Yoga is all about connecting your breath with your body, and vinyasas help that happen. Vinyasas link static yoga poses together, so your practice becomes more of a deliberate, fluid dance instead of just a bunch of random poses thrown together. Vinyasa is a series of 5 movements, kind of like a shortened Sun Salutation. You do a vinyasa between different poses and between the right and left sides of poses as well. Vinyasas are like the glue that holds yoga poses together.
Check out this video to see the flow of the 5 movements.
How did it get its name? To find out,
"Vinyasa" is a Sanskrit word that literally means "uniting breath with movement." Each of the 5 movements in a vinyasa is synchronized to an inhale or exhale, and those movements help to make the connection between your breath and your body even deeper. This helps to make yoga more of a moving meditation, by increasing your awareness and ability to focus. Vinyasas also make yoga more challenging, because those 5 movements really work your upper body and core. Vinyasas also enable you to maintain heat, which opens your muscles and allows you to get deeper into poses. Doing a vinyasa between each pose brings the body back to a neutral pose, so you're like a clean slate - ready for the next pose.
Here's a simple description of a vinyasa and how the breath is connected to each of the 5 movements:
- Inhale - LIFT your feet and hips off the ground.
- Exhale - 4-Limbed Staff (Chaturanga) pose.
- Inhale - Upward Facing Dog.
- Exhale - Downward Facing Dog.
- Inhale - Jump your feet through your legs and get ready for the next pose.
Now here's a more descriptive explanation:
- Inhale - From a seated position (whichever pose you are doing), plant your palms firmly next to your hips and bend your knees up to your chest. Cross your right leg in front of your left just below the knees (not at the ankles), engage your abdominal muscles and LIFT your feet and hips off the ground.
- Exhale - If you can, keep the lift and don't even let your feet touch the ground as you kick them back to Chaturanga. Since that's really tough, try at least to do the LIFT for a moment, then touch your feet to the ground and kick back to Chaturanga.
- Inhale - Scoop your chest forward between your arms and come into Upward Facing Dog.
- Exhale - Press into your hands and lift your hips up to the ceiling coming into Downward Facing Dog.
- Inhale - Look between your hands, bend your knees, jump off the balls of your feet and come into a seated position, ready for the next pose. If you can, you want to try and jump your feet through your hands and land softly on your bum. If that's not happening, take 2 jumps instead of 1. Jump your feet to your hands, then jump your legs in front of you and land on your bum.
You'll do this vinyasa in Ashtanga yoga classes and in other yoga classes too, such as Jivamukti. There's even a style of yoga called "Vinyasa" (also called "Flow"), that involves doing vinyasas between poses, and that's how it got its name.
Check out this video of a guy doing the LIFT back to Chaturanga without even touching the ground. Those are some serious core muscles!