After teaching a workshop for yoga teachers and while working on the Fascia Vinyasa Yoga practice manual, I was a little surprised how little presence there is about...
After teaching a workshop for yoga teachers and while working on the Fascia Vinyasa Yoga practice manual, I was a little surprised how little presence there is about the traditional teachings of Krishnamacharya (often referred to as the father of modern yoga) compared to the masses of yoga selfies and youtube videos (mine included). (Note: I have a rather extensive yoga library, so for this kind of research I normally dive into my book shelf.)
So I’d like to share some fundamental information that I believe every yoga teacher should be aware of (particularly when you are teaching or practicing a form of Vinyasa Yoga).
Studying yoga theory, history and philosophy can be overwhelming. So why not start at one of the birth places of our modern practice?
‘Vinyasa Krama is an art form of practicing yoga asanas, based on the parameters mentioned in the Yoga Sutras. Sri Krishnamacharya taught this method of asana practice in which several asana movements or vinyasas are practice in succession slowly and with synchronisation of breath.’ – Srivasta Ramaswami
Vinyasa means variations within prescribed parameters and these parameters are given in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.
Let’s have a look at
Yoga Sutra 2.46
Stir – Sukham Asanam
sthira = steady; sukham = comfortable; aasanam = posture
“Asana is a steady, comfortable posture.” – Satchidananda
Yoga Sutra 2.47
prayatna = effort (breathing, effort of life)
saithilya = smooth (smooth breathing)
ananta = breath, the infinite
samaapattibhyaam= absorption of mind
“By lessening the natural tendency for restlessness and by meditating on the infinite, posture is mastered.” – Satchidananda
The completeness of posture is achieved by making the breath smooth and long with the attention focused on the breath. (Are you breathing?)
The guiding suggestions of a yoga practice are …
// Coordinated, slow, smooth breathing
// Focus on the breath
According to Ramaswami (student of Krishnamacharya), Ujjayi breath is applied (yet not in all postures to it’s total extend, its intensity differs in postures / vinyasas) and ideally the breath rate is around six breaths per minute.
Try it:: Set a timer and see how six breaths per minute will feel like!
Looking further: The essential factors of Vinyasa Krama Yoga are
// Synchronised breathing with slow movements (not fast, slow, yeah?)
// Ujjayi Breath and the mental focus on the breath
// Steady posture
// Asanas are practiced with vinyasa (variations)
// Intelligent sequencing
// Art of practice and it’s variations, always considering the classical parameters
// Preparatory poses and vinyasa
// Transitional movements
// Counter poses
In order to make the learning easier the method in Krichnamacharya’s layout of the yoga practice, is present in sequences. Each sequence contains a major key yoga posture that is learned and mastered (asana siddhi) through the systematic practice of the vinyasa.
I share this because I believe in the roots of the yoga practice. And I love that it’s recognised as an art form, allowing the evolution of the practice and the individual to happen. I personally do not take it as another rule-book. My style (if you want to call it so) is free.
We are all free beings, the last thing we need is another mask to be put on us. But having the framework of thousands of years of teachings handed to us to discover our own yoga, I believe that that is sensational and I’m grateful for the teachers who made the effort to systematise and organise these information for us, so we can put our training wheels on; and grow with and out of it.
What Krichnamarcharya has outlined so wonderfully and as he suggests himself, it’s not practiced as one size fits all.
Vinyasa, can be taught with adaptations for a more therapeutic effect and adapted for the individual needs. This is also referred to as Viniyoga. Yoga for Wellness by Gary Krafstow is a wonderful book to explore Viniyoga more. (For the yoga teacher or interested home practitioner: It’s also a great book to inspire your sequencing.)
I hope this article helped you to learn a little more about the roots of your vinyasa practice. It’s a mystical magical journey. Never stop being curious and asking questions. The doors are open for all of us.