Yoga is one of those workouts you either love or hate. If you fall in the latter camp, let us pose a question: Have you tried Vinyasa yoga? While Bikram and Ashtanga are typically more intense (especially for newbies), Vinyasa yoga is great for beginners and skeptics alike. That’s because the practice is very fluid, combining poses in sequences that focus on linking breath to movement.
For those who are looking to get their heart rate up during yoga, some versions will move quicker than others, but it’s easy to modify the go-to poses when you’re just starting out. However, don’t read “easy to modify” as “easy.” The practice can be plenty athletic—chaturanga is no joke for those triceps.
Vinyasa yoga boasts more variety than other practices, too. There are baseline moves you’ll encounter in most classes with some repetition of postures. But if you’re quickly bored by yoga styles with a monotonous routine, rest assured that Vinyasa mixes it up. Keep reading for a complete beginner’s guide, with an expert breakdown of eight basic moves.
What is Vinyasa yoga?
“Vinyasa yoga is a physical practice of yoga that focuses on linking yoga poses, or asanas, together in a fluid, smooth way,” explains Dani Schenone, a registered yoga teacher and holistic wellness specialist at Mindbody. “Think of Vinyasa as rhythmic, repetitive yoga that links breath to movement.”
There are key differences between Vinyasa practice and other types of yoga. “While Hatha yoga focuses on holding an asana for several moments, Vinyasa yoga is more fast-paced,” Schenone says. Iyengar has you settle into therapeutic poses whereas Vinyasa yoga encourages meditative movement.
There’s no one set temperature for practicing Vinyasa yoga as there is with other styles—you can find outdoor options as well as studios with AC or heat. “In a heated room, one’s internal heat will build much more quickly,” Schenone notes. But no matter your preference, you’ll build stamina in each one over time due to it being “an invigorating practice.”
The Benefits Of Vinyasa Yoga
The benefits of Vinyasa yoga are both mental and physical. “It’s more fast-paced than other types of yoga, making it exceptional for those who want to utilize it as a way to increase cardiovascular health and build endurance,” Schenone explains. That said, there are always ways to modify if you haven’t worked up to a swift tempo—many studios and fitness apps offer simplified and slowed-down beginner classes, too. You’ll also increase your flexibility and even build some strength with dedication.
As a meditative approach to movement, Vinyasa also helps to get you out of your mind and into your body to find presence, says Schenone. While you may not feel so right away, your mental agility will evolve over time. Vinyasa practice encourages you to come back to the present moment, according to Schenone.
8 Key Vinyasa Yoga Poses
Ready to try your hand at Vinyasa yoga? Here’s a breakdown of eight common moves for kickstarting your practice:
How to: From a tabletop position, curl your toes into the mat and lengthen your legs, lifting your hips to the sky.
Beginner modification: Bend your knees.
Upward Facing Dog
How to: Begin by lying facedown on the mat with your legs extended straight behind your body. Place your palms on the mat next to your shoulders. Then, extend your arms straight to lift your upper body while simultaneously and gently arching your back and lifting your thighs and shins off of the floor.
Beginner modification: Keep your hips on the floor.
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How to: Stand tall with your feet at a hip-width distance. Bend into your knees and sink your hips. Tilt the bottom of your pelvis upward. Elongate the back of your neck as you look four feet in front of you to the ground. Lift your hands up to the sky, keeping the ribs knitted together.
Beginner modification: Place your hands in Anjali mudra (aka prayer hands) at the heart center.
How to: Stand tall with your feet at a hip-width distance. Step your left foot behind you, keeping the toes facing toward the long side of the mat. The front foot will stay planted forward. Think front heel to back arch alignment. Bend deeply into your front knee. Lift your arms out to a “T,” keeping your low belly engaged. Switch sides and repeat.
Beginner modification: Shorten your stance; place your hands at Anjali mudra, at the heart center.
How to: From Warrior 2, place your front forearm on your front thigh with your opposite arm to the sky. Stack your top shoulder over your bottom shoulder. Consider hovering your bottom hand over the ground, creating a “T” with your arms. Switch sides and repeat.
Beginner modification: Shorten your stance; keep your forearm on your thigh.
How to: From a downward-facing dog position, articulate the spine forward until you come into plank. Think of this as one long line from your heels through the crown of your head. Protract the shoulders. Engage the belly.
Beginner modification: Place your knees on the mat.
How to: From a plank position, bend your elbows to 90 degrees. Think of this like a tricep push-up with your elbows held close in toward your sides.
Beginner modification: Place your knees on the mat.
How to: From a plank pose, step your right hand just underneath your face. Tilt your heels to the right and lift your left hand to the sky. Stack your top shoulder over your bottom shoulder and your top hip over your bottom hip. Switch sides and repeat.
Beginner modification: Place your bottom knee on the mat.
Vinyasa Yoga Beginner Tips
Like with anything new, you’ll want to ease into Vinyasa yoga as a beginner. Here, a couple tips for a leg up:
Wear What You Love
Fitted workout clothes are best for monitoring your form in Vinyasa yoga. But Schenone recommends practicing in whatever makes you most comfortable.
Go With Your Own Flow
If you find yourself feeling dizzy, Schenone advises returning to a tabletop position and resting. “Do not push yourself too hard,” she says. “Vinyasa yoga is a long game, and you want to protect the longevity of your practice. Listen to the cues from your body and go at your own pace, even if it isn’t the pace of fellow students or the instructor.”
Classes & Apps
There are so many options when it comes to choosing the right Vinyasa class for you. A few to consider with lots of beginner options:
CorePower YogaThis nationwide chain offers tons of classes that cater to all different skill sets, including beginners. On-demand classes are available, too. The high-quality videos—ranging in length from five minutes to 60, plus breakdowns of various poses—are beautifully filmed in a studio and guided by an instructor with students following along for a community feel.
Obé FitnessThe on-demand fitness app is more than aesthetically pleasing; it offers a bunch of well-guided workouts, from HIIT to barre and, of course, yoga. The app focuses on Vinyasa flows and features friendly instructors who expertly lead with encouragement.
Alo MovesIn addition to the fashionable activewear, Alo offers yoga classes in studio and via an app for at-home practice. Levels range from beginner to advanced with a tranquil vibe.
MindbodyWhether you’re looking for an in-person class or a virtual one, Mindbody helps you find the best class for you out of thousands.
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