashtanga yoga, Hatha yoga, Bikram yoga (also called hot yoga), and of course, Vinyasa yoga.

So grab your yoga mat and get comfortable because in this article you will find the origins, benefits, and details of Vinyasa yoga explained.

The Origins of Vinyasa Yoga

There is nothing better than mastering a discipline or practice that actually interests you. For this reason, knowing and understanding the origins of the Vinyasa yoga practice will greatly enhance your experience.

Some types of yoga can be very specialised and are only familiar to those who practise it. This is the case with Vinyasa yoga as it is slightly different from the kind of yoga that typically comes to mind.

When it comes to the origins of the name, 'Vinyasa yoga', it’s actually quite simple.

The word is derived from two words that make one word. The Sanskrit word Nyasa means “to place” while Vi means “in a specific way” - together Vinyasa means “to place in a specific way.”

In the same way, since we don’t often hear words like Pranayama, Ashtanga or Kundalini every day when we live in the West, it can be helpful to understand what they mean in case they come up during a yoga sequence. It could be helpful to make a note of yoga terminology that you haven't heard before and look up those meanings in your own time.

Vinyasa yoga, which includes muscular strengthening as well mindfulness originated from Ashtanga yoga. This is why you will hear many yoga teachers actually advertising their classes as Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga.

Vinyasa, also known as ‘flow’ yoga is a string of postures that seamlessly flow from one to another while the yoga teacher constantly makes you aware of your breath. Each Vinyasa yoga flow is unique and draws from a variety of postures.

Originating in India, Vinyasa yoga flow sequences were created by Pattabhi Jois, from the Ashtanga Research Institute, who introduced it as a unique way of practising a yoga sequence to the West in the 1960s.

woman doing a backward bend yoga posture
Vinyasa yoga not only improves your physical fitness, but boosts your spiritual and mental awareness too. | Source: Unsplash

As a method, Vinyasa yoga gained immediate popularity with almost every practising yoga teacher, especially in the United States of America. Over time, this yoga sequence technique was modified until it actually became known as Vinyasa Flow Yoga. As a name, Vinyasa yoga really lives up to its essential philosophy of fluid movement that is calm and flows from one pose to the next.

From the 1980s, Vinyasa Yoga Flow began to gain traction in Europe as a simple way to meditate, do breathing exercises, and strengthen muscles, all at the same time. While the core tenets of yoga are ancient, Vinyasa yoga demonstrates that a new yoga discipline is possible when it stays true to the core principles of traditional yoga.

At this point, you may be wondering what makes a Vinyasa yoga flow different from a traditional yoga sequence. Keep reading!

The Unique Characteristics of Vinyasa Yoga

When it comes to the one aspect that characterises a Vinyasa Yoga Flow, it would have to be synchronisation and this is one of the first things that your yoga teacher will demonstrate through a Vinyasa yoga sequence.

Synchronisation in its simplest form is about simultaneously working your breath and movement together. In fact, correct control of your breathing could be the subtle difference between a painful yoga sequence or pose and an easy one. Figuratively speaking, the correct use of powerful breathing can move mountains when it comes to yoga.

In a flowing Vinyasa yoga sequence, each breath will allow you to hold your position in a way that requires less effort and is free of tension and stress. It is this wonderful use of breath and the gentle guidance of a good yoga teacher that will help you to become intensely aware of the present, which in itself is a powerful meditation technique.

So with your breath guiding your movement in a rhythmic, fluid flow, you will notice a marked difference in your body tone, as well as your mental and general health. Vinyasa Yoga Flow not only builds muscle strength but it is also useful as a lymphatic drainage exercise that will gently eliminate toxins with every practice.

A Vinyasa yoga sequence, especially when demonstrated by an experienced yoga teacher, has the unique ability to count as a sporting activity and relaxation technique at the same time.

The time spent on a yoga mat is a powerful way to gain long-lasting positive effects for not only your body but your mind and soul too.

The Benefits of Vinyasa Yoga

woman in yoga studio doing revolved triangle pose
With Vinyasa yoga, each posture seamlessly flows into the next. | Source: Unsplash

It is well known that traditional yoga is able to manage stress at the same time as working out.

Vinyasa yoga is no exception!

It is quite remarkable that a yoga sequence has the ability to work on almost every muscle in your body while contributing to your mental and spiritual awareness at the same time. Not only that, but the massive increase in flexibility that you are bound to experience is enough of an advantage to take up Vinyasa yoga. And to think that all you need is a yoga mat to get started!

Regardless of where you decide to practise yoga, the principles are all the same. You could be at a gym, studio, or being guided by a yoga teacher, online, in your very own living room.

Not only does yoga tone and strengthen the body but you will find that your balance improves too. As we age, being able to have excellent balance is important to our overall health and wellbeing as it can help to prevent falls and injuries.

Like anything in life, practice makes perfect. This is certainly the case when it comes yoga, and if you have ever watched a Vinyasa yoga flow it is one of the most elegant and beautiful things to behold.

It will take time, but if you are struggling with some of the more difficult poses, don’t give up. By practising regularly you will eventually have a chain of movements that join together to make a breathtakingly beautiful Vinyasa yoga flow that benefits your mind, body, and spirit.

Remember that your breathing is not only key to creating a dynamic yoga sequence, but it also brings mental awareness and helps to detoxify the body.

It is also extraordinary that with all these benefits yoga requires extremely little financial investment and space. The beauty of incorporating Vinyasa yoga into your life is that you can do it almost anywhere and at any time. And you don’t need more space than the size of your yoga mat which you can roll up and take with you wherever you go.

A beautiful yoga sequence can be done anywhere. If it’s a sunny day, you could simply take your yoga mat outdoors or if you are travelling for work, or going on holiday, simply find a spot wherever you are.

Learning Vinyasa Yoga

As you progress on your yoga path, you will find that it can actually be so much more than just exercise, it can be a very healthy lifestyle. You will notice that even the most experienced yogis never stop learning, they are always following a yoga teacher who inspires them. And as you begin to learn this practice, apart from your yoga mat (which need not be expensive) your only other investment is to sign up with a yoga teacher with a good reputation.

woman doing child's pose in yoga studio
You must be upfront about your abilities so that your teacher can tailor lessons accordingly. | Source: Unsplash

As the practice of Vinyasa yoga has grown in popularity, you will find studios and private teachers in almost every corner of South Africa.

If however, for any reason, you do not want to leave the comfort of your own home or would prefer to learn a Vinyasa yoga flow in private, you could find a private teacher through a website like Superprof. You could actually search by location and find someone near to you and either join them in their living room or yours. Alternatively, you could find someone from further away if you are happy to do online classes just by using your internet connection and webcam!

If you have your heart set on learning how to perfect an elegant Vinyasa yoga flow, make sure that you line up all the right questions for your potential yoga teacher. Firstly, make it clear that you are interested in Vinyasa yoga and not one of the other types, like Hatha yoga. Be clear on your current ability, goals, budget, and also make sure that they are aware of any injuries that you may have.

One of the other advantages of using a Superprof tutor is that in many cases the yoga teacher will offer the first lesson at no charge as an introductory trial. This is a fantastic opportunity for you to have all the necessary discussions about your goals and also to find out if you even like the sound of their voice!

All the best for your decision to be transformed by the practice of Vinyasa yoga. Grab your yoga mat, and be prepared to be transformed from the inside out!

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Niki is a content writer from Cape Town, South Africa, who is passionate about words, strategic communication and using words to help create and maintain brand personas. Niki has a PR and marketing background, but her happiest place is when she is bringing a story to life on a page.