One of the most popular styles of yoga – especially in the US – is flow, or vinyasa flow. The Sanskrit word “vinyasa” can be translated as “arranging something in a special way,” in this case asanas, or poses. In vinyasa yoga classes, students coordinate movement with breath to flow from one pose to the next with no pause inbetween.
Rather than switching sides with each posture, the class tends to move through a series of standing movents on the right side, and then repeat on the left. It requires focus and concentration as there usually isn’t time for a student to check if they are doing it “right” – the emphasis is rather on getting into the flow and moving with the inhale and exhale.
This style stems from one of the major schools of yoga, ashtanga, which was developed by an Indian teacher Pattabhi Jois in the early part of the last century. But while ashtanga uses a proscribed sequence of poses and is very pure in the sense that the same sequence of asanas is repeated in every class, aiming to improve each time, vinyasa is a lot more flexible. Teachers can mix up the order of the poses, or throw in something new and unexpected.
Today, flow continues to evolve into variations – power yoga, dynamic yoga, Jivamukti etc. Packed sometimes into an hour or even 45 minutes, in many gyms students seek out yoga for a sweat inducing workout. The emphasis is on the physical, and the only ‘break’ between the strong postures is downward dog, which will lead right into another, more challenging pose.
I even read the following description online recently: “With the flowing movements and great music usually playing in class, this style feels like a dance! Just about everyone looks super graceful practicing Vinyasa yoga, and there’s no better feeling than seeing yourself flow into the perfect warrior pose in the mirror.” What nonsense!
But there are plenty of flow classes around that remain true to their yoga roots, and give students time to stretch and relax, and add breathing and meditation sequences too. I enjoy going to vinyasa flow classes from time to time. I like the focus on the breath, and the way it requires total concentration. My aim this month is to give you a little introduction these last couple of weeks, and I hope you will try a class for yourself.
Hands free warrior flow
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