In the Ashtanga Yoga practice, we do a jump back and jump through between all seated postures. Sometimes, these are referred to as Vinyasas. Just to quickly clear some confusion, the word Vinyasa means the linking of breath and movement. When I refer to a “vinyasa” here, I am referring to a series of movements between postures. I’m not sure how this series took on the word vinyasa, but maybe because this series of postures links each posture in the practice together like a chain.
When you’re first entering the Ashtanga practice, Vinyasas can seem exhausting. Actually, the very beginning of the practice (10 Sun Salutations) seems exhausting. If you can get through that, you can do anything. And, believe me, if I can do it, so can you!
When you’re practicing Mysore style (self practice), vinyasas are not as exhausting than when you just enter into a full led primary series class. In the Mysore room, the postures are added one by one. It’s up to the teacher to work with the student based on ability, strength, and flexibility. When the teacher feels the student has reached a turning point, he/she will move the student further in the series. The more you practice, the stronger and more flexible you become, and the postures and Vinyasas are added gradually when the body and mind are ready.
In a led class, you might find that you have to sit a vinyasa out or have a hard time keeping up because your body and mind is only trained up to a certain point.
Whatever way you decide to practice, let’s discuss THE VINYASA:
Why We Vinyasa (Scroll down for the how to video)
1. Builds Strength:
- Every time you take a vinyasa you will build arm strength because you’ll essentially be doing a push up every Chaturanga Dandasana
- You’ll build core strength because you’ll be using the stomach muscles to lift up off the ground in a seated (cross legged) position, and to help float through to a seated position from Downward Facing Dog
- You’re building strength in your legs as you use them to hold yourself up in Upward Dog
2. Resets the spine:
- You will be extending the spine in Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Posture or low push-up)
- You will be taking a backbend in Upward Facing Dog
- You are lengthening the spine in Downward Facing Dog
- And rounding the spine as you jump through from Downward Facing Dog to seated.
I like to think of the vinyasa as a reset button or cleaning the slate between each posture
3. Builds Meditation
- The repetition of the vinyasa between postures keeps the practitioner focused. There isn’t time to sit and wait, but you flow right into the vinyasa, and right out of the vinyasa into the next posture
- The constant flow of floating through the practice in this way also builds energy and life force because it keeps a constant flow and meditation. In the Ashtanga practice every posture has a vinyasa count, and the jump throughs and jump backs are built into that as part of the posture. The vinyasa is built in to keep your mind from wondering, and we have a drishti so that we keep our gaze at one point as well. If you’re practicing the method correctly, then you create a meditation and build the prana throughout the practice.
- If you stop in mid-practice, or your mind goes somewhere else, you lose prana.
4. All of this together helps to:
- Calm the mind
- Become unattached
- Open the heart
- Grow in love and compassion
How To Vinyasa
When we take a vinyasa between seated postures, it’s actually a seated Sun Salutation.