History and Meaning of Vinyasa Yoga every Yoga Student needs to know

Vinyasa Yoga History

“Nothing is static but changes every moment.” – Edwin Bryant

Vinyasa refers to the belief that nothing is static, there is always movement and with movement comes change. This principle can be projected onto our entire life. In contrast to holding static postures, vinyasa creates a dynamic flow of seamless movement bringing postures together.

Beside the fact that Vinyasa Yoga is fun, challenging, creative and flowing, there is also a lot to explore around Vinyasa and its health benefits which you can read about in our blog  ‘Can Vinyasa Yoga cure anxiety and depression?’

Vinyasa meaning

In short, Vinyasa means moving from one asana to another while using the breath. A Vinyasa practice is a series of movements done between the asanas, thus being a guidance of one pose to the next.

A characteristic sequence of Vinyasa Chaturanga to Downward Dog would look as follows:

1. Chaturanga Dandasana – Four-Limbed Staff Pose
2. Urdhva Mukha Svanasana – Upward-facing Dog
3. Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward-facing Dog

Contrary to Ashtanga or Hatha, Vinyasa is less about steady postures. static asanas or a repetitive set of asanas, but rather a constant flow throughout the practice, connecting one posture to another and allowing the body to move freely being guided by continuous breath. Vinyasa yoga becomes a dynamic flow and thus can be seen as an alternated, some sort of freestyle form of Ashtanga.

Vinyasa Yoga History


Surya namaskar practice in vinyasa yoga


The meaning of the term Vinyasa derives from the word nyasa, which means “to place,” and vi, meaning “in a special way.”

The birthplace of vinyasa can be dated back to the Vedic age (1500 – 500 BC), where sun salutations (Namaskaras) first were described in the Rig Veda. The Rig Veda contains the oldest collection of Hindu scripts.

In the early 1900’s, an ancient text named as the Yoga Korunta by Vamana Rishi was imparted to Sri T. Krishnamacharya. This text outlines a flowing sequence of yoga poses called the Vinyasa Krama suggesting a way to connecting mudra (hand gesture), pranayama (breathing exercise), bandhas (physical locks), meditation, asana (posture), drishti (focus gaze) and japa (repetition of mantras).

This knowledge was being shared by Sri T. Krishnamacharya with one of his students Patthabi Jois, who popularizing the Vinyasa Ashtanga style of yoga during the 20th century in Mysore, India and brought Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga to western world.

Yet the style of Vinyasa Yoga practiced by many students and taught by yoga schools today, is different to Ashtanga Vinyasa and quite young in yoga history. Deriving from Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, western yoga students who didn’t want to practice the repetitive sequences of Ashtanga yoga, created a more flexible and creative form of Vinyasa over the years. So today’s Vinyasa Yoga is rather about following a sequence of yoga poses where one flows seamlessly from one pose into another.

Three Parts building the Foundation of Vinyasa Yoga

The practice of vinyasa is intuitive, creative, continuous, flowing and seamless, while creating connection, movement and change. Three essential parts are building the foundation of every Vinyasa practice:

1. Continuous Movement and Flow

Vinyasa consists of a series of movements done between each asana. But as opposed to Ashtanga or Hatha Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga is more about maintaining a flow throughout the practice and at the same time allowing flexibility and creativeness when it comes to alignment rules.

There is no such thing as strict rules or guidelines on how an asana or a sequence should look like. Vinyasa Yoga accepts everybody’s current condition and range of motion.

2. Ujayi Breath

The goal in Vinyasa is to create a continuous breath and being guided by this breath. To synchronize breath with movement, we are using the ancient yogic breathing technique called Ujayi breath. Ujayi breath is done seamlessly throughout the practice. The breathing sounds like waves rolling in and out in the ocean.

To practice Ujayi breath:

    • Breath in and out through your nose with closed mouth.
    • Next, inhale and exhale through your nose while slightly contracting the muscles in the back of your throat.
    • Practice the sound by inhaling ‘HMMM’ and exhaling ‘HAAAAH’ with your lips closed.
    • Maintain the breath throughout the practice and notice your breath altering depending on
      difficulty level and pace of movement.

3. Bandhas

The third part of Vinyasa Yoga consists using bandhas throughout the practice. Bandhas are muscle or body locks.
There are three main bandhas:

1. Mula Bandha = Contraction of the muscles around the pelvic floor / perineum
2. Uddiyana Bandha = Contraction of the lower abdomen.
3. Jalandhara Bandha = Chin lock, done by lowering the chin close to the chest. The gaze is to the tip of the nose.


Feel like you’re ready to make the next step in your yoga journey?

We offer a 200 hr Yoga Alliance certified Vinyasa & Yin Yoga teacher training on the beautiful island of Bali. Click the link now to find out upcoming dates.


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