Breath to movement: The Origin of Vinyasa Yoga
When you observe the flow of a vinyasa sequence you may begin to recognize that the patterns of the postures, or asanas, represent the rise and fall of the ocean, the cycle of the moon, the evolution of the seasons, or a fern leaf unfurling. This is one of the most practiced styles of yoga around the globe. New Vinyasa-centered studios are popping up in cities all around the US constantly. Currently, the US has over 6,000 yoga studios with around 55 million students. Over the past few years, the wisdom of yoga has grown in powerful ways, what a perfect time to reflect on how this potent practice began.
To place in a special way
In Sanskrit Vi means ‘in a special way’ and Nyasa means ‘to place’ thus, Vinyasa can be translated as, to place in a special way. This particular style of yoga is known for its sequencing of asanas that flow together in a rhythmic dance that is coordinated with your breath. Each asana is linked to the next, creating a breath-to-movement transcendent flow. Creating a Vinyasa sequence is a true craft, it can showcase how well versed the yogi is in asanas and how intentional they are. Oftentimes, the first part of the sequence will open and activate certain parts of your body in preparation for a specific peak posture. To complete such a task, it takes a lot of body awareness and the ability to strategize. When teachers lead practitioners through a Vinyasa flow, you can truly feel all the love and intention behind each layer of class. It’s no wonder this powerful style of yoga is so popular!
Origin of Vinyasa
The origins of Vinyasa Yoga can be traced back to 200 B.C. when Patanjali began constructing his ashta-ang, or eight-limbed path that involves mental, physical, and spiritual conditioning. Vinyasa was evolved from Ashtanga yoga by a yogi named Sri Krishnamacharya. Krishnamacharya honored each moment that he had with his students, he would greet them at the gates, lead them through practice, and would show gratitude for them by walking them back out the gates once the practice was complete. His teachings go beyond the physical practice, they are an act of balance and honor that are applied to all aspects of life. Vinyasa yoga cultivates an awareness that links each action to the next—one breath at a time. Krishnamacharya also addressed the student’s particular needs so he could create sequences that would help realign their mind, body, and spirit.
In Sanskrit Vi means ‘in a special way’ and Nyasa means ‘to place’ thus, Vinyasa can be translated as~ to place in a special way.
Pathways of transformation
One quality that sets vinyasa apart from other forms of yoga is taking what we learn from the physical practice, beyond the mat. Vinyasa teaches us how to identify the winds of change and adjust our sails accordingly, regardless of the conditions we are in, one breath at a time. It is also a practice that encourages meditation as well as movement. A beautiful rhythmic dance happens in a vinyasa flow when you match your breath to each movement. It opens up space for you to enter into a meditative trance while practicing.
There are many sequences that are designed specifically to prepare your mind for meditation and activate your third eye, or Ajna Chakra. We like to begin our vinyasa practice on an energizing Bennd mat like the Chakra Ayurvedic Yoga Mat. Each invigorating Vinyasa class, fortunately, always ends with a restorative Shavasana. Having a Bennd pranayama pillow handy to slip under your knees will help you sink into a restful state. After your physical practice is finished, your mind will be settled and ready for a deep meditation. Grab your Bennd meditation cushion for some solid back support, so all you have left to focus on is your thoughts. One of the biggest takeaways from Vinyasa Yoga is to celebrate your individual mind, body, and spirit...YOU are the magic.