Yoga is known as an ancient way to gain enlightenment, and some may think that yoga is reserved for the new-age hippies or the Buddhists among us. Yet we know now that Yoga has fully translated into our modern world and is becoming widely acknowledged as one of the most effective tools to create personal change and vibrant health. Anyone and everyone can do it. With ancient roots its has now grown to fully embrace our modern times, adapting and becoming more unique with each person creating their own path in yoga.
Vinyasa is a close cousin of Ashtanga; Ashtanga being a more strenuous practise, as postures are held for longer and the Sun Salutations along with the primary series make for a longer work out. First and foremost the most important thing to remember with Vinyasa is that the very meaning of the word IS the practise.This a ‘Sanskrit’ word, which means it can have many different meanings, but overall its meaning is, ‘to move with breath’, which is the fundamental core of vinyasa yoga. This style as mentioned earlier is an evolution from Ashtanga and was created by a Yogi named Sri Tirumala Krishnamacharya. He developed the sequence of linking movements used between postures, and working with different postures rather than a set routine. The magic lies in the concentration of synchronisation between breath and movement. He then passed on his teachings to a boy called Parrabhi Jois, who established an institute of his own for practicing this new form of yoga. Vinyasa yoga was born!
The Yoga Road Less Travelled
The changes between postures are as important as the postures, or ‘asana’s’ themselves. What you should be experiencing is what it feels like to be in a posture. The way you move in and out of postures is all part of the meditative nature of this wonderful type of yoga, and attention should be paid to how you feel when you do this. Softness, yielding and acceptance are perfect words to accompany your movements. This will generate a warm, caring feeling towards yourself, and the attitude will not only soak into your muscles and sinews, but will spread to your mind, and you will perhaps see where more caring is required in other areas of your life, as you grow more receptive to the new energy that is blooming within you. Part of yoga is maintaining your mental and physical equilibrium whilst facing a challenging posture, for example, feeling impatience or irritation with yourself while attempting a new posture could be a manifestation of your mental approach to learning new things. Food for thought! This learning is something that can easily be translated into your day to day understanding of yourself in different environments, and used to make sense of your own personal mental and physical evolution.
Let’s get real – what can this do for me?
Vinyasa is a more flexible kind of yoga, one that allows you to be more creative and adapt poses as you feel necessary. It is totally different in the respect that it is in no way exact and the movements reflect the heart of this style. To flow, go where you are needed, let your body and breath be your guide. There are no set sequences but the thing to remember is that each pose builds on the previous one. This allows the body to open, become more receptive and aware so that when the time comes for you to try a more challenging posture you will have the strength or suppleness to perform the movement without injury or resistance. The Vinyasas link your movements together, and not only that they keep the body warm, lending you greater suppleness, with less stress or strain.
The mental benefits of this yoga are great for Alpha people, those of you that are constantly ‘on’, driven or are perfectionists. Blending breath, movement and keeping a nice consistent pace with your movements teach you to stay in the moment, so you are conditioning yourself to stay ‘with’ your body. Being present is the only way to carry out the moves. You may find with the flowing movement that you eventually will be able to find yourself in a meditative state quite naturally, without effort. This is the benefit of allowing your body and mind to blend synergistically. The flowing Dance style of Vinyasa should be dynamic enough to make you feel like you are really working.
To balance your practise it is worth considering practising Yoga Nidra, which is a form of deep, guided relaxation/meditation using a sankalpa (resolve or intention) after your vinyasa workout. This will help to deepen your practise and allow you to really soak up the benefits of relaxation, an aid to completely de-stress!
What is important to remember with Vinyasa?
It is very simple. Breathing, co-ordinated with your inter-locking vinyasa moves. This simple practise will take you to places you never dreamed. Deep, regular, even breathing will still the mind, allowing for greater focus with the body. Each movement is initiated on an inhale which also allows for greater heat to be produced, and warmth of the body prevents injury, while helping you to perform deeper stretches.
Let the music move you…
As with everything Yoga, once you have learnt the basic postures, the linking movement of the vinyasa, you decide if music works for you, and brings greater benefits with its use. Traditionally yoga is practised in silence, but anyone who practises the vinyasa’s will tell you, yes, you can use music to deepen your practise, all the better to connect mind to body – whilst tuning into your sense of rhythm, timing and sensuality.
Music is not very well thought of in the yoga world as you lose all important focus on the breath. But on those days when you just don’t feel like doing your practise and the will is gone, putting on a cd with some great beats could be all you need to lift your spirit and get your groove on with vinyasa.
Fall in love with Vinyasa
Those of you with a love of dance could well fall in love with vinyasa. The feelings that can arise when in your vinyasa flow are much the same as when lost in dance. There is a playful element to this, and as always you are letting your body be your guide, so if you are practising and you really feel like letting go, music could be a useful catalyst to really get you into the spirit of the flow and turn your practise into something deeper, and tap into your creative, feminine energy.
Vinyasa can truly become a dance, and with practise you will find a greater connection and ease within yourself that will transmit through the rest of your life.
Take a peek at this video to see Vinyasa in action with the FireFly pose:3