Ask a Yogini: What does Vinyasa Mean?

What does vinyasa mean

It’s the first Monday of the month and that means it’s time to Ask a Yogini. Each month, I’ll answer a question about yoga – anything that you’re curious about. Chances are, if you have the question, someone else does too!

Disclaimer: While I am a certified yoga instructor, I am not your yoga instructor. Please exercise caution and honor your own body. These views are mine alone, based on my own experiences. Always consult a certified yoga instructor for additional guidance and assistance.


Have you ever been in a yoga class and heard your teacher say, “Take a vinyasa or go straight to downward-facing dog”? Have you ever wondered what in the world that means? Isn’t vinyasa a type of yoga class? Aren’t you “taking a vinyasa” just by being in class?

What in the word does Vinyasa mean??

So here’s the thing – vinyasa has several meanings.

Translated from Sanskrit, vinyasa means “to place in a special way.” Each movement is a gradual progression from one to the next. The movement is aligned and linked with the breath so that you move with each inhale and exhale.

Vinyasa-style yoga classes are ones where there is a dynamic flow from posture to posture. These classes are also often referred to as Flow Yoga or Power Yoga and are derived from Ashtanga yoga.

Vinyasa can refer to the specific sequence of postures chaturanga dandasana, upward-facing dog / urdhva mukha svanasana, and downward-facing dog / adho mukha svanasana. This is what teachers refer to as “Take a vinyasa.”

This sequence is a core part of sun salutations (Surya Namaskar). Teachers also often offer it as an option to transition practitioners between postures, oftentimes to “rinse out” a difficult or challenging sequence from your body or system, at least that’s how I think of it.

Make sense?

Do you practice vinyasa or flow-style yoga? Do you have a question you’d like answered? Please let me know!

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    • says

      There isn’t necessarily a style that specializes in crazy difficult poses. I think that it depends a lot on the teacher. For example, there are a lot of vinyasa classes that work towards a peak pose which is generally something challenging but you work throughout class to get your body ready for that pose. There are series in the ashtanga practice that go through some pretty advanced postures too.
      Christine Yu recently posted..Ask a Yogini: What does Vinyasa Mean?My Profile

  1. says

    Oh, those first few weeks of newbie yoga are so confusing. Like a stranger in a strange land. I used to be a big Ashtangi but stepped back to Vinyasa flow classes. The studio I went to liked a 4 day a week commitment for Mysore and I just didn’t have that in my schedule after baby #2.
    Tara Newman recently posted..SuperMom is DEAD. I killed her.My Profile

  2. says

    This is such a great series…love learning more about yoga. I do love flow yoga. For whatever reason, it is the right fit for me. I’m very excited b/c soon we’ll have a local summer flow class outdoors!
    misszippy recently posted..A big, huge runfessionMy Profile

  3. says

    I love this series Christine! Vinyasa is my favorite form of yoga. I love the flow style. I have two questions: 1.) What does open your heart mean? I hear that a lot, especially in anusara yoga. 2.) Can you explain pranayama breathing. Why is it important? What are the benefits?
    Britt@MyOwnBalance recently posted..ThreeMy Profile

    • says

      I love those two questions Brittany! I will definitely talk about them in an upcoming post in this series. Short story on “open your heart” – can mean a couple of different things depending on the context in which it’s used in class. It could be a general physical cue to open up the front of the body and across the chest. Or it be more emotional/metaphysical i.e. open your heart (and yourself) to the moment or experience. Anurasa focuses a lot on this and thus tends to use a lot of language around the heart.
      Christine Yu recently posted..Ask a Yogini: What does Vinyasa Mean?My Profile

  4. says

    I love vinyasa flow yoga. I love finding out more of the meaning behind the words in yoga practice. I haven’t taken a class in awhile but it would definitely help me to loosen from all of my running.


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