We have all seen it on our studio’s schedule, but what actually is Vinyasa flow? Though Vinyasas flow is often seen as a physical exercise in Western practice, this concept of Vinyasa is only brushing the surface of what it truly encompasses. While Vinyasa describes a succession of movements, it emphasizes a practice of mindfulness and introspection through dynamic meditation.
There is a lot lost in the translation of the 8 limbs of yoga, however the limbs include Pranayama (breath), Pratyahara (withdraw from senses), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), Asanas (poses), Samadhi (trance), Yama (ethical integrity), and Niyama (self-discipline). If we look at Vinyasa flow from the point of view of Western practice, physical movement only makes up a fraction of the practice.
Vinyasa flow utilizes the Hatha yoga breathing system which uses breath as a means of attaining Dharana (concentration) and concentration on internal sound. Hatha breathing keeps the yogi engaged and focused, promoting introspection. This breathing method is evident in Vinyasa flows such as sun salutation where breath is naturally correlated with each movement, connecting the mind to the body.
Another practice observed in Vinyasa yoga is Drishti or gaze. This helps yogis both physically though the alignment of a pose and mentally though the soft gaze that symbolizes introspection and withdraw from external influences. This gaze is not as much focused on looking at physical things as it is looking within one’s self and aligning with Dhyana to achieve self-awareness and self-knowledge through meditation. In addition to Dhyana, Drishti helps yogis withdraw from the bad and open up to the good.
These elements of Vinyasa yoga are often overlooked, however when they are incooperated in your practice they create a more balanced and holistic experience. There are aspects of yoga that are not as well known, but they are integral to practice and familiarizing yourself with the 8 limbs of yoga is a step in the right direction. There are many benefits of this holistic practice such as improved digestion, circulation, heart rate, energy, strength, and circulation. Be mindful in your flow and have fun in your practice!
Written by Minuette Laessig