Students often ask me about Vinyasa, what is it and what makes it different to Ashtanga for example. It isn’t an answer I can explain in a minute or two. So I decided to write about it. And I feel this is going to be a long one:).
I read somewhere that Vinyasa flow yoga is the most commonly used name for a yoga class today. But, when you go to a Vinyasa class, every teacher will teach it differently. Perhaps he or she will give a different name to their flow class, but will say it’s a Vinyasa. Unlike so many other styles like Ashtanga, Iyengar etc. that have a set practice and a certain method, Vinyasa seems to be a free style practice. Can we say the method is that there is no method? The answer is yes and no.
I can’t speak for all the Vinyasa teachers out there, but I can give you my thoughts on what Vinyasa is for me. But to do so, I’ll have to start at the beginning. My beginning:)
Ashtanga I love you!
When I was 21 I moved to London and discovered Ashtanga yoga, Mysore style. It was love at first sight. No matter how busy, tired or broke I was, I had to find time, energy and 10 pounds plus bus fair for my yoga class. Just like when you’re in love, I didn’t have to eat, sleep or do anything else, my yoga came first. I saw no flaws in my loved one, as you usually don’t at the beginning. It was challenging but easy at the same time. This relationship lasted for years, and it was all fine until it wasn’t any more. I went trough the first series pretty fast. I was young, skinny and flexible. I gained strength and felt like I can do anything. I went trough half of the second series and than got stuck. My practice wasn’t much of a joy for me anymore. I was getting tired and thought it was because of my hectic lifestyle. I had insomnia and started to lose weight and with it my strength. But, I stuck to my practice. Practice, and all is coming. That’s what you do after all – relationships take patience, commitment and work:). I wasn’t about to cheat just because things weren’t as wonderful as at the beginning. Until…
A kid in a candy store
After some life changing decisions I ended up in the US, a home to so many wonderful yoga teachers, different methods and styles. And I decided to try them all. I told my Ashtanga it’s best we separated for a while and see where that takes us. I think we should see other people. It’s not you, it’s me:).
I really loved my new found freedom. I was like a kid in a candy store, trying all the yoga western world had to offer. I sampled my candies at a Yoga journal conference and took it form there. Santa Monica, New York, Miami. Power yoga, Vinyasa yoga, Forrest yoga, Jivamukti yoga, Viniyoga, Yogic arts, Acro yoga, you-name-it yoga. If there was a conference, workshop, teacher training anywhere close to where I was – I was there! And it was fun! There was music, people were not so serious and we could actually do a Vashistasana and other fun arm balances. Without finishing the second series? Wow!
Flowing with Prana
I saw Shiva Rea for the first time at Omega yoga conference in Miami. I was at the end of my teacher training and after I thought I have tried it all, the class came as a surprise. I have to be honest and say that that first class I took with Shiva had left me with a big question mark over my head. So, I went for a second class and was equally confused. But, this time it was good confused. I felt like there was something there, something I couldn’t quite grasp yet. At the end of my US days I managed to attend a few more classes with Shiva and knew there was something there that needs to be explored further.
So, when I finally decided to move back home and opened my yoga studio, I decided to go to London for a first module of Shiva’s 500 teacher training. It was overwhelming at first, but after reading the manual over and over again, after much practice, and, of course, a few more modules, it all started to make sense. I was flowing with Prana, and my body, both physical and subtle, was grateful.
Vinyasa flow yoga
So, it took me a long time, I won’t say how long cause that just makes me feel old;), not to just figure out what Vinyasa is, but to use the knowledge to create a self practice practice that is right for me, and to simplify it so I can teach it. I started with workshops and masterclasses and was still learning much after each one. And it took me a while to feel ready to teach what Vinyasa is to those that want to become Vinyasa teachers. In my own way. My Vinyasa inspired with all the wonderful teachers I was blessed with. And please bare in mind, this was again many years after I first rolled out my yoga mat. No numbers necessary, I can just say it was a long journey.
So, what makes Vinyasa so different? Krishnamacharya said that Vinyasa is everything that has a beginning, middle and an end. Like everything else I guess. It’s a natural cycle. And just like the nature, it evolves and changes with the cycle of life. Just like you can’t wear the exact same clothes in summer and winter, you won’t wear Uggs in the summer heat or Hawaiianas in the snow, just like you don’t eat the same food or the same amount of food, you don’t drink the same beverages, so should your practice change with the time of day, season, and your own personal cycle of life.
We feel different in the morning than we do in the afternoon, we are different in every stage of our lives. We change, evolve, learn. And, I believe, so should our yoga practice. In the science of Ayurveda there are three doshas, and we are all a mixture of the three, and dominant in one or two. Some food is healthy for me, but for you it might be a poison taken in a small dose. You won’t get poisoned right away, but over time it might do it’s damage. It is the same with our yoga practice. What is good for me, might not be good for you.
A day is a cycle and every time of the day has it’s own energy, own dosha. And so does every season. So, Vinyasa isn’t just putting asanas in a fun flow, it is so much more than that. It is creating the flow that follows your individual needs, that follows that natural intelligence, the time of the day, the seasons in a year, the seasons of ones life.
My students see that the classes change as the seasons change. I never have a set practice in mind, I teach depending on who comes to the class and try to feel the energy in the room, the needs of my students during the class.
Going back to the beginning, I now know why Ashtanga had made me so tired after a while and why my inner intelligence rebelled when I stepped on my mat. It was and intense and stimulating time of my life and last thing I needed was more stimuli and more fire. I’m a fiery person, a Pitta constitution that flares up easily. I’m focused, a bit of a control freak (working on it!) and ambitious. So, last thing I needed was more of that. Because of my life style my Pitta went off the charts and caused insomnia, weight loss and some temper tantrums:). If I new than what I know now I could have balanced all that with my yoga routine. But we live, and we learn. I still practice Ashtanga occasionally. When I feel I need more focus and more discipline.
The important thing is to recognise where you are at any given moment and listen to your inner voice. On and off the mat. There is no formula, one answer to all, and no one practice that will fit everybody. We are different, we change, we evolve. And that’s the beauty of life.