Of the many schools of modern yoga, Vinyasa is perhaps the most popular form as it is fast-paced and almost reminiscent of a synchronized dance. In Sanskrit, vinyasa means 'variations' and this yoga places emphasis on a range of varied breath-synchronized movements, one after another, in a smooth and continuous flow, hence its nickname: Flow Yoga.
This school of yoga is based on the ancient ashtanga yoga, which emphasizes perfect alignment of postures and breathing. It was popularized by a south Indian yogi named Sri Trimala Krishnamacharya and his student, Sri Parrabhi Jois. This form of yoga owes its popularity to the various health benefits it provides, in addition to the enjoyment one gets while performing the dance-like movements.
In Vinyasa yoga, the asanas (postures) flow from one to the next and each change is synchronized with breathing. Here breathing is critical, as inhalation and exhalation signal when to transition into another posture. Generally, upward movement is accompanied by breathing in and downward movement by breathing out. These highly breath-oriented movements have shown to improve cardio-vascular function, increase muscle strength and flexibility, and reduce stress.
Unlike some other schools of yoga, Vinyasa yoga does not put emphasis on the proper sequencing of asanas. This means that every practitioner is free to follow his own sequence of postures that he is comfortable with. Regardless of which postures you choose, the important thing is to synchronize them with your breath as you transition from one posture to another. This may sound difficult at first, but once you get the hang of it, it can be fun. And that is exactly what any physical exercise should be; otherwise you become bored and lose interest.
Vinyasa yoga can be done at home, but if you are new it is advisable to join a class to learn the postures and proper breathing techniques. As with most other forms of yoga, vinyasa sessions start with suryanamaskaram, or the sun salutation. These are warm-up postures that prepare you for the more advanced postures. Once you are warmed up, you can switch to fast gear and continue until you perspire. This expels harmful toxins from your system and relaxes your mind. In general, a daily session of vinyasa helps you keep strong, healthy, and alert.