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Why I Hate Vinyasa

Photo by Anupam Mahapatra on Unsplash

I have been doing yoga since I was a freshman in college, and while I haven’t always been consistent, I have absolutely loved the feeling that it gave me. It allowed me to get more in touch with my body, get a little more flexible, and brought me into myself to get a better understanding of how I was thinking about things and I could slow down my mind. I always find myself coming back to it when I’ve drifted away.

I’ve done yoga in my living room, in classes, at retreats at Kripalu, Easton Mountain, and India. I’ve done all sorts of yoga of various different styles with different teachers. It’s great about the different things that you can get from different experiences. That being said, I have found one style that has become very popular, and I’ve found that it breaks a lot of the tenets of yoga for me and seems to be looking to dominate the yoga scene. It’s sometimes getting harder and harder to find places where you have alternatives to this, and it’s the “in” style to do now. That style is vinyasa, and I’ve come to do my best to avoid it at all costs.

Here are the reasons that I would rather do any other type of yoga:

  1. One of the main things is that one of the main parts of yoga is that any move shouldn’t make you hurt. It’s about working within your body systems. So what do vinyasa instructors do? They almost immediately go into numerous repetitions of Chaturanga (a low pushup, which put tremendous strain on your shoulders) to Upward Facing Dog (a move where you are holding yourself up by your hands, again, putting tremendous strain on your shoulders), to Downward Facing Dog (a move when you are in an inverted V shape, supporting yourself with your feet and your hands, and have more strain on your shoulders and they are supporting a large majority of your body weight), and all of this without much warmup. Additionally, they will do this numerous times throughout the entire class and then ask you to stay in Downward Facing Dog as a “rest pose”. I consider Downward Facing Dog to be one of the harder poses in yoga and one that should be worked up to throughout the class. I know that I only have the ability to do about 10 of these poses without seriously damaging my shoulders, and that’s if they are spaced out, but vinyasa instructors tend to incessantly throw them at students.

    Basically, I think it’s very dangerous to have students do very difficult poses without proper warm ups and to just push the body to failure.

  2. I’ve noticed that when I’ve been at vinyasa classes, it tends to be the young, Lululemon-wearing crowd who’s doing yoga for a workout and tends to look down on any other type of yoga as lesser than.

    One studio that I had a month-long membership at, I noticed that my first two classes were both vinyasa, I mentioned that there were numerous styles of yoga (hatha, Iyengar, kundalini, yin, etc.), and I asked if there were any classes there that weren’t vinyasa. I got a very condescending response from the directors there with the answer “Oh, you mean hippy yoga?” with the very clear intention that those were old styles that no one does anymore. They seemed amused that I would even ask about anything else. That studio was not the first place that I’ve encountered this attitude, and I find it counter to what I believe yoga to be about.

  3. I’ve gotten a number of times in vinyasa classes where they instructor speaks to something like “Are you struggling and want to give up? Do you do this in other parts of your life? Can you hold it a bit longer?” While this is not a bad thing overall, to do it after you have pushed someone into and through a sequence without proper warmup, and then shame them for not being able to endure through something that they haven’t been prepared for, that’s not inspiring. That’s a form of abuse the type that is used by bullies and manipulators.

    Also, I’ve notice that the vinyasa instructors seem to throw in “do another vinyasa” at just about any time in the class. It seems like they do it because they can’t think of something else. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of yoga poses, yet this style tends to lean on a very short list. Also, the “flow” seems to go so fast that you can never actually pay attention to the pose you’re in.

  4. Lastly, it seems that a lot of places are moving to all vinyasa, all the time. A yoga series that I’ve been going to for over a decade has recently cycled through new teachers, and all the new teachers seem to only teach vinyasa. I’m getting fewer and fewer places that actually offer different types. Granted, I’m not saying that vinyasa shouldn’t be there for those that like it, but it seems like most vinyasa teachers are looking for domination over all other yoga options.

