Recently I went back to Australia for a few weeks and I decided that I would find a yoga studio in the suburb I was staying (Bondi Junction). I wanted to go to yoga every day and just be a student not the teacher. I am sure all yoga teachers reading this get me. Sometimes you just want to be a random yogi on a yoga mat in the back of the room taking a class. So I looked at all the timetables for all the yoga school in the area and was shocked to find that pretty much all classes these days are vinyasa yoga. Hot vinyasa, power vinyasa, element vinyasa, morning, night, prenatal, and the list goes on and on. I thought to myself, hmm people must like vinyasa. So I went to my first yoga class, I guess you already have figured it was a Vinyasa class. As the class got started and we started to work through the postures, I found myself feeling likes someone had pressed the fast forward button. We bounced so fast from posture to posture that I am not sure she even got the full name out of each posture before we were onto the next one. I was finding that I could. Not even fully extend into each posture and factually feel myself in it before we were “flowing” into the next asana.
I am being truthfully honest when I tell you I actually felt dizzy from the speed of the flow. There was no connection, there was no reflection, there was no “special way” that these asana were linked together and if there was meant to be, it had most certainly been lost in the instructions from the teacher “leading” the class.
Did I enjoy the class, No but did I learn something from the class, Yes. I learnt that most people do not understand how vinysasa yoga should be practiced. This was not the first time I had felt like there was not enough time spent holding the posture during a vinyasa class but it was most certainly the dizziest and fastest to date. I felt like I could not even finish my breath before we were into the next asana.
Just give me a full breath please!!!
So, what is Vinyasa yoga and how do you practice it?
The stock standard answer you will get when wanting to know what the word Vinyasa means will read something like this:
“Vinyasa is a Sanskrit term often employed in relation to certain styles of yoga. The term vinyasa may be broken down into its Sanskritic roots to assist in decoding its meaning. Nyasa denotes “to place” and vi denotes “in a special way.”
However, I like to describe it as moving meditation. Vinyasa yoga is the joining together of two or more yoga asanas to create a sequence. The bodies movements are integrated with the movement of breath through the body. This sequence can be repeated multiple times. The sequences usually has a right side flow and a left side flow.
“Flow” is another modern word that is often used to replace the word “vinyasa”. Giving you the instruction in the title, flow from one yoga posture to the next. Trying to make the sequence as fluid and as accurate as possible. This does not however mean that the sequence has to become faster it means that the sequence becomes more accurate, more mindful and way more connected.
After sitting in on vinyasa classes in Australia, Thailand, Bali & USA, I have found that many vinyasa classes these days are too fast and have lost the true sense of holding a yoga pose & reaping the benefits of each. Below my list on the top 10 benefits of Vinyasa Yoga
1. Building a better connection to your breathing patterns
If you sit still and quiet for a minute and observe the breath, you notice that the body has a particular reaction and movement for the process of breathing and out. There is an expansion of the body as you breath in, like a natural opening and stretching of the body. On outbreath, there is a natural closing and emptying of the body. The same can be said for yoga poses, there is a natural set up and opening of a yoga pose and there is also a closing or relaxing into a yoga pose. In vinyasa yoga the intentions and movements of the breath want to compliment the movements of the body. As you work on linking these two aspects together you will find your attention to how you breathe will increase. As I prepare myself for a yoga pose, I breathe in, If I have not fully extended my body yet, then my in-breath should also not have finished. The longer and more extended you become in the body, the longer your breathes should be. You will become more mindful of how you breathe using this technique.
2. Strengthening your skills in mindfulness
The above breathing technique helps to cultivate mindfulness. What is mindfulness? As the word suggests – your mind is full. Of what, you ask? Good question! It is full of the present moment which, in a yoga class happens to be pretty simple. The present moment in a yoga class is all about you paying attention to how you are breathing while standing or sitting on your yoga mat in a yoga posture or the mindful transition between postures. The attention does not need to be pondering what you will eat after class or the fight you with your partner before class or the meeting you this afternoon.
At this juncture, I would like to ask you. Why do you practice yoga?
To find a balance right?
Well how the hell are you meant to find balance if you take all the other stuff with you onto the yoga mat? Leave it at work, at home or at school.
Do you do a headstand during your office meeting or a reverse triangle at the counter during work? That would be weird right?
Vinyasa yoga creates mindfulness through concentration on a flow of body movements imbued with the breath. It’s like a simple story your mind can focus on and follow to better stillness. Some people cannot go from 100 to 0 quickly. They are unable to go from a busy work life into a meditation room of complete stillness. Vinyasa allows busy minded people to transition into gradually into stillness. The flow of the paired movements to breathe creates builds mindfulness.
3. Works all components of fitness, stability, balance, strength, stamina etc
Vinyasa yoga is a a great physical workout for the body and you can create a sequence of yoga postutres in to a vinyasa for just about any yoga class you are seeking. balance, strength, flexibility, etc. the list can just go on and on. Vinyasa yoga is a great way to get the body moving but this is not really any big, never heard of before news. Yoga is great way to help keep the body healthy.
4. Building better relationships with your neural receptors (hand eye co-ordination)
When I practise vinyasa yoga i like to ‘micro manage” my movements. I make sure that I know where to place my hands are feet when transitioning between asana. When you train with your body on a regular basis you start to create a heightened awareness to the correct placement of feet, hands, weight distribution and balance. All of these “placement” moves that your body creates rely on your neural receptors to judge the distance, veracity and precision
5. Allows you to be creative with body movements
6. The flowing sequence of the postures and the expressions you put into it, can help to bring emotions you want to deal with to the surface.
7. Vinyasas are a great way to challenge yourself and progress towards yoga goals
8. The dedication and repetitious nature of the practice helps to build the skills to deal with everyday issues off of the yoga mat.
9. Increases the circulation and internal massage of the body and organs.
10. A great way to start to build a daily routine.