‘Downward dog is my bae,’ said a friend of mine who practices yoga religiously and is especially into vinyasa yoga. I was curious about vinyasa, wondering isn’t yoga all about gentle poses, breathing in and breathing out? Then how does Vinyasa fit in, and for that matter what is vinyasa?
Well, I am someone who was a strict adherent to hatha yoga; gentle and restorative. But when I tried out Vinyasa with my friend I was pleasantly surprised and challenged. There were other Vinyasa exponents who did not do a day of strength training at the gym, yet they looked so toned. How come? There was something about those endless Downward Dogs and Chaturangas and Upward Dogs, which is physically challenging and stimulating at the same time.
To separate the vinyasa practice and Hatha Vinyasa yoga, this is a practice that makes you sweat at the end of a thirty to forty minutes practice and a synergistic conjoining of physical strength, flexibility, vitality, and the mind.
The Ashtanga Vinyasa system pushes you to the limit, helping you build greater strength, building necessary strength both in the core and the upper body, which enhances posture and makes your daily movements a breeze. It also helps give a significant boost to your metabolic rate.
As we age, we start losing muscle mass, thus building muscle mass should be on top of our radar and the balancing and strengthening moves of a vinyasa yoga workout gives us just that.
Modern day lifestyles are faulty at best, sitting cooped up before our computers for long hours, with little to no movement whatsoever; we have somehow forgotten to engage our muscles. So we feel the tension in the neck region, a sort of ‘rounding’ and tightness in our shoulders and our chest. No wonder we feel stiff and out of sorts after a hard day of work at the computer. So is there any solution to this very potent problem? Yes, there is, the more we stretch, the more we align our muscles better, exploring a wide range of motions. A good posture can do away with the regular aches and chills that affect the quality of life. It strengthens our muscles, lengthening our spine and giving our body the freedom to twist and turn to be more flexible and plaint.
So basically, a vinyasa yoga sequence can bust a lot of myths. Yes, it involves stretching and myriad breathing exercises, but it so much more than that. When you contort your body into a non-stop yoga sequence, you will literally feel the burn and you will marvel at the amount of sweat on your mat, almost as if you are just out of a sauna. Your heart starts pumping and your muscles start crying for help, because they are worked up so much, of course in a good kind of way. So now that you know what is vinyasa yoga, let’s find out more about vinyasa yoga benefits.
It falls under the paradigm of hatha yoga. The postures of the Vinyasa Yoga follow your breath. It is based on the Ashtanga Yoga and is quite a powerful and a regimented practice. Beginners may find it difficult to follow the practice at first. When the Vinyasa yoga is practiced in quick successions, it can be called Power yoga. Breathing is still an important part of this yoga form, and you need to focus more on the inhalation and exhalation while you move from one posture to the next.
Like all forms of yoga, Vinyasa Yoga works on your mind and body to give you a fulfilling experience. “Forget yoga, do cardio”, is this what your gym instructor tells when you ask him or her how to lose weight? Well, Vinyasa yoga is one form of yoga that can help you to lose weight. Check out the other vinyasa yoga benefits here.
If building lean muscles is your main objective, you can try this form of yoga as it helps build lean muscle mass throughout the body. This kind of yoga helps build resistance in the body while you try out the complicated postures, you end up working your muscles. Those backbends, arm balances et al pay attention to each muscle group. This ensures a super efficient and balanced workout.
A majority of us lead a sedentary lifestyle. We suffer from stiff muscles, and try as we might, we cannot make them move. Vinyasa movements somehow lubricate our underused rusty muscles. It also increases the range of mobility, strengthening each muscle group simultaneously. Also, since we match our breaths with our movements, we oxygenate each muscle group, flexing them and releasing the stress trapped in the ligaments, joints, and tendons. This can prevent injuries, tears, and muscle pulls in the future.
Vinyasa Yoga does not only impact one aspect of the whole. In fact, it takes into account your entire being, including the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual states. This helps form a deep and intrinsic connect of the mind to the body. This helps get rid of anxiety and stress. If you invest your entire mind in the current practice, it will help shut out the irrational thoughts. As you focus on inhaling and exhaling, your central nervous system cools down and it calms and soothes you down.
Stress is the number one factor that causes a barrier to your weight loss journey. The more stressed you are, the more your cortisol levels are raised, and instead of losing weight, you tend to gain more weight. But when your mind is relaxed, you tend to lose more weight. Vinyasa Yoga is more like a moving meditation. It relaxes your mind, and instead of focusing on the exterior aspect of things which distract you, it helps control your mind, bringing it to one focal point.
Most of the times, we are unaware of the fact that, we don’t breathe deep enough. We are just content by breathing shallow. Vinyasa yoga helps us to be more aware of the fact we should breathe more and focus on the Ujjayi method of breathing. It fills our lungs with oxygen and also helps us get rid of the toxins. Once you learn to focus more on the breathing, we are able to minimize the chances of inculcating diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart diseases and also high blood pressure. Once you start breathing naturally, you start healing your organs, you are able to control your metabolism, you sleep better and also start losing weight.
