For years, I didn’t know my Vinyasa from my ASS-a.
Alongside Crossfit, I did some gentle stretching on a night and thought “this is yoga?”, which is why I wrote yoga off as a way of working out.
I almost questioned how people could base their whole weekly schedule around the premise of pigeon posing and forward bending.
Sure, I could buy into it to supplement an existing workout regimen, such as running, weights or CrossFit but…really?
Stretching alone is going to keep me in shape?
I discovered ROMwod, an online program aimed at crossfitters to help them increase their range of motion and recover from workouts. I guess you could say that was my first step on the journey. I still only saw it as supplementary.
Through an instagram algorithm, a sponsored post of Patrick Beach’s Full Body Strength program popped up and I saw the movements he was doing. I was intrigued by the one armed movements so I thought I’ll give this go.
DEARY ME, I COULDN'T DO IT! Genuinely, I was juttering and spluttering, rather than flowing, through various side plank variations but collapsing in a sweaty heap.
And that’s when I realised there was a whole other world to Yoga that was exciting, sweaty and a kick ass workout. And that world was Vinyasa.
What on earth is Vinyasa Yoga?
Vinyasa is characterised by moving from one pose (or asana) to the next, using your breath as the metronome to which your body moves, seamlessly. It’s also know as “flow” yoga for that very reason.
A simple example is a cat-cow stretch, where you arch your back, lifting your pelvis and top of the head to the sky on the inhale and round your spine, pelvis tucked and top of your head facing the floor on the exhale.
The main difference between Vinyaya and Ashtanaga, for example, is that Ashtanga typically sticks to a core sequence, Vinyasa doesn’t. Two Vinyasa classes are rarely the same.
In theory, this creates more balance within the body by challenging you both mentally and physically every session.
This is at the exact opposite end of the spectrum to Hatha yoga, which you might be more accustomed to, where each pose is held a certain amount of time and you rest in between poses.
I like to think of Vinyasa as the Crossfit of the Yoga world. The idea isn’t to specialise and become strong in one area or flexible in another but to have a good all round, strong body.
An origin story
It won’t shock you to hear I wasn’t there in the 1940’s for the birth of Vinyasa so I’ve looked through some articles and wikipedia (good old wikipedia!) to bring you the story in the trailer version but if you want the epic, I’ve listed the sources below. When I was looking through, I seemed to find different versions of the story.
The short version I liked is this…
Some bloke in India called Tirumalai Krishnamacharya was a Yoga teacher, often looked at as the father of modern yoga, apparently.
He took another blokes core sequences of poses, Pattabhi Jois’, from an old manuscript that was “destroyed by ants” (must have been the 1948’s version of “the dog ate my homework”).
Since there was no other record of these sequences, Krishnamacharya’s way of teaching was changing constantly and started being adapted to the individual students needs. I’d like to say “made up as they went along” but I’m sure there was more logic to it than that.
In contrast, Pattabhi Jois took a narrower view of what Vinyasa meant and took it to mean “the repetitious linking of movements” between movements, hence Ashtanga Vinyasa was born.
What are the benefits from going with the flow?
What I imagine you're really interested in is to know is what the benefits are of Vinyasa.
You are constantly challenged - Given that each session is a free flowing exploration of movement, you will be challenged both mentally and physically. Vinyasa is good for keeping the mind guessing too, not becoming accustomed to a certain set of sequences. Not just for the mind but the body will be challenged too
It’s actually a great cardio workout - Prepare to get sweaty! Below is a reading from my Apple Watch from the program I mentioned earlier, Patrick Beach’s Full Body Strength program. Whilst that program isn't just Yoga, it is structured along with the breath like Vinyasa. If you imagine that you are moving with your breath and how long each inhale or exhale is, you can get a sense for how quick you move through the sequences.
Vinyasa is fun - It is one of the more fun styles of Yoga, linked a bit more to play and exploration of movement than focusing on getting deep within the joints like Yin Yoga.
Relative strength will increase - There are different forms of strength which I won’t delve into here but relative strength is how strong someone is relative to their size. It reflects a persons ability to move their body through space which is essential for athletes and, to be fair, everyone just moving about through life.
OK, is there any reason I shouldn’t be doing Vinyasa?
Depends on your goals, I would say. If you’re solely looking to increase range of motion, there are probably better ways of doing it such as Yin.
Any complaints of Vinyasa, I feel, can be counteracted with awareness.
Such as the speed in which you move through the class.
It is fast so if you’re a beginner with little knowledge of alignment and poses, you could injure yourself if you move without awareness of your own capability.
However, if you move at your own pace and within your own level of ability, I don’t see this as a problem. The speed is one of the benefits of Vinyasa, after all, as this creates the heat in your body and the aerobic effect gained from that.
If you want to give Vinyasa a try, I would try this flow from Patrick Beach. He, alongside Dylan Werner, are two of my go to Yogis and their programs are awesome!
Hopefully, you now know your Vinyasa from your ASS-a!
In a bit.