What is Flow Yoga?

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Flow Yoga Definition

Flow = to link postures and move with the breath

Yoga = योग to yoke. Often translated as union yoga is a mind-body practice in which the practitioner aims for transformation or liberation.

Flow yoga is the child of ashtanga yoga taught by Pattabhi Jois but is now widely known as a guided dynamic practice orientated around postures that flow from one to another.

Flow Yoga Deep Dive

Flow yoga is a style of asana (yoga’s movement practice) that can be mentally absorbing and great for the body.  As well as postures, you’ll also find a good mix of meditation, pranayama (breathwork), and sometimes chanting.

This style of yoga has evolved over the past fifty years to become less rigid and more creative and is now arguably one of the most well-known and highest-attended class styles globally. It is often accompanied by music and is physically demanding. Let’s take a look at the main styles of flow yoga.

 a woman doing upward facing dog pose in purple yoga clothes

5 Flow Yoga Styles

#1: Ashtanga yoga

Ashtanga yoga was established by Krishnamacharya but was brought to popularity by his student Pattabhi Jois. It is a vigorous practice that links poses with breath and requires stamina from the student while promoting strength and flexibility. 

The practice comprises six systematic series, beginning with the well-known primary series.  Based on sun salutations and vinyasas, ashtanga yoga is rigorous physical practice complemented by also having meditative qualities.

There are two forms of ashtanga classes: led and Mysore.

  • Led Ashtanga = This is like a regular yoga class where the teacher leads students through the sequence, and everyone moves at the same pace.
  • Mysore Ashtanga =  This form is led by the student who makes their way through the sequence at their own pace.  Students will practice in the same room, working on specific parts of the sequence while the teacher works 1-2-1 with individuals.

Notable teachers include David Swenson, Kino MacGregor, Tim Feldmann, Richard Freeman, David Williams, Chuck Miller, and John Scott.

a woman doing a yoga pose on a beach at sunset

#2: Vinyasa Flow yoga

Vinyasa flow is similar to ashtanga in pace and approach, but the choreographed style does not have a strict sequence of postures. 

Teachers have free license over the theme, postures, and structure of the class, and it will often be influenced by other movement modalities.  Classes often build to a peak pose or are based on a theme. 

It is considered one of the most popular forms of yoga right now.

Notable teachers include Jason Crandell, Rodney Yee, Shiva Rea, Sean Corn, Tiffany Cruikshank, and Cyndi Lee.

#3: Power Yoga

Beryl Bender-Birch established power yoga in the mid-90s, and like Vinyasa yoga, this practice is based on flow and breath but with a side of fitness. 

You can expect to sweat and feel like you’ve had a workout.  While you’ll recognize ashtanga yoga in this practice, you’ll also get acquainted with tricky postures such as arm balances and inversions. 

a woman in downward dog on a blue yoga mat practicing flow yoga

#4: Slow Flow

Slow flow is essentially the same as vinyasa flow but with a slower pace and often fewer postures. Not as dynamic as vinyasa flow, it tends to focus more on the embodied nature of the practice rather than the poses themselves. 

This is still a very meditative practice but arguably more accessible for beginners.

#5: Flow and Restore

This one is for when you can’t decide whether to move or rest! With flow and restore, you’ll find that the first half of the class is based around flow postures and getting the body moving while you round up with an extended set of relaxing restorative poses and a long savasana.

Other notable styles which include elements of flow

a man practicing flow yoga doing an intense stretching pose

Flow Yoga In Your Life

Who is flow yoga for?

Depending on the class level, flow yoga is generally accessible for people who are fit and healthy.  It is for people who want to get into their bodies and focus on their breath.

What are the benefits of flow yoga?

Flow practices are energizing, dynamic, and an excellent option for when you want to move your body.  Some reported benefits include:

  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Increased strength
  • Increased flexibility
  • Improved mobility
  • Improved mood
  • Increased focus
  • Improved sleep
  • Breath and body awareness

How often should you practice flow yoga?

This is up to the practitioner, but any style of flow yoga is an excellent addition to your weekly routine. 

Try balancing a flow-based practice a couple of times a week with a slower and more nourishing practice such as restorative yoga or yin.

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To go deep and expand your yogic knowledge, access our free Yoga Terms Encyclopedia, where we host a profound wealth of ancient and timeless yogic wisdom in an accessible modern format.

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Sarah is a Brighton-based yoga teacher and teacher trainer with a passion for teaching self-inquiry and rest.

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