What is 'Vinyasa' yoga?
I'm Aimée Garcia-Marshall a Senior Yoga Teacher & founder of Yoga Collective in Hatch End, Pinner.
I've been teaching yoga for 10 years and love the way yoga is now so much more than something that was just practiced in church halls or by 1970's hippies. But not many people know the history of the practice or where it comes from. So let me shed some light on the history of Vinyasa Yoga.
The Sanskrit word 'vinyasa' literally means ‘to place in a special way’. When the word 'vinyasa' is associated to the practice of asana, it means ‘to link the breath with the movement’ to help create balance in the body and peace in the mind.
The practice of vinyasa yoga derives from the Ashtanga lineage developed by Sri Tirumalai Krishnamcharya, who taught this practice to likes of Patthabi Jois, B.K.S Iyengar, Indra Devi and T.K.V Desikachar. This was all within the 20th Century. Both Patthabi Jois and B.K.S Iyengar went on to evolve into two of the most influential yoga teachers of our time.
Sri Krishnamacharya was referred to as the 'Father of modern yoga' for reviving the way hatha yoga was taught and introducing the concept of linking breath with movement. His style of yoga was know as Vinyasa Krama Yoga or Viniyoga, with his key teaching principle being 'teach what is appropriate for an individual'.
Sri Tirumalai Krishnamcharya
Teaching Methods & Styles
There are many different teaching methods of vinyasa yoga as well as brands! From the more traditional teaching methods of Ashtanga and Iyengar to the more playful style of Rocket or the spiritually lifting Jivamukti to reference just a few.
Then there are the style that are not defined by these teaching methods and purely embrace the creative flare and expression of the teacher to create their own sequence. The beauty of this means as a student, you can find an array of unique Vinyasa classes and styles out there.
The popularity of this all most ‘free form’ Ashtanga practice is it's forever growing. Teamed with the appeal of a dynamic practice that increases flexibility, strength and stamina, all whilst calming the mind and improving overall health; it’s clear why so many embark on a Vinyasa style yoga practice.
Vinyasa is the steady and continuous movement of breath and asana; often referred to as a ‘dance with the breath’.
Vinyasa classes tend to incorporate music, chanting and meditation. A typical Vinyasa class may consists of standing asanas, balances, twists, backbends, inversions, seated asana and forward folds. Every class will end in Savasana (Corpse Pose) - the final resting pose.
In general a Vinyasa class places less emphasis on achieving precise body alignment and more on transitioning safely in and out of asanas, by the engagement of breath and bandha's (energy locks).
Vinyasa classes tend to be quite dynamic, challenging and sweaty! They require the practitioner to be present - in the moment - aware of their breath and movement - and therefore often considered as a ‘moving meditation’.
5 Key Principles of a Vinyasa class
1. Asana – Poses
As defined in Patanjali Yoga Sutra’s; the 'asana' should be steady and comfortable;
2. Vinyasa – The Link
The link between breath and movement in a Vinyasa practice is what makes this practice a moving meditation;
3. Pranayama – Breath
The breath in a Vinyasa class is Ujjayi pranayama – a victorious breath to heat the body from the inside out;
4. Bandha’s – Energy Locks
There are 3 locks which guide prana (energy) through the body – Mula Bandha, Uddiyana Bandha & Jalandhara Bandha;
5. Drishti – Gaze point
The focal point of the eyes; helps to steady the mind. There are 9 gaze points - the tip of the nose, the toes, the fingertips, the thumb, the navel, between the eyebrows (third eye), up to the sky, to the right, and to the left. Each pose is assigned one of these specific focal attention points.
The 5 key principles must be fused together in the correct way and order, to develop and create a true Vinyasa class.
Head over to our Yoga Collective timetable now and explore our range of Vinyasa classes.