Vinyasa yoga has a special niche in the yoga practice which can be defined as
- Coordinating body movements with breathing
- Special arrangement of breathe synchronized movements
- A motivation for yoga which drives you to take necessary step in order to practice it
- A special set of yoga asanas
Whatever the definition is, one thing is very clear that this is a set of yogic sequences which are well coordinated with the breathing practices. This alignment of movement and breath puts the static asanas into a dynamic flow.
The length of one inhale and one exhale defines the duration of time spent in the transition from one sequence to another. Focus is required on the breathing part to achieve the benefits of the perfect body alignment in a pose. The breathing pattern followed in the vinyasa yoga is of relaxed diaphragmatic style.
Another aspect of this type of yoga is proper muscle contraction/locking or Bandha which helps in holding a pose and transition from one pose to another without hurting the body.
There are basically three types of Bandha:
It is performed by contracting the muscles of pelvis and perineum.
It is performed by sucking in the naval towards the spine and contracting the abdominal muscles.
It is performed by slightly lowering the chin while raising the sternum and bringing the focus on the tip of the nose.
The vinyasa yoga is a dynamic practice which requires full attention of the mind of body and therefore it can also be considered as moving meditation. The pace of transitions can vary on the basis of the student learning level and stamina.
This yoga practice offers loads of variety as it includes various movements not just stretching. Whether the sequences of this practice are performed on slow speed or fast, whether there is use of Vedic mantra, all the things depends on the yoga guru. When your instructor tells you to do vinyasa (used as a noun) at your own pace then it means that you should perform a series of three poses that are phalank asana, Chaturanga asana and Adho Mukha Savasana. Ashtanga yoga and power yoga have also based on the vinyasa flow but the simplest and perfect example of vinyasa flow is sun salutation and therefore, vinyasa yoga normally starts with sun salutation. Here we will discuss the sun salutation in detail:
Sun salutation or Surya Namaskar is the set of 12 poses which you have to repeat for the second half of the body. Regular practice of sun salutation offers many benefits which includes improved cardio vascular system, calm mind, sharp memory, improved digestion, increased flexibility, improved eyesight etc. The following poses of this vinyasa flow are:
Pranamasan (prayer pose)
To perform this pose, you have to stand straight and join your palms in front of your chest as in Namaste or prayer pose. Expand your chest and relax your shoulders while breathing slowly.
Hastauttanasana (Raised Arms pose)
Breathe in and raised the arms overhead and let the palms joined together as in previous pose. Stretch the whole body by bending your back and arms in backward direction as much as possible. Your head should face the sky.
Hasta Padasana (Hand to Foot pose)
Breathe out and bend your torso in forward direction and touch your floor with your palms. Try not to bend your knees.
Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equestrian pose)
To get into this pose, you have to stretch left leg in backward direction as far as possible and your right foot will be close to your chest and between your stretched hands so that your hands and right lower leg will be parallel to each other. Your head should face the sky.
Dandasana (Stick pose)
Take a deep breath and stretch your right leg backward so that your right leg is now parallel to the left leg. Elevate your torso on your hands so that your body makes a 45 degree angle with the floor. Your head should face the straight to the floor.
Ashtanga Namaskara (Salute with Eight Parts or Points)
Bring down your torso to the floor so that eight parts of your body touches the floor that is chin, chest, two hands, two knees and feet. Keep your butts a bit lifted in air so that your abdomen doesn’t touch the floor.
Bhujangasana (Cobra pose)
Bring down your abdomen so that it can touch the floor while lifting your head and chest in upward direction. Let the lower body touches the floor and stretch the back in a curve while your head facing the sky.
Parvatasana (Mountain pose)
Mountain pose – Lie flat on your stomach and stretch your hands over your head so that your palms touch the floor. Slightly lift your midsection in upward direction so that your body takes an inverted “V” shape. Your head will face your feet in this pose.
The following asanas will be Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equestrian pose), Hasta Padasana (Hand to Foot pose) and Hastauttanasana (Raised Arms pose) respectively. These are followed by the last pose that is Tadasana.
Tadasana – Breathe out and stand up straight. Bring your body in a normal standing pose with hands besides your body. Relax in this position and then repeat the sequence for the other half of the body.
When we observe the poses in the sun salutation, we find that every pose smoothly flows into the other pose without doing any extra effort. Therefore it is known as vinyasa flow.
BENEFITS OF VINYASA YOGA
This yoga approach offers the benefits of strength training and helps in building lean muscle mass. The variety of poses like backbend, forward bend, arm balances uses the body resistance to affect the muscles. Thus it helps in reducing fat and replacing them with lean muscles in the body. Since it offers a whole body workout therefore every muscle receive equal attention and their strength also increases proportionately.
The dynamic nature of vinyasa yoga lubricates all the body joints and conditions the muscles and thus releases the physical stress of the body. The stretching and elongation of your muscles makes them stronger and offers you enhanced mobility and wide range of motion. As compared to its other counterparts such as Anusara and Iyengar yoga, its constant flow offers consistent supply of fresh oxygen to the muscles. The enhanced flexibility relieves the stress and thus prevents any muscle or joint injury.
This approach of yoga improves the functionality of all the systems of the body especially the cardiovascular system, digestive system, immune system and nervous system. Since breathing plays an important role in this approach therefore efficiency of respiratory system increases many folds and also affect the whole body in this process.
As mentioned above, this is a moving meditation means your mind will get rid of all the mental waste while performing the vinyasa flow. It increases the concentration; sharpen your memory, increases alertness and analytical ability, coordination of mind and body. It cures sleep deprivation, anxiety, depression, migraine etc. most of all it offers you peace of mind which will keep you happy and content.
The stretching of muscles of internal organs also affects the endocrine system and the production of good hormones like Oxytocin, dopamine etc. increases while reduces the level of stress hormone in the body. The result can be seen in better nourishment of the organs and enhanced growth of the body.