Vinyasa Yoga is quick, and at a given time of the day it can upstage any fast-paced workouts at the gym. Picture this, you stand straight, lowering your head towards your knees and then you lower your hands and jump your feet back to a plank position; then you lower down to a chaturanga then to an upward dog position and finally to downward dog. The entire sequence is fast and unrelenting. Your body is sometimes pushed to do gravity-defying poses, thus expending a lot of energy. It works for multiple muscle groups and burns a lot of calories. Your body generates a lot of heat when you perform all these poses. Imagine the number of calories you burn in an hour of vinyasa class. Almost 450 calories. Phew!
Why do I sweat so much when I perform a Vinyasa sequence? I asked my friend. She was quick to answer, that your body works up a lot of heat and you expel that in the form of sweat, and while you keep practicing these sequences you clean the thick, impure blood and make it thinner, detoxifying your body in the process. It boosts your blood circulation and ensures a total body detox. When you practice regularly, you become more and more energized and are able to perform the sequences with that much more alacrity.
Vinyasa flow is great for weight loss, find out more about some of the exercises that you can add to your daily regime, it is all about the gentle introduction of the poses; and once you feel comfortable doing the poses, you can add more complicated ones that can pose a bigger challenge to your fitness levels.
Vinyasa Flow for Beginners
Urdhva Hastasana provides a deep stretch to the sides of the spine, body, shoulders, armpits, and belly. The pose increases space between the vertebrae, improves the posture and makes your spine ready for the upcoming deep stretches and twists.
Do it the right way
Take a deep breath in and lift your arms up. Let your palms face up and harbor the entire energy around the body. Conjoin your arms above the head, and as you exhale, let the hands meet at the heart center, repeat this pose 5 times. Remember, it’s not always the speed of the exercises that count, but how you do each pose.
This pose gives a great stretch to either side of the entire body, and that includes the torso, thighs, and shins. It opens up your shoulder, spine, armpits, and belly. This pose tones up the spine and thighs, preps up the digestion, and is a great anxiety reliever.
Do it the right way
Open up your body as you gently sway from one side to the other. Hold each side for a good few seconds. When you come to the heart center, exhale and bring your arms down to the heart center and try a forward fold.
Ardha Uttanasana offers a great stretch to your hamstrings, calves, and front and back torso. This improves your posture while strengthening the back and spine. Practicing this pose will stretch your abdominal organs and belly, enabling digestion.
Do it the right way
Inhale and bring your hands to the shins, thighs, or hips. Lengthen and stretch the spine all the way from the tailbone to bringing it between the ears. Destress your face, take a deep breath out and release the legs and back, bringing it to a forward fold.
Bring the hands to the mat and bend your knees a little; to bring greater ease to the movement, step back the right foot and bring down the knee, placing the weight on the left foot and the right shin.
The low lunge is a great pose to stretch the legs, arms and the groin region.
Do it the right way
While you are in a low lunge, take a deep breath in and bring your arms up and breathe out while you sweep them back into airplane arms (keep your palms facing down and a mat distance apart by the hips). Lift the back leg for a high lunge. Breathe in again while you lift the arms back up and lower the other leg into a low lunge.
You can try this 3 times, while you inhale and lift your arms up in the sky and in a low lunge. Let go of the hands while you step back into the plank pose. Here your left foot will join the right at the back of your mat.
These sequences, when done one after the other, offer vinyasa flow yoga benefits. It strengthens the spine, arms, and wrists. It also activates the organs of the abdomen. Like most of the vinyasa sequences, it stretches the anterior spine and the posterior spine, thus helping improve your posture. This also helps get rid of fatigue, depression and the pain of sciatica.
Do it the right way
Start in the Plank Pose. Keep the ball of the foot on the floor. You’ll know the ball of the foot is on the floor when you are able to lift and spread your toes apart while you are in the Plank Pose. If you aren’t on the balls of your feet, you won’t have the necessary ammunition to power your legs to push the feet back from the curled position into the pointed-toe position.
When you land on the Chaturanga with the body weight hinging on your wrists and toes, push backward through the balls of your feet until you come toward your toes, and then flip over right on top of your feet. Inhale next to the upward facing dog; with your body a few inches off the floor and your head stretched back, feel a deep stretch in the entire body with this pose. While you exhale, you lift your hips and drag your feet, bringing them toward your hands. Flip back over the toes and slide into the downward facing dog, your body forming an inverted ‘V’ while you stare at your belly button.
While a vinyasa yoga sequence can help you lose weight and build lean muscles, we suggest adding a variety of workouts to your fitness regime to reap the maximum benefits of each one. The idea is to challenge and shock your body by trying new things every day. All said and done, if you are looking for a workout that stimulates your muscles and mind in a holistic way, then look no further than the Ashtanga vinyasa yoga primary series. It helps you not only to lose weight but also to gain health in the right way! Tell me, have you tried the vinyasa yoga workout yet? If not, it is time you gave it a try. Do let me know whether you felt any difference!
Devi Gajendran is a Post Graduate in Nutrition (University of Madras, Tamil Nadu) and has tons of experience in Fitness and Nutrition. She is the chief advisor and full time contributor at the Fit Indian and has the final say on all the segments under the Fit Indian paradigm, such as beauty, fitness, home remedies, diseases, diet tips, weight loss, weight gain and so on. A foodie herself, she believes in the Hippocrates quote,” Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” A fitness enthusiast, she believes that the combination of diet and exercise can work wonders. When she is not sharing her valuable knowledge about food and fitness, she likes to spend quality time with her family members, do some healthy baking and listen to soft soulful music.
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