Vinyasa Yoga 101
So you've taken a Vinyasa Class and may have even heard your favorite teacher call out "take your Vinyasa". This can be confusing. The term Vinyasa actually has a few different meanings that are used quite frequently and are not mutually exclusive.
The word Vinyasa can be translated into arranging something in a special way, such as yoga poses. Vinyasa is one of many different styles of yoga and is a practise where we link the breath with movement. We coordinate and flow poses together from one pose to the next and do each set of poses on each side of the body.
Before transitioning to the other side of the body we hear the teacher call out "take your Vinyasa" or "take your Chatarunga". This means that we move through the transitioning poses of Downdog, Plank, Cobra/Updog, and then back to Downdog to neutralize the body before beginning the other side. These transitional poses are part of the tradition of yoga and have been practised this way for thousands of years. So again, linking poses together using the breath. These 4 poses are linked together as transitions and are considered a "Vinyasa".
Vinyasa is one of the most popular styles of yoga
We understand why Vinyasa has become so popular. It's a momentum style practise that burns calories, kicks up your heart rate, AND builds strength and flexibility. I mean.. hello?? What's not to love here?
By consciously flowing with breath and movement we anchor ourselves in the present moment. It is often referred to in classical yoga as the "breathing system".
Vinyasa Classes are always different
There is a ton of variety in Vinyasa Classes. Normally, no two classes are the same. Teachers choreograph and link together poses that open certain areas of the body. Some days you may work hips and quads, other days shoulders, core or low back. Some days, you get a mixed bag where you get a little bit of everything! Almost certain though, you will get a spine lengthening and strengthening session regardless if you work the upper or lower body. All yoga poses revolve around the axis of the spine.
There is a saying in yoga...
'Age is not defined by a number but by the flexibility of your spine'
We agree wholeheartedly~
There are many styles of yoga to explore
Hatha yoga is a set of postures for physical and mental exercise used to open up the channels of the body. "Ha" means sun and "tha" means moon. We balance the sun (masculine) and moon (feminine) energies of the body to develop strength and flexibility. This is a transformation style of yoga that focuses on the 8 limbs of yoga designed by Patanjali, the Father of Yoga.
Yin yoga is where we hold poses for long periods of time to stretch the connective tissue and open the joints. These poses are normally close to the ground or practised on the belly, seat or back. It is the opposite of a "yang" practise which revolves around the muscles.
Ashtanga yoga was the first style of yoga and is the foundation which all yoga derived. It was developed by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in the earyl 1900's. Ashtanga is a progressive set of postures or asanas that is linked together with the breath to induce an internal heat that purifies the muscles and organs. It is the same set of postures each time. This yoga creates a strong body and calm mind. There are 3 sets or series in Ashtanga. The short-form primary series is usually what is taught in most yoga studios that offer Ashtanga.
There are several other types of yoga to explore such as Kundalini, Bhakti, Jiva Mukti and more. Finding the right fit for your lifestyle is key.
~~ For Grand Rapids yoga teachers and students looking to deepen their practice, there are several great yoga schools that offer teachings in mindful vinyasa, and the 8 limbed philosophy of yoga. Prairie Yoga is based in Chicago and taught here in Grand Rapids at Cascade Yoga Studio. They focus on alignment, and the foundation of yoga as a whole.