This word means so many things. It can simply mean linking breath with movement and “flowing” such as when you take your knee to your nose in a cat cow. Vinayasa also is short hand for part of the Sun Salutation A sequence of chattarunga, urdhva mukha svanasana, and adho mukha svanasana. There are many interpretations of vinyasa yoga- my approach is humorous and playful. The sequencing builds towards a specific pose or works on opening a certain part of the body. This is quick, but not too quick, athletic and strength building. We take time however, to refine the safest alignment in the posture that offers structural benefit. In the end, we take rest. All types of people like this yoga. It is a great group class for young and old, runners, cyclists and those who are just picking up yoga, too.
Gentle Hatha Flow
This style is very similar to vinayasa; the breath and the movement are critical here as well. Nonetheless, we tend to move more slowly and settle into the posture for several more breaths exploring the nuances of listening to the body and the mind as we become open to more possibility. This is appropriate for both an older and younger population.
The Astanga practice was taught by Pattabhi Jois. He founded the Astanga Yoga Institute in Mysore, India. He is considered one of the three contemporary students who learned from Krishnamacharya. In this particular style Jois taught the primary series which is the same 26 postures each time. It is a progressive, heat building sequence that begins with sun salutations, a standing sequence, a seated sequence and finally inversions. I borrow some sequencing, and the traditional Astanga alignment in my vinyasa classes.
FUNDAMENTALSYou don’t need to know ANY of this before you practice yoga with me, but I’ve discovered some people like knowing what they’re getting into.
The locks are both an energetic and physical action that we chose to engage while practicing. Mula Bhanda is the root lock. Activating near the pelvic floor is very similar to engaging this bhanda. Udiyana Bhanda is core lock also known as the upward flying lock that sends energy up the mid-line of the body. Jhalandara Bhanda is when we tuck the chin into the chest and watch the breath rise and fall. The quintessential yogini often engages all three locks when she sits in lotus pose, or another variation of lotus.
Drishti refers to the gaze. When we direct the drishti up, our energy moves up. When we take the drishti down as in Jhalandara Bhanda as described above, we are taking the gaze in. The drishti can shift to help us balance on our toes or arms (!) more effectively and also keep us focused. Have you heard the expression your mind follows where your eyes go? Well, exactly!
This is a victorious breath common, but not limited to the Astanga practice. We engage the locks of the bhandas and make the belly still and the lungs fuller. This type of breathing warms us up and makes it safe for us to move into deep postures during practice. We make the breath audible so we stay connected to the present. And we listen to the breath- it’s a cue to let us know if we’re working too hard or not hard enough; listening to the breath keeps us honest and safe.
Every practice ends with Savansa translated from the sanskrit as ‘corpse pose.’ This is evoking total surrender and stillness. When you first do it, 30 seconds can feel like 30 minutes. In time, you’ll practice actually doing nothing. This is a quiet meditation that your active practice naturally leads to. At the end of Savasana, we say ‘namaste’ which is a way of saying thank you to each other for sharing a yoga practice and also respecting that the yoga tradition came from many people before us.