How To Modify A Vinyasa Flow In A Power Class

by tinareale on September 25, 2014

Have you ever done a power yoga class? I remember the very first time I took a power class. As the class flowed through various poses, taking vinyasa after vinyasa, I fumbled along with “I thought yoga was supposed to be CHILL!!” running through my mind on repeat. Then the class ended, and somehow, while wiped, I did feel relaxed. Nowadays, I love love love me some power yoga. I became hooked pretty quickly, but it wasn’t without its challenges.

When I started taking power classes, running and strength training ruled my workouts. I didn’t have much flexibility and my body couldn’t move fluidly through the full vinyasa flow…until I was shown how to make the vinyasa work for my body. We all start where we are, practice, and move forward from there.

So often we hear words like “modify” and think they mean “less", but that is simply not the case. You’re still doing the pose, but in a way that suits your body’s needs. If you enjoy the energy and challenge of a power class, don’t get discouraged if the vinyasa feels like too much. Instead, make everything work for YOU. It’s YOUR practice for your body…and by going from that space the additional strength and flexibility will come.

Before we begin, you might be wondering what a “vinyasa” even is. “Vinyasa” is defined as a flowing sequence of poses linked to the breath. The entire power or flow based class would be considered a “vinyasa” style class. For this post, and within my classes, we term the traditional Sun Salutation flow taken between poses “taking a vinyasa”. That series of postures is what I will share here in a modified format.

How To Modify Vinyasas in Power Yoga

  1. Inhale, reaching high with a tall spine and weight evenly distributed across the feet. Navel draws in to the spine. Modifications include keeping the feet hip distance (perfect for low back or hip tightness) or opening the arms wider than shoulder width (for tightness in the chest and shoulders).
  2. Exhale, fold forward where the hips and thighs meet. Bend deeply at the knees to keep the spine long and to support the low back, allowing the hamstrings to lengthen gradually.
  3. Inhale, lift the chest parallel to the mat. The spine should have no rounding in the upper back. Hands can come to the shins to reach the chest forward.
  4. Exhale, step back into a plank position and lower to the knees with shoulders over wrists, belly drawn in, tailbone lengthening down towards the backs of the knees. Lowering from the knees is a great option as you build upper body strength to work towards chatarunga.
  5. On the same (or next) exhalation, lower the body down with control flat to the mat. Keep the belly pulled in tight as you lower and elbows skimming the sides of the body as you lower.
  6. Inhale, peel the chest off the mat for cobra. Hands are under shoulders, tops of feet press down, belly draws in, and the shoulders roll back. Only lift as much as the hips and pubic bone continue to press down and you don’t feel any discomfort in the lower back.
  7. Exhale, lower down from the cobra position, tuck the toes under, and lift the hips up and back into downward facing dog. It’s fine to have a slight bend in the knees in your down dog, so you can extend through the spine, as you work towards flexibility in the back of the legs. Don’t put all your weight into your upper body. Feel evenly balanced between upper and lower body, engaging the legs even if the legs are bent. Visit my Yoga Poses page for more tips on Downward Facing Dog.

Please note that these modifications are very general in nature and geared towards building strength and flexibility for individuals with no other health concerns. For any specific health concerns, always follow recommendations from your doctor or a personal yoga instructor.

Now, go get your flow on!

Have you ever tried a power/flow yoga class?


1 Brittany @ Delights and Delectables September 25, 2014 at 1:39 pm

I love power/flow yoga! It is my favorite!

2 tinareale September 26, 2014 at 8:00 am

Mine too! It’s so…invigorating!

3 Fiona @ Get Fit Fiona September 25, 2014 at 2:39 pm

I’ve been doing ashtanga for over a year now, and still do modifications for my vinyasas. I do some planks on my knees (usually towards the end of the class when I’m getting tired), and do cobras instead of up dogs.

4 tinareale September 26, 2014 at 8:01 am

I feel ya! I do the same thing. Always best to honor our bodies and take modifications…even if we don’t “have to”. Thanks for sharing, Fiona!

5 StacyWash September 26, 2014 at 6:01 pm

I’m an aspiring triathlete and have started taking Power Yoga classes recently. I’m actually a lover of Bikram, but 90 minutes is hard to give sometimes. I have to take modifications and I look forward to building my strength and improving my flexibility.

6 tinareale September 27, 2014 at 7:52 am

No shame in modifications. You have a lot going on physically with being a triathlete. So happy you’re including yoga in that mix. Find what you enjoy, make it work for your body, and the benefits will flow freely. Let me know if you have any requests for my #FridayFlow videos at any time. Have a great weekend, Stacy!

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