What Are the Benefits of Vinyasa Yoga?

"Inhale, exhale, inhale."

Down Dog anchors many of the flows in vinyasa. (Image: fizkes/iStock/Getty Images)

That's the regular cue you hear in a vinyasa pratice as you move from pose to pose with each breath. Sometimes it doesn't feel like you stay long enough in a pose to really feel the effects of a stretch -- it's often much less time than the 10 to 30 seconds recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine.

However, vinyasa yoga benefits that include increased flexibility, mental focus, cardiovascular conditioning, calorie-burn and muscle development. Check out a class next time you see it posted on your gym or studio schedule -- it's well worth your time.

Physical Benefits

While you don't always hold a stretch for a super long time in vinyasa yoga, by repeating postures and movements you do accumulate the 60 seconds recommended by ACSM to benefit, flexibility-wise.

This active yoga practice also gets you moving -- a tremendous benefit to the average American who sits an average of 13 hours per day, according to research from the company Ergotron, published in 2013. Sitting so much makes your joints stiff, contributes to weight gain and chronic disease, say studies, including one published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2015.

This flowing movement of vinyasa also burns calories, which helps you maintain or lose weight if you burn more calories than you consume a day. In 45 minutes of vinyasa, a 150-pound woman burns 415 calories -- more than the 334 calories burned in 45 minutes of jogging or 214 calories in 45 minute of jumping jacks. To burn the 415 calories, you should be actively flowing the whole time -- not just for short periods and resting in Child's pose for others. Vinyasa beats out other slower forms of yoga in terms of calorie burn, too.

Vinyasa poses are usually linked together with Sun Salutations, which include Chaturangas -- a push-up-like ke motion that builds strength in the upper body. Combine this with repeated visits to Crescent Lunge, Warrior I and II, Horse and Boat, and you do get a strength benefit. Of course, a yoga practice won't turn you into a bodybuilder, but it does contribute to toned muscles and functional strength.

Lunge-based poses build leg strength. (Image: bodrumsurf/iStock/Getty Images)

Vinyasa also provides a mild cardiovascular response. A 2004 study published in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology showed that two months of yoga training improved people's fitness levels and resulted in better exercise tolerance. While the cardiovascular benefits aren't quite the same as running a marathon, vinyasa certainly provides enough of a benefit to improve your health and wellbeing.

Calm the Mind

One of the most substantial benefits of vinyasa yoga is its ability to calm the mind. Instead of worrying about how you're going to pay your bills, what you need at the grocery store, the deadlines at work and the snarky remark made by your teenage son, you focus entirely on the breath, movement and pose sequences. This makes vinyasa yoga a moving meditation.

Yoga, including vinyasa, helps teach your body how to mitigate the stress response by using the breath and mental focus. A research review published in a 2011 issue of the International Journal of Yoga concluded that regular yoga practice does indeed improve sleep, reduce stress, quell anxiety and treat addiction. Vinyasa is particular effective at this because you, as a practitioner, are encouraged to focus on breath and bodily sensations. Other worries and cares become less prominent for the time you practice, making them less prominent and overwhelming.

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