Welcome to our Vinyasa Yoga classes! Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a modern and dynamic style of yoga that synchronises breath with movement. In Vinyasa Yoga, instead of static postures, a sequence of postures is performed with smooth transition from one asana to another, forming a continuous flow.
Vinyasa Yoga calms the mind by keeping it continuously engaged and preventing it from wandering. When you practice Vinyasa Yoga correctly, your body, movement, breathing, mind and spirit are one. When you learn Vinyasa, aim for perfection. It takes a lot of practice, but eventually, you will get there.
Origins And History
Vinyasa Yoga was created in the early 1900s by Indian yoga guru T. Krishnamacharya who is widely known as the Father of Modern Yoga. It was later popularised by his disciple K. Pattabhi Jois. Krishnamacharya was an Ayurvedic healer, scholar and yoga guru. He is considered one of the most influential yoga teachers of the previous century.
Krishnamacharya’s disciples included several renowned yoga teachers, including K. Pattabhi Jois, B. K. S. Iyengar (founder of Iyengar Yoga) and S. Ramaswamy (author of “The Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga”). He travelled around India teaching yoga and it is claimed that he could do amazing feats, including stopping his heartbeat. Krishnamacharya believed that the correct practice of Vinyasa is necessary to get the full benefits of practicing yoga. Without perfection, it is like music devoid of pitch and rhythm, which is neither pleasant nor useful.
In Vinyasa yoga, all eight limbs (ashtanga) of yoga are important. Pattabhi Jois was the first teacher to document the Vinyasa yoga system and teach it to the masses. His son Manju Jois and grandson Sharath Jois took the Vinyasa style further with their own variations. The original method of teaching, codified by Pattabhi Jois, was called the “Mysore Style”. It was a combination of two styles of teaching. There were teacher-led classes on some days. On other days, students practiced a sequence under the supervision and guidance of the teacher.
The sequences consisted of a number of repetitions of different forms of Surya Namaskara followed by a standing sequence, a selection from a set of six series and a closing sequence. The set of six series were called the primary, intermediate, Advanced A, Advanced B, Advanced C and Advanced D. The primary series was called Yoga Chikitsa (yoga therapy). The intermediate series was called Nadi Shodhana (purification of the nerves). The advanced series were called Sthira Bhaga (centring of strength).
Pattabhi and Manju Jois occasionally allowed posture variations and sequence changes to adjust to the requirements of students. They gave greater importance to alignment and breathing. Sharath Jois, on the other hand, believed in keeping the system rigid and expected students to master it. He believed that one must master one asana before moving on to the next.
Principles of Vinyasa yoga
Pattabhi Jois emphasized the importance of all eight limbs of Pathanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga. However, he believed that postures (asanas) must be mastered first before the other limbs. There are eight principles of Vinyasa yoga, but they are not strictly followed by all teachers.
- Alignment: The alignment of the postures was taught in detail by Pattabhi Jois and other early teachers.
- Tradition: Although some teachers emphasised a strict traditional approach to postures and sequences, many teachers, including Pattabhi Jois, allowed variations to suit individual students.
- Breathing: Breathing is co-ordinated with movements and postures. This is not pranayama. Pranayama is taught separately. Pattabhi Jois recommends that one must inhale and exhale about five to eight times in each posture.
- Bandhas: There are three bandhas (body locks). They are practiced separately from Asanas.
- Drishti: In Vinyasa, other than the posture and breathing, there is a prescribed drishti for each Asana. Drishti specifies where your eyes should focus while in the posture. It could be one of nine drishtis, the nose, the spot between the eyebrows, navel, thumb, hands, feet, upwards, towards the right side or towards the left side.
- Tristhana: The combination of breathing, posture and drishti is prescribed for each asana. This is called the tristhana.
- Vinyasa: Co-ordinating breathing with movement. Each asana consists of a set of movements and each movement has a prescribed breathing instruction.
- Mantras: Mantras are chants in Sanskrit at the beginning and close of the yoga session.
Advantages And Benefits
Compared to other forms of yoga, Vinyasa Yoga has some unique benefits.
- Going with the flow of Vinyasa Yoga keeps you focussed, improves concentration and reduces stress.
- It is flexible and asanas and sequences can be adapted to individual needs. Changes can also be brought in for variety and to prevent the mind from getting used to one type of routine.
- It will push you to your limits even if you are an experienced yoga practitioner. Unlike other forms of yoga, there is no opportunity to relax between poses.
- As there are no breaks during a sequence, it can help you work up a sweat. You get benefits similar to cardio.
- Vinyasa yoga is physical activity and helps break sedentary routines.
- Gives contentment, emotional balance and heals the mind and body.