Exploring the meaning of ‘Vinyasa’

I teach vinyasa flow yoga, sometimes in the form of ‘slow flow’ classes and other times in more dynamic vinyasa flow classes which follow a quicker pace. It is an honour and a blessing to share this sacred practice from ancient India.

So, what does Vinyasa mean?

Vinyasa comes from the Sanskrit ‘nyasa’ which means ‘to place’ and the prefix ‘vi’ which can be translated to ‘in a special way.’ So, vinyasa is ‘to place in a special way’ which describes how in flow yoga we place the postures together and consciously move through the sequence, bringing awareness to the body.

In vinyasa yoga, the breath initiates the movement and connects each posture together. These transitions allow us to move in a connected way and make vinyasa yoga a moving meditation on impermanence. Vinyasa is a continuous flow guided by the breath. This breath focus is the only permanent part of the practice, the postures are impermanent. Each time we flow through a vinyasa, we let go of the previous posture and come back to the breath which anchors us in the present moment. The following posture is different to the one before, moving in the continuous flow of change to mirror life. It reminds us that everything is connected and all is temporary. All that we really have is here and now.

Some of the mental benefits of vinyasa yoga are that it can help to relieve stress, bring focus, alleviate anxiety, help the practitioner to feel more balanced and allow them a way to connect with themselves. Physically, the practice builds strength and flexibility, generating heat and energy in the body and adding a cardiovascular component.

“The core idea of Vinyasa Yoga is to shift emphasis from posture to breath…the only thing permanent in the practice is the constant focus on the breath.” And the breath is a metaphor for what is permanent in our ever-changing life—the universe, infinite consciousness or, most of all, love.” Gregor Maehle



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