Vinyasa Yoga Explained

What is Vinyasa Yoga

Vinyasa Yoga is a style of yoga that is practiced linking conscious breath with fluid movement.  A number of Yoga postures (Asanas) are linked together in a sequence which flows together a little bit like dance.   The breath is controlled + directs the timing + co-ordination of the movement in flow.  For this reason, many Vinyasa or ‘Flow’ Yoga classes are a accompanied by music or a rhythmic beat. 

Transitions linking one posture to another are very relevant to the practice.  Transitions enable the flow of movement + are key to differentiating a Vinyasa Flow practice from other great practices such as Iyengar Yoga or Yin Yoga which are more static in nature.

The most widely practiced Vinyasa sequences are the Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskara). There are many variations of a Sun Salutation which are all flowing sequences of postures to mobilize the spine + energize the body together with a deliberate breathing pattern aiding fluid transitions between postures.  Sun Salutations are known + practiced in most disciplines of Yoga + are a powerful way to warm up the body + concentrate the mind. A great way to start any day.  You can read more about Sun Salutations in the Blog

I principally practice and teach Flow yoga.  Mountain Yoga classes will often include Vinyasa, Qi Gong and mindful movements that target certain meridians (energy conduits) contrasted with practices with little or no movement ~ just the flow of breath (such as passive stretches, relaxation, breathwork + meditation).

The focus, pace and intensity of the practice varies from season to season to compliment our mountain lifestyle and activities.  Each season, the sequences of postures are varied to support the energy in season.  You can read more about Vinyasa through the Seasons in the Blog

Origins of Vinyasa Yoga

Whilst Yoga is founded in the philosophy + concepts of ancient Hindu texts (first mentioned 3,500 years ago in the Rig Vedas),  we attribute Krishnamacharya (1888-1989) as the pioneer of Yoga as it is practiced today.  A scholar, an Ayurvedic medic, an athlete (yoga demonstrator) + a yoga teacher. He was the first to refine the yoga postures, sequence them optimally (‘krama’) + understand the therapeutic value attributed to specific asanas.

Krichnamacharya was the first to take Yoga beyond the spiritual seekers realm into the wider group in the world of personal health, fitness + wellbeing  He developed a dynamic form of asana sequences which remained rooted to + aligned with the principals taught in Patanjali’s Sutras + the 8 Limbs of Yoga.

His Vinyasa yoga approach fused the practice of postural yoga (Asanas) with a direct link to breath control (Pranayama), concentrated gaze (‘Dristi’) to aid sense withdrawal (pratyahara) + deepens a moment to awareness + concentration (Dharana) to optimise a meditative effect (Dyana) + ultimately purify the practitioner with a sense of steadiness + calm (Samadhi). Therefore with right intention + attitude, Krishnamacharya began the development of a discipline that the yoga practitioner could use to manage their mental + physical health + offer therapy, while also achieving the spiritual aim of Yoga as prescribed by Patanjali’s Sutras.

All yoga styles practiced in homes + studios around the world today are rooted to the lineage of teachings + understanding shared by Krishnamacharya.  Prominent students include the innovators of modern day yoga styles practiced throughout the world today:

Sri Pattabhi Jois of Ashtanga Vinyasa

Indra Devi the ‘first lady’ of modern day yoga

BKS Iyengar of Iyengar yoga

T K V Desikachar the son of Krishnamacharya and founder of Viniyoga

What does ‘Vinyasa’ mean?

Sanskrit is the language of Yoga + the term ‘Vinyasa’ is derived from the Sanskrit terms ‘nyasa’ and ‘vi‘ – meaning ‘to place’ ‘in a special / sacred way’.

Conceptually I understand Vinyasa to be a sequence, a pattern or a wave that has a start, a middle + an end with an intelligent quality that flows progressively.  In short, a cycle or collection of cycles of change with an evolutionary quality.

