What is "Vinyāsa"?
Literally it means "to place something in a special way".
It is a term that has been used in India for centuries referring to the order of things that one needs to do to perform a certain ritual or ceremony.
In the early 20th Century one of the greatest pioneers and masters of yoga, Mr. T. Krishnamacharya, used this term for a special concept he was teaching his students. Later on this became the foundation of many schools of modern yoga.
Krishnamacharya used the term vinyasa in a few different ways:
'Vinyasa' as transitions (movements) that are done moving from one position to another.
'Vinyasa' as the link that connects breath and movement.
'Vinyasa' as a set of postures connected together (for example: plank→chaturanga→up-dog→down-dog that we do between postures)
'Vinyasa Krama' as the gradual progression of postures and transitions leading towards a particular goal (a peak pose, a specific theme or body part, a therapeutic effect, etc..).
These are some of the benefits of linking breath and movement:
It affects the nervous system and can create a sense of calm, balance, radiance, lightness, or vitality.
It creates neuromuscular connections between the brain and different breathing patterns, also creating these connections with compatible movements. These connections have positive effects on the brain and body, enhancing function and improving proprioception.
It cultivates a breathing quality that is more mindful, steady, full and smooth. This has a direct positive effect on our mental and physical wellbeing as the breath plays a major role in many aspects of our anatomy.
It requires us to move with more attention, in a holistic and intelligent way, one that is more in line with our unique body's potential and limitations, which helps keep the body healthy.
*** Disclaimer - these are based on centuries of accumulated experience and self-study of yogis and not on scientific evidence or research although some of it is compatible with recent scientific evidence.
On a practical note
★ The breath that is best suited for the practice of Vinyasa is the Ujjayi breath which helps regulate and expand the breath.
★ The idea is to keep the breath moving in a steady and even rhythm, whatever that is for you at the specific time of your practice. Also making sure the breath is comfortable and relaxed.
★ Ideally we want to keep a steady mindful breath throughout our practice, right until we arrive at Savasana (the resting pose at the end).
★ A breath can be linked to a big movement that requires changing position, or to a subtle movement like moving the belly in and out or contracting and releasing the pelvic floor, ideally making every breath precious by linking it to a movement and keeping our attention fully on it.
★ Conventionally we start and finish the movement and breath at the same time.
★ Some movements are more compatible with INHALES, and some may feel better with EXHALES.
★ There are no rules and some people discover that they prefer doing things against the grain of conventional yoga guidelines. Discovering that is a huge progress!
★ As we start to feel more grounded in our practice we can start to explore other patterns of linking breath and movement.
You can explore Vinyasa more on the next Masterclass!
Wishing you happy breathing :)