Vinyasa – we are hearing this word all the time these days. It’s become synonymous with flow but what exactly are we doing when we practice vinyasa? My beloved, divine teachers, the co-founders of Jivamukti, Sharon Gannon and David Life, teach us that vinyasa means a joining or linking mechanism. Yoga means union, from the Sanskrit word yuj, which means to yoke or to join. What are we joining in yoga? We are joining our small self with our highest self, our individual self with the whole of creation. We are linking our body with our breath and intention. Vinyasa is a tool, a method of practicing yoga asana that helps us feel and experience the connection. We link our breath with each movement and try to keep our mind focused on our intention, as we smoothly transition from one asana to the next.
David Swenson, student of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois’ and author of Ashtanga Yoga: A Practice Manual, writes on vinyasa, “It is a dynamic marriage of our internal and external worlds. The integration manifests when the act of breathing and movement cease to be separate entities. The mind is then set free and the practice may become a rhythmic dance.” Vinyasa links each breath to a movement and in doing so creates unity between the breath and body. Without first establishing this connection, the practice would remain strictly physical. Once we connect movement and breath in our vinyasa, we expand the possibilities of our practice. We have the clarity, steadiness and ease to begin to yoke the mind to our intention. Our movement is seamless and the breath is steady and continuous. The mind is calmed, the nervous system is relaxed, tension dissipates.
And you thought is was just flowing from one pose to the next, right?