Flowing forms of yoga have long been popular in London, with Vinyasa Yoga and all of its affiliates becoming a go-to favourite at most yoga studios and gyms. But beyond offering an invigorating physical challenge, I believe there are more esoteric benefits to this fluid form of yoga that are worth exploring for those of us wishing to deepen our practice. Moving beyond a foundation in the basic grammar of yoga poses and sequences, to flow is to demonstrate that an advanced yoga practice doesn’t necessarily mean fancy arm balances and gymnastic inversions – although these can be fun and hugely empowering – but is indicated more in how we approach such challenges.
To Place in a Special Way
The word vinyāsa itself can be translated as: “to place (nyāsa) in a special way (vi).” In this form of yoga, we pay attention not only to the mindful alignment and integrity of traditional hatha yoga poses, but also to how we arrive into those shapes, and then how we depart from them. Positions are intelligently and creatively sequenced to glide into one another, synchronised with a deep, smooth and calming breath. The focus shifts away from making shapes, towards an introspective inquiry into the physical and energetic experience of moving and breathing in-between: using the whole body to express each pose and every transition, whilst exploring our full range of motion with grace, joy, intention and curiosity. At every point, attention is moored in the transitory presence of the moment as it flows by:the movement becomes meditative, the mind focused and still, the body free to explore and awaken.
Transformation: Practice rather than Performance
Rather than following a linear flow, or merely rambling round in circles, dynamic classes are often rhythmically sequenced like spirals, departing from and returning to similar shapes and movements in order to reframe and practice again. Every return feels different, marking a deepening (r)evolution: the experience is one of spontaneity within repetition, creativity within pattern, novelty within familiarity, transformation within return.
Take the example of the simple sun salutation pictured here.
Each pose in this repeated sequence - rather than embodying an endpoint or goal in its own right - merely marks the turning point of a movement: from rising to falling, or vice versa. Likewise, each of these poses also marks the turning point of the breath: the transformation of an inhalation into an exhalation, or an exhalation into and inhalation. Once your focus is shifted away from emphasising these fleeting turning points, you can enjoy all the little moments of journeying in between them, and that’s when the real magic happens. Instead of flinging yourself between shapes, you begin to find strength, clarity and integrity in the in-between itself, breathing through intensity and challenge, making movement slow, liquid and juicy without ever stagnating.
As yoga teacher, Judith Hanson Lasater has said;
"Yoga is not about touching your toes, it's about what you learn on the way down"
…and up, and down, and up, and down, and up…
In our improvers workshop we will be finding our flow: mindfully and creatively spiraling around ourselves towards more challenging positions and transitions with a little bit of laughter, and a lot breath.
Yoga Improvers WORKSHOP with Lynne
Saturday 30th of September at 3pm