For all these reasons, I avoid any classes that are labeled vinyasa or have teachers that primarily teach vinyasa. I always leave the class exhausted, sore, and frustrated, which is what I want to move out of my life while taking a yoga class.

10 Comments

  1. julia

    I googled “i hate vinyasa” and found your post. Water on my mills, friend, everything you wrote. I am a old beginner to yoga, embrace a slow hatha practice were I can take my time to find my alignment. Take my time to get into the pose, feel the pose and get out of it safely without hurting myself. None of that is ever possible in vinyasa, especially not for those of us who are new to the practice and wanting to stay safe. Every vinyasa class I have taken (and, yes, they dominate the western yoga scene) has stressed me out on physical and emotional levels. That is not the intent of asana practice. I just had to comment because I was happy to find another voice out there and not feel alone in my dislike of this yoga style.

  2. David

    I absolutely agree with both of you. Vinyasa leaves me feeling anxious, frustrated and spent. No other form of yoga does this to me (and I’ve been practicing yoga for 25 years). Never does vinyasa leave me with that feeling of blissful calm that I derive from other forms of yoga.
    Yes, it is good exercise….but is that the sole purpose of yoga?

  3. Melanie

    Thank you. Can I add Hot Vinyasa is hell if you have ever dislocated your shoulder and now suffer chronic rotator cuff strain. I thought my form sucked and the instructor wasn’t correcting my form. Hot Vinyasa yoga was not my yoga style.

  4. Jane

    I’m grateful to read this post. I just cannot understand how “vinyasa” is even actually yoga, for exactly the reasons you state. It seems more like what I would call “calisthenics”. You wrote this: “…the “flow” seems to go so fast that you can never actually pay attention to the pose you’re in” — that’s EXACTLY my objection. That seems like literally, if someone told you to describe the opposite of asana yoga practice, it would be the typical vinyasa class. Thank you for writing this. I already feel less alone!

  5. Jane

    It was good reading this, the first thing I’ve read or heard questioning the wonderfulness of vinyasa yoga. My biggest objection to it is something you only mentioned briefly when you wrote “Also, the “flow” seems to go so fast that you can never actually pay attention to the pose you’re in.” Exactly. I’m guessing that MAYBE a truly advanced practitioner could get all her alignment just right in the maybe half-second allotted — but “intermediates” sure can’t. And anyway, I always thought that the “holding” was literally THE thing that made asana yoga special. Vinyasa is a gymnastics workout — not necessarily a bad thing, but I wish they’d stop calling it Yoga.

    I was just researching courses in what is now being called Adaptive Yoga. One is from an organization whose very name is “My Vinyasa Practice”, so naturally I just clicked away. I don’t think many disabled or injured or elderly people want to race through a muscular blitz of gymnastics.

    • Ken Mattsson

      Jane, I’m glad we have a small community of people who feel the same. I agree that holding a pose and sinking into it is “the” thing that makes asanas special.

  6. Nicole H

    My yoga teacher is out for months due to a surgery and a long recovery. Today her replacement came in and informed us that it is now a vinyasa class. Vinyasa isn’t part of my practice for all of the reasons you all have stated. I can get through a class, but it is a miserable and sloppy practice that leaves leaves me actually angry at the instructor (not a real yoga teacher imho) and myself for not walking out when I hear the word vinyasa. Today I was so irritated that I actually had the group exercise director come to the lobby to explain to her that if it is now, in fact, a vinyasa class, it needs to be labeled as such. I have enough experience to not hurt myself now but other people in this previously all levels class do not and I know that if this had been my first yoga experience, it would also have been my last.

    • Ken Mattsson

      I’m always surprised when people find their way to this post! I agree with everything you’ve said here. Vinyasa basically isn’t yoga, but an exercise program masquerading as yoga. I haven’t gone to many yoga classes since the pandemic, but hoping to shortly.

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