Friday, March 23, 2012

Vinyasa: Breath & Movement

I think David Swenson describes Vinyasa best in his book entitled Ashtanga Yoga The Practice Manual:
"Vinyasa is the unique linking of one asana to the next in a serpentine flow. It is more than a simple set of physical maneuvers. It is a dynamic marriage of our internal and external worlds. Vinyasa is an outward expression of the subtle movement of life force. It is a manifestation of prana. Vinyasa orchestrates balance. A balance of strength and flexibility, lightness and heaviness, movement and stillness. Through vinyasa one may know the vibration of life. The two actions converge to create a symphony of seamless unity. Each action encourages the other. They exist as one. The mind is then set free and the practice may become a rhythmic dance."

When I read this, I am reminded of the simple definition of yoga itself: the union of opposites. When we practice vinyasa yoga, we create the balance of opposites within ourselves. We are reminded of the wholeness of ourselves: the strengths AND weaknesses, the successes AND failures, the peaks AND valleys. We are holistic beings that have the capacity to experience many things.

In the yoga flow, we keep these energies in motion. We give ourselves the permission to feel. Rather than pushing aside unwanted emotions or ignoring the unpleasant feelings, yoga holds us in a safe place to experience our true, authentic and whole selves.

Have you ever felt you had to hide a part of yourself? Perhaps a side of self that you think would not be accepted by others? Because I am a yogi, I think people expect me to always be happy, light, caring, giving. A person that eats vegetarian meals everyday, chants and meditates daily, and drinks green tea. If these characteristics were true, this would not describe my whole being. Sometimes I am tired, sad, lazy, selfish, and angry. I would hardly call myself a vegetarian! I like vegetarian (and vegan) meals, but I'm also a meat eater! I drink tea, coffee, juice, water, and an occasional soda. This would better describe who I am.

Yoga has helped me to allow these multi-level aspects of myself to flow together. I am not one or the other, but all things. Vinyasa teaches us to flow from pose to pose using the breath. Breath is the key. It is the foundation of the yoga practice and threads our movements together; it threads our existing moments together. Without this discipline, I believe I would feel disjointed, half of a person, and not my fullest self. Vinyasa Yoga bridges these gaps so that I am a united Being accepting all parts of myself. Here is how you can practice.

The Sun Salutation is a basic and familiar Vinyasa Yoga Flow. Go through the B Series (the poses are listed below) and move from pose to pose with an intentional focus on the breath moving your body. David Swenson goes on to say in his description, "there is a joy in developing our physical bodies, yet to discover vinyasa's magic we must explore the breath simultaneously. When this marriage is successfully achieved, the action becomes one of spirit and the physical practice acts as a conduit for a deeper exploration of our core identity."

Bring vinyasa into your yoga practice and into your life. Experience the marriage of breath and movement.


Sun Salutation Series B
Mountain Pose
Chair Pose
Forward Fold
Four Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana)
Upward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog
Warrior I (right side)
Vinaysa Flow (Chaturanga, Updog, Downdog)
Warrior I (left side)
Vinyasa Flow
Forward Fold
Chair Pose
Mountain Pose

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