What is hot vinyasa yoga and what is vinyasa yoga good for?
Vinyasa is literally 3 movements — plank, cobra or up dog, and down dog. These movements are used to connect other poses to each other, as you would connect a high-pitched sound to a low-pitched sound with something in the middle, so the transition would be be less abrasive. Vinyasa connects different types of poses, like a backbend with a standing pose, allowing them to seamlessly intertwine without disrupting the smooth flow. The objective is this “flow“ effect which keeps this type of yoga flowing or moving, which in turn creates body heat. Also, vinyasa activates qualities of fitness such as cardio and stamina, as the body is flowing or moving moderately or vigorously for an extended period of time. This effect is similar to many western fitness exercises like running or aerobics or circuit training etc… therefore very much appreciated by the fitness mentality, as it is similar to what we are conditioned to appreciate.
My understanding is the body heat generated by the flow of movements was to soften the muscles to allow a deeper penetration or stretch faster. For example, if the body was not warm, it would not allow the stretch to go as deeply and release as quickly as it would, generally, in Yin yoga or restorative yoga. Going deeper faster not only allows you to get more out of the pose more quickly, but allows you to go more deeply into more poses in a certain amount of time. Whereas in yin yoga, you may perform 8 to 10 poses in an hour, in vinyasa yoga you could easily perform 20 to 30 poses, allowing for a much more thorough bodily experience, as you can move through more body parts and more ranges of motion.
There is also a more esoteric reason for Vinyasa yoga. This reason is that the heat generated by the flowing effect is supposed to be detoxifying. Maybe as in sitting in a sauna or steam room or whirlpool is also supposed to be detoxifying. Certainly, this hot yoga style produces a good sweat, and there are some who believe sweating is detoxifying. There may not be a greater toxin in our bodies generally speaking than the tension lodged in the bodily tissues, and certainly the heat, especially when combined with the stretches, can be releasing. This certainly has a huge effect on how you feel and adds greatly to people’s desire to practice this type of yoga, although this feeling is certainly ephemeral, as the reactive mind will certainly generate more tension at a later time.
So vinyasa flowing yoga works best in conjunction with meditation, so we can develop the skills and ability to be less reactive through mindfulness.
For more information on the differences between Vinyasa yoga and other yogas, read our article, What is the Difference Between Vinyasa and Hatha Yoga.