Reading through the list of available yoga classes in any one studio can be confusing for those new to yoga. Even more experienced students may have trouble deciphering all the different names and methods. One of the most common yoga styles is vinyasa. Sometimes called flow yoga, vinyasa is a general term that covers several variations, but it has its roots in classical yoga from India.

Vinyasa History

Vinyasa is often defined as the linking of yoga poses, and the movements from pose to pose, with the breath. As with many Sanskrit terms, there are different interpretations of its meaning, sometimes related to the context. As a yoga style, credit for much of vinyasa’s development and heritage belongs to Krishnamacharya, the 20th century yogi who is grandfather to most of today’s popular yoga styles. It was Pattabhi Jois who studied under Krishnamacharya and learned the building blocks of what came to be known as Ashtanga Yoga.

Ashtanga Yoga

In the late 1940s, Jois established the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute. He formalized much of what he learned from Krishnamacharya, developing set, flowing sequences of yoga asanas. There are several series in Ashtanga Yoga, beginning, intermediate and advanced, with different series for different days of the week. Ashtanga yoga is a very challenging style, though anyone who is reasonably fit can try it by starting with the beginner’s sequence.

Vinyasa Yoga Today

Most major yoga methods have some spin-offs, and Ashtanga is no different. Several yogis who learned the Ashtanga method started their own schools of yoga, usually with Power Yoga or Vinyasa Yoga as part of the name. As yoga has continued to grow and spread, these names have become much more generalized. Usually, Vinyasa, Power and Flow Yoga all mean a series of poses connected with flowing movements. Depending on the teacher, classes may be held in a heated room, similar to Bikram Yoga. 

The sequences or series of poses taught will also vary from teacher to teacher. Some may be very close to the original Ashtanga Yoga series if that is how the teacher was trained. Some classes will emphasize the breathing part of the practice more than others. Vinyasa tends to be a fairly aerobic style. If you are looking to get a thorough physical workout as part of your yoga experience, vinyasa is a good choice. Many studios also offer gentle flow and beginner’s vinyasa classes. Regardless of the class you select and the generality of the term, vinyasa is a classic yoga style with roots back to ancient India.