The Natural world is full of Vinyasas – clever patterns, systems and cycles that unfold with ease + synchronicity:

A Year – the Earth’s annual trip around the sun – a 365 day Vinyasa.

A Month – The Moon’s orbit around the Earth – a 28 day Vinyasa.

A Day – A revolution of the Earth on its axis – a 24hr Vinyasa

A complete breath – start of the inhale to the end of the exhale – a 6 to 10 second Vinyasa

The Carbon cycle – Respiration of oceans, plants, animals and humans produces CO2 which is in turn photosynthesised by trees + plants to produce oxygen to be taken up by oceans, plants, animals + humans for the cycle to begin again. That’s a pretty cool Vinyasa.

The cycle of Seasons each year – the changes in daylight, temperature, environment + climate. The varying rhythms of the Natural world adapting + changing through each season.

The cycle of a Tree – Beginning as a seed + maturing into a sprout, then sapling, then mature tree that in turn reproduces seeds so the cycle can continue. On death, the nutrients of the tree give back to the soil to optimise the environment for another tree. Vinyasas within a Vinyasa.

A life cycle from birth to death

The universal unfolding of Life itself,  moment to moment + evolution through the ages.

These are all examples of Vinyasas….  In contrast its worth noting that where a sequence or pattern is not harmonious – unbalanced – out of sync – lacking development or to a destructive end, it is not a Vinyasa. It is by definition simply a ‘Nyasa’

It becomes apparent that Vinyasas support + nurture us.  They help us feel more in flow – more purposeful -more balanced – more at peace – more alive.

I’d like to think that when we wise up, as a human race, and participate more consciously in the Flow mindset we will become more aware of the cause + effect of our thoughts + actions on our planet – in our communities – our relationships – ourselves and evolve to become protectors of the balance of Nature + find a more harmonious way of living.

A conscious evolution – This is the Yoga, a sense of union, or non-separation with the cycles within us and all that is around us.

How to get more from your Vinyasa Yoga practice

Many people get on their the mat to practice Vinyasa Yoga for the physical transformation – to get a ‘yoga body’ – to challenge their balance – to build strength – to gain flexibility.  There’s nothing wrong with that but it’s like enjoying only a taste of the cake-mix in the kitchen when you could be enjoying the party + eating the cake.

An attitude of willingness to deepen the experience of yoga in accordance to the ‘ashtanga 8 limbs’ of yoga moves the intention of the practice into one of a true Vinyasa.  We can apply what we have learned above to our yoga practice + flow more mindfully linking breath + movement knowing we are not ‘working out’ we are working throughout our body level, mind level and energy level.

Each time we get on the mat, we can approach each practice underpinned with a positive intention to improve our physical + mental state with an attitude of willingness to experience the evolution with each breath by recognising the cycle of vinyasas as a moving meditation.

We can challenge ourselves to observe each conscious breath-linked movement from the beginning, middle + end of each inhale + exhale to optimise our moment to moment awareness + connect the body + mind in pure yoga.

As our practice deepens we become less attached to the outcome of a posture – we stop assessing or rating of our performance – we stop comparing with others, we simply breathe + move with ease + grace knowing only that the end of each breath gives rise to another form or movement – + the cycle or vinyasa continues until that practice ends.

And every time we leave the mat, we do so feeling transformed – changed – altered – harmonised.

A post practice glow usually leaves us feeling lighter, brighter, more relaxed, content + more SELF AWARE.

Ultimately with practice you can transform your world, not just your body.  By applying + practicing the tools of yoga throughout the Flow practice we can transform it from an exercise or series of movements to a moving meditation. Through repetitive practice of a moving meditation we come closer to understanding + experiencing our truest nature – where our ego self is brought into balance with the energetic unfolding of our Universe  – where we can feel more ‘at one’ with our self + the world around us – more content – more at peace – more balanced.

So what you waiting for? Roll out your mat + enjoy the ride…….. Namaste x

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