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Vinyasa Yoga: the real essence beyond 'just the flow'

Updated: Mar 7

What is Vinyasa Yoga?

Vinyasa Yoga is one of the most practised Yoga styles in the world today. Often termed as ‘flow’ Vinyasa Yoga style attracts thousands of yoga seekers every year. However, most often, Yogis and yoginis might not know 'what is Vinyasa Yoga.'


What does Vinyasa mean?

Vinyasa is a Sanskrit word with the combination of Vi वि + Ni नि + Aasa आस् - विन्यासः


Vi & Ni are prefixes and in Samskrit they are called Upasargas. Upasargas - उपसर्ग (prefixes) will enhance, change or give a different direction to the meaning of the word that it is attached.

Vi (वि ) here means visheshena (विशेषेण) - specially.

Ni ( नि ) means nischchayarthe (निश्चयार्थे) i.e. definitely.

Aasa (आस्) is a root word that means ‘upaveshe’ (उपवेशे) to place or to sit.


What is Vinyasa?

Vinyasa is a technique used to integrate the asanas together to bring the stillness of the mind. Vinyasa does not mean ‘the flow’. It is a technique to specifically and definitely place the asana or group of asanas together.


Tristhana - Foundation of Vinyasa

Tristhana is a combination of two words i.e. tri (it is from trini - referring to the number three) and sthana (dimensions/factors). It is the combination of three dimensions together makes the thristhana practice.


Body (annamaya kosha) + Breath (Pranamaya Kosha) + Drishti (Manomaya Kosha) = Tristhana

Vinyasa becomes a Vinyasa practice when these three are combined in the practice of asanas. Therefore, you will see a strong emphasis on the combination of body+breath+dirshti is seen in Vinyasa practice.


Vinyasa as a Vinyasa Yoga Style

If Vinyasa is a combination of body, breath and mind (tristhana) then this kind of practice is seen in Hatha Yoga also.

In fact, it is the foundation of every asana-based practice. However, over the period of time, Vinyasa has evolved as a Yoga asana practice and got its practitioners due to its ability to bring stillness of the mind.



Vinyasa Yoga of Sri T Krishnamacharya
Sri T Krishnamacharya; Father of Modern Yoga Practices

History and Evolution of Vinyasa Yoga

Origin of Vinyasa Yoga

Where do we see the first glimpses of the Vinyasa Yoga method of practice? In Suya Namaskara of Hatha Yoga. The age-old Hatha Yoga Surya-Namaskar is nothing but a Vinyasa-based practice.


Surya Namaskara is seen in the Rg Veda and Yajurveda mantras. For example, an entire 132-stanza-based Aruna Prashna (section of the Vedas) focuses completely on Sun worship. You will see the traditional Surya Namaskara is practised after every stanza is chanted. One can clearly see the influence of the Vinyasa method followed in the Surya Namaskara practice.


Vinyasa Yoga: Concept in Practice

The main goal of asana practice is to bring the stillness of the mind. One of the age-old methods of bringing the stillness of the mind is through the stillness of the body. This is the basis of traditional Hatha Yoga practice. Therefore, you will see Hatha Yoga asanas, which will be gentler and slower. You are expected to stay longer in the state of the asana as keeping the body still to keep the mind still is the process in Hatha Yoga.


It is still possible to rhythmically move the body, and in the process of moving the body, the mind can be in the stillness. A better example would be a moving fan. Similarly, the body will be moving rhythmically with the focus on the breath and mind in the practice, leading to the stillness of the mind. This is the concept of Vinyasa Yoga.


Vinyasa Yoga practice themes

This concept of Vinyasa Yoga can be achieved through different themes. One can create an entire set of asanas focused on achieving strength and flexibility using back-bending asanas. One can also do the same with balancing asanas. These and many like this such as forward fold-focused, core-strength etc. can be physical themes. You can also create psychological theme-based classes such as humility, surrenderness, devotion, thankfulness, dedication and a lot more.


Who should practice Vinyasa Yoga?

It is difficult to say just on the outset. However, you will definitely like a good Vinyasa yoga class if you face attention issues. If you get distracted easily, Vinyasa Yoga would be an ideal style for you. Vinyasa Yoga is a moving meditation practice and it helps in achieving the state of meditation while moving.


It is also possible that you might not have attention issues. You might be focused. However, among the three Gunas, you might be Rajas dominated. In this case, you might like the Vinyasa Yoga Style more than traditional Hatha Yoga.


How to know if Vinyasa Yoga suits me or not?

Take good Vinyasa Yoga Classes with good teachers. Follow some good Vinyasa Yoga videos to practice. Do not conclude on the very first or second class. Take a few classes and then see if you like how it is practised. Personal experience is the best way to measure.


Summary:

Life is all about experimenting and experiencing. Once you feel like this style suits you the best, stick to your practice of Vinyasa Yoga. While keeping your main focus on Vinyasa Yoga, occasionally explore other styles and other techniques as well.


One should always learn from the trees. Keep your roots stronger while exploring other facets of life. I hope all these tips help you in understanding Vinyasa Yoga. More on this, we will discuss when you are here in the Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Training.

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