Vinyasa is movement followed by breath and it’s the standard cue you’ll hear during class as you transition from one pose to the next.  In some cases, it might not feel as if you’re staying in poses for long enough to experience the real effects of each stretch; however, the benefits of Vinyasa yoga are plentiful including calorie-burn, an increase in flexibility, cardiovascular conditioning, muscle development, and mental focus. Attend a class when you see one posted on either your studio or gym schedule. It will be time well spent.

The Physical Benefits

Although you don’t hold stretches for very long in Vinyasa yoga, only about 10 to 30 seconds, with the repetition of movements and postures you will accumulate the 60 seconds recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) to achieve the benefits of flexibility.

Vinyasa is an active form of yoga practice that will get you moving.  Considering the average American sits around about 13 hours every day, according to a 2013 research report conducted by Ergotron, any opportunity to stretch allows us to increase blood flow and circulation, reduce muscle tension, and increase our energy levels.  A 2015 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that sitting for too long increases chronic disease and weight gain, and will cause stiffness in your joints. The hip flexors, muscles in the front of your hips, begin to shorten with long periods of sitting and inactivity, which can cause lower back pain.  Yoga lengthens and stretches the muscles to build elasticity and minimizes chronic pain.

Vinyasa includes flowing movements that contribute to burning calories.  Whether you’re trying to maintain your weight or lose weight, a Vinyasa session of 45 minutes burns approximately 415 calories for a woman weighing 150 pounds, which is more than the typical 334 calories burned from jogging 45 minutes, or the 214 calories burned from doing jumping jacks for 45 minutes. In order to burn 415 calories however, the body needs to be flowing actively the entire duration of the class.

The poses in Vinyasa are typically linked in a sequence based on the creativity of the instructor.  Classes can be challenging in pace and flow or modified for beginners. Vinyasa, which means to place in a special way and refers to linking breath to movement has been adapted to mean the transition that comes between each pose or series of poses.  Instructors may choose to focus on strength including Sun Salutations that lengthen, strengthen, flex and extend muscles, and Chaturangas which include a push-up-like motion that increases upper body strength. When combined with repeated Horse and Boat, Warrior I and II, and Crescent Lunge, you will tone your muscles and gain functional strength.  But don’t worry, you won’t be transformed into a bodybuilder doing yoga. You will notice, however, more muscle definition and increased functional strength to complete daily tasks.

In a study published in 2004 in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, it was discovered that in just 2 months of participating in yoga, participants improved their fitness levels, which also resulted in improved exercise tolerance. That means you can exercise more frequently and rigorously with less stress on your heart and body.  You’ll have greater endurance and experience less fatigue during and after exercise. Vinyasa benefits the cardiovascular system and although it can’t be compared to running marathons, Vinyasa definitely improves your overall health and well-being.

Calming The Mind

A research review, published in the International Journal of Yoga in 2011, concluded that engaging in yoga on a regular basis reduces stress, improves sleep, treats addiction and quells anxiety. Vinyasa is especially effective in using mental focus and breath as you move through the poses and forget your cares and worries. Instead of focusing on a deadline at work, what you need on your next trip to the grocery store, a hurtful comment made by someone close to you, for 60 minutes, you will be entirely focused on the movements, pose sequences and your breath.  Perhaps that’s why Vinyasa is described as a type of moving meditation. It calms your mind and trains your body to mitigate stress.