Vinyasa yoga, also known as Ashtanga vinyasa yoga, or simply ashtanga yoga, represents a style of yoga which was popularized and codified by K. Pattabhi Jois. It is often promoted as a modern form of classical Hindu yoga, along with other yoga disciplines. Pattabhi Jois began the yoga studies back in 1927 when he was 12, and by 1948 the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute was established by him. This institute was dedicated to specific yoga discipline known as Ashtanga yoga. It was named after the yoga’s eight limbs, which term was mentioned in Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Vinyasa yoga and “power yoga” are the generic terms which may be referred as any vigorous yoga exercise which has origins in Ashtanga yoga.
Vinyasa, as a term, refers to the alignment of breath and movement and it represents a method which turns asanas, which are static, into a dynamic flow. The length of inhale or exhale is the process which dictates the time spent for each transition between the asanas. These asanas are then held for the specific number of breaths. The attention is placed on the breath itself and the journey between asanas, rather than the achievement of perfect alignment of body in each asana.
The specific series of the movements which are frequently performed between the asanas could be referred by the term vinyasa. Such flow represents a variant of Surya namaskara, or the Sun Salutations, and it is widely used in other yoga styles, besides the Ashtanga yoga. The style of breathing used in this yoga discipline is referred as “free breathing with sound”, also known as “normal breath with the free flow”.
Such breathing is done in relaxed diaphragmatic style and it produces the sound of ocean, resonating in the throat of a practitioner. The specific breathing style is done throughout the practice and the alignment with the movements is maintained. The steady cycle of inhalation and exhalation is performed and this practice provides the practitioner of this yoga discipline with calming mental focal point.
One of many principles of this yoga discipline, among the most important, is the bandha principle, or muscle locking/contraction. This principle is aimed at focusing the energy in body being closely tied to the breathing. The variety of bandhas are present. When you look while in asana, it is called dristhi. Ashtanga yoga prescribes the point of focus for each asana.
Series and sequences
Vinyasa yoga is taught differently between the schools, depending of the order of the asanas. Practice of this yoga discipline comprises of four main parts which are:
- The opening sequence
- One part of the six main series
- Sequence of back-bending
- Set of inverted asanas, which could be referred to as “finishing sequence”
The complete practice ends with savasana always. 8 to 10 Sun Salutations are needed for each opening sequence, which are accompanied by the several standing asanas. Afterwards, the practitioner will perform one of the six known main series. The six main series are:
- Primary series known as Yoga Chikitsa or Yoga for Health, or Yoga Therapy
- Intermediate series known as Nadi Shodhana, or Nerve Purifier
- Advanced series known as Sthira Bhaga, or Centering of Strength
- Advanced A, or third series
- Advanced B, or fourth series
- Advanced C, or fifth series
- Advanced D known as Sthira Bhagah, or sixth series
The sequence of six series is designed to be practiced consecutively for six days, where each series is practiced each one day. The starters of this yoga discipline have to practice the primary series, after the standing sequence is learned. Primary series represent the most important series in the sequence, as it form the entire system’s basis. The advancement to the other, more difficult series, could be done in the course of years or even decades. Nevertheless, the goal of the style is not to perform the more difficult asana sequences, but to learn and maintain the internal focus in the practice.
It is essential to perform the practice regularly or daily. The students are encouraged to perform the practices 6 days a week, especially in morning, and to rest on Saturday, as well as the full and new moon days. The traditional teaching of vinyasa yoga is performed in Mysore style, which is a supervised self-practice. This style of practice is self-led and each practitioner moves through the performed practice at her or his own level and pace, directed by the instructor. The regular practice is performed somewhere between one and two hours, depending on the personal speed of the practitioner. A beginner would likely have a shorter practice, while the more experienced practitioners would perform the exercises longer.
Eight limbs of Ashtanga
The sage who practiced this yoga discipline has outlined the eight aspects, so called limbs, of spiritual practice of yoga in his sutras. First four limbs are the most important and represent the external cleansing practices. These are yama, niyama, pranayama and asana. According to the found of this yoga discipline, Pattabhi Jois, the defects in the external practices could be corrected, while the defects present in internal cleansing practices are not. The internal cleansing practices are pratyahara, dharana, samadhi and dhyana.
It is important to understand that each yoga discipline has its advantages and that each individual needs to get known with the program of yoga disciplines in order to start the right practice. Yoga, in general, benefits both our body and mind and prepares us for the life’s imbalances, and it helps us to correct the present imbalances in our lives. With yoga, you will become calmer, you will relax easily and you’ll gain the needed experience needed for overcoming the life’s difficulties. Vinyasa yoga is great for those who want to practice some kind of exercise and work on both their body and mind. Bear in mind that vinyasa yoga, as well as the other yoga disciplines, can become quite essential for your well-being and health. Therefore, it is advisable to consult the other yoga disciplines in order to find the right one for you.