In this series I'm going to go through styles of yoga that mean something to me, or that I feel I have something to share about. Hopefully this can help develop an understanding about what all the different styles of yoga are. In case you didn't know; there are a lot!
We'll start with Vinyasa, as that's what I teach. Vinyasa is a flow style of yoga which means it's traditionally 'one breath, one movement'. As in, if you raise your arm, you inhale, and when you drop your arm, you exhale.
Vinyasa stems from the Krishna Macharia Ashtanga yoga lineage, which means it's dynamic and relatively athletic. There are a series of poses that are staple Hatha yoga postures, and vinyasa uses all of these... and then adds more. Basically, vinyasa can do whatever it wants to. It doesn't stick to the traditionally defined yoga poses, or sequences found in the Ashtanga series (I'll go into Ashtanga in another post); in vinyasa, you are more than welcome to make up your own yoga poses.
Basically vinyasa yoga gives you freedom to create movements, routines, poses and flows however feels best for you; the teacher and the student. Vinyasa has no rules, other than staying connected to the breath as you move.
If you want to spend an hour rolling around on the floor, stretching arms and legs into the sky and out to the side, vinyasa lets you do this. If you want to take a really simple flow based of sun salutations, maybe a few cat-cows and a tree pose, vinyasa lets you do this. If you want to move through Crow Pose (Bakasana), Bird of Paradise, (Boat Pose) Navasana and finishing off with a nice relaxing Handstand (adho mukha vriksasana)- yes I did say handstand not headstand... vinyasa lets you do it.
If you go to a vinyasa yoga class, it will really depend on the style of that teacher as to what you'll get. If you just take a lucky dip with a studio that has 'vinyasa' offered, it could be fast, slow, hard, easy, boring, exciting, spiritual, new, familiar or anything else in between. Perhaps the most unlikely outcome is that it would be something that you actually did expect. But if you like yoga, chances are you'll enjoy it for whatever that teacher has to offer.
The style of vinyasa yoga I teach is a relatively dynamic vinyasa, we try different poses each time, and see how we react to trying new things, or coming back to familiar ones. We take breaks in between sequences, whether these are standing or in Child's Pose (Balasana), to check back in with ourselves. There is a strong emphasis on spirituality, noticing how we're feeling and being kind to ourselves with whatever we find.
I teach the style of vinyasa that I love to practice, and that I would want to go to a class to, so I'm glad when my students connect to it and feel the same way. Overall the thing with vinyasa that I love the most is that you can suit it to fit you, it can be whatever you need the most, and it always keeps things interesting whilst still giving you the opportunity to try, experiment and grow.