8 Benefits of Vinyasa Yoga That Will Get You Back On The Mat

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Have you ever wondered if there’s a type of yoga out there that’s a mixture of strength and cardio without losing the essence of yoga? You’re in luck because there is!

A popular type of yoga offered in most places is vinyasa flow yoga, and it’s the perfect combo of sweat and shaking muscles.

It sounds complicated and inaccessible, especially since class descriptions use intimidating adjectives like “powerful”, “burning”, and “strong”, but it’s accessible for everyone.

​You don’t have to be anything but yourself to give this type of yoga a try.

What’s Vinyasa and Where Am I Flowing?

Vinyasa flow has spiked in popularity over the past few years (1), encouraging students who prefer more vigorous forms of exercise to get into the yoga studio.

With today’s “hustle, hustle, hustle” society, not many people are willing to take a precious hour out of their day and go take a relaxing yoga class. No, most people want sweat, trembling muscles, and that can’t-climb-the-stairs feeling the next day.

In comes vinyasa flow. “Vinyasa” sounds mysterious, almost exotic, but it’s actually just Sanskrit for “movement”. When you attend a vinyasa flow class, you’re simply linking your poses together with breath for a dance-like flow.

In other types of yoga, like Hatha, each pose is held for at least five breaths before moving on to the next one.

It gets confusing when you consider most yoga types are actually vinyasa yoga. Ashtanga, power, prana, and baptiste yoga are all technically vinyasa classes because you’re coordinating your breath with your movements.​

8 Reasons Why You Need Vinyasa In Your Life

You can pry my vinyasa flow classes out of my cold, dead hands. I’ve given a few types of yoga a solid try, but I always come back to my vinyasa. Why do I love it so much? Since you asked, I’ll elaborate!

#1. Are You a Cardio Junkie? Try Some Vinyasa!

You’d be surprised how quickly a flow class gets your heart pumping. I’ve taken some nonstop vinyasa flow classes, and they’re excellent at raising the heart rate. By the end of a sequence, my heart is pounding like I just did a few laps around the track.

Hatha yoga has you hold each pose for five or so breaths, but in vinyasa, you only hold poses for a breath before moving on to the next one.

Throw in your vinyasa (plank-chaturanga-upward facing dog-down dog) at the end of every sequence, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a great cardio workout.​

This is purely anecdotal, but I strictly did vinyasa yoga over the winter with no other form of exercise. When spring rolled around and I hit the hiking trails again, I was shocked at how fit I was. I took my first hike of the season with a distance runner, and I was able to keep up with him without any trouble.

#2. Sun’s Out, Guns Out!

Become a devoted vinyasa student and you’ll find you’re living in tank tops even in the dead of winter.

​Yeah, yeah, as yogis, we’re supposed to diminish the desires of our egos, but getting some killer arms and shoulders is an inevitable side effect of vinyasa loyalty.

Chaturangas are integral parts of this type of yoga, and they’re also known as yoga push-ups. If you do a lot of push-ups, you’re going to get strong and toned biceps and shoulders. Chaturangas are no different, so proudly flex your new guns. You’ve earned them.

#3. Quiet Your Mind, Grasshopper

​This sounds like a bunch of hippie talk, but if you’ve got a lot on your mind, go to a flow class. You move so quickly from pose to pose that you’re forced to get out of your head and fully onto your mat.

There hasn’t been anything so heavy on my mind that it hasn’t disappeared as soon as my teacher started calling out instructions and the sweat starts appear.

If you think about it, stress is simply focusing on things that have happened or things we think could happen. We’re usually not stressed about anything that’s happening right in the moment, and vinyasa yoga teaches us to remain fully in the present (2).​

​Living in the present doesn’t just reduce stress. It eases anxiety, gives you a better night’s sleep, and trains your mind to focus on the task at hand (3).

#4. Work That Entire Body, Yogi!

Vinyasa is considered “functional exercise”, meaning it works your entire body in union (funny, the definition of yoga is “union”!). When you work all of your body parts with all of your body systems, you burn more calories, increase agility and mobility, and maintain healthy bones and joints (4).

​#5. Take Better Care of Yourself

​You’re definitely guilty of saying things to yourself that you’d never say to friends or family members. You probably even say things to yourself that you’d never even say to complete strangers.

Vinyasa flow yoga teaches you how to have compassion for yourself even when you aren’t perfect.

​As you go through a class, your teacher gives you modifications to make the practice accessible to everyone regardless of your fitness or experience level. Since we tend to be our worst critics, seeing that it’s okay to not be perfect on the mat starts to spill over into the rest of our lives.

#6. Cut the Drama with Vinyasa

​There’s an ancient school of thought that we store our emotions in our soft tissues (5). Hold a deep hip opening pose for more than a few breaths, and you’ll see all kinds of emotions you didn’t know you had spilling out.

​Science is proving this to be true. Brain scans of patients diagnosed with PTSD show that the amygdala is significantly bigger than people without PTSD (6).

The amygdala is the part of the brain responsible for emotions, survival instincts, and memories, and it seems to get bigger after a traumatic experience, showing our bodies are capable of holding onto varying types of emotions.

​#7. Set Fire to Some Calories

​If someone asked you what kind of yoga most efficiently burns calories, you’d probably say hot yoga.

While all the sweating seems like it would melt away hundreds of calories, a vinyasa flow class actually burns more calories. On average, a flow class eliminates 500 calories per hour (7) thanks to the rise in heartrate.

#8. Bounce a Quarter Off of Your Bum

​Again with the ego, but nobody says no to more defined muscles. The best way to define your muscles is with a combination of cardio and strength training.

How convenient that vinyasa yoga provides both of these in one neat package!

When you combine burning 500 calories per hour on top of all of those vinyasas and warrior sequences, you’re skimming the fat off of the surface to show off the muscles those vinyasas are building.​

Jumping In: How to Get Started with Vinyasa Flow Yoga

​Now that you’ve got an idea of what vinyasa yoga is and why you should give it a try, the next question is how to get started with it.

​Well...just go to a class! There’s no better way to get started than simply starting.

If you need a bit more preparation before diving into the deep end, here are a few things to make that first step easier.​

  • Study up on the vinyasa sequence. Even if all you can do is a modified vinyasa, that’s more than enough to get you through a class.
  • Do some vinyasa classes at home! Sometimes you just need to see what a class is like before you take your practice public.
    1. This beginner flow (8) is perfect for you regardless of whether you’ve practicing yoga for years or you’ve never owned a yoga mat.
    2. Step up the intensity level with Kathryn Budig’s 20-minute flow (9) designed to get your heartrate up while safely building strength.
  • Get the right kind of mat. Vinyasa flow requires the perfect ratio of grip and slip. You need it to grip so your hands don’t slip when you’re sweaty, but it needs to have enough slip to flip your feet over during your vinyasas. Check out some of our mat reviews here.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned athlete or you’re fresh off of a winter spent on the couch. Not only is vinyasa yoga perfect for everyone, everyone is perfect for yoga!

Think of vinyasa flow as a way to dump negative emotions, melt calories, and get a strong, resilient body just by stepping on your mat a few hours per week.

Experienced vinyasa students: what got you into vinyasa flow yoga? What changes did you notice in yourself that kept you going back for more? We’d love to hear from you!

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