The Art of Vinyasa

Ever since Elizabeth and I decided to teach this workshop The Art of Vinyasa has been on my mind. Over the years my understanding of what Vinyasa means has evolved as my understanding of the body and the mind has developed. When I first started practicing yoga I loved the flowing of postures – it felt like dancing to me. A few years in I was shocked when a teacher corrected me on my shoulder position in Chaturanga Dandasana. She must have come over to me a dozen times in class that day to show me again and again how to maneuver my shoulders safely and correctly. What she insisted upon that afternoon was a verbal cue that I’m sure I had been told hundreds if not thousands of times in class, but I had never heard it in my body. I had never actually realized that I wasn’t using my shoulders correctly. Chaturanga was simply something I passed through in my cordial dance toward Shavasana.

(Isn’t this a funny picture? I love that our hands are on top of each others. Note that we are actually pausing in Chaturanga Dandasana, treating it like the posture that it is rather than a transition. Also note the smiles :))

Anyway…

It turns out that although Yoga has the potential to be a therapeutic, lifelong practice – it also carries the burden of potential injury if the level of studentship doesn’t rise to the occasion each and every time we practice.   I suppose that is a lot to ask of ourselves. To become more intelligent in our bodies each and every time we are in a pose, but that is what Yoga requires. These postures are actually very powerful. They are full of power. Each and every one of them. Each posture has it’s own unique effect on the body. When the poses are strung together like in a Vinyasa class the sequence of postures has its own unique effects. If the body doesn’t learn how to produce the postures in a safe, balanced, sattvic manner the power of the postures will wear out the body.

Really? Wear out the body? In essence, we all use the body in different ways depending on what ways we learned how to move when we were young and how we move routinely during the day. When we place our body into all of these odd shapes, as in a yoga class, if we aren’t awakening the body then the areas which are strong will continue to do all of the work and the areas that are weak will continue to move along for the ride. As the bodies relationship to gravity becomes more complex, as it does in the more interesting and challenging postures, there is greater potential for injury.

However, to our delight the body is capable of learning new tricks! If we are patient, and observant, astute, playful and disciplined in our practice then we can learn how to unravel the destructive patterns of movement we have ingrained into our muscles, we can move beyond our limited daily range of motion, and we can explore the full range of our potential. We can become strong where we are weak, and flexible where we are tight. A regular yoga practice will truly set you free. It will free your body to move elegantly. It will free your mind to see what is true and present. It will free your heart to love and forgive. The power of the postures can work for you rather than against you.

My practice has changed a lot over the years. I still love the dance of Vinyasa, but I now appreciate the elegance that comes with conscious technique. Having intention in yoga is crucial, lest we just go through the motions. Having intention in yoga ensures that we learn how to become more sophisticated, present, conscious human beings. In my opinion, Vinyasa Yoga is an art, not a science. There are few systematic rules that constitute a Vinyasa Practice, which is why all teachers teach it differently. In essence Vinyasa means a step by step process, and a typical class highlights the relationship between the breath and the movement.

So as a Vinyasa Practitioner you are an artist, sculpting your body, your mind and this world. Truly. Richard Freeman writes in his new book that “within these physical practices of hatha yoga we work the body like we knead dough when making bread, so that it becomes transformed from an amorphous lump of unconscious flesh and bones into something that is vital and full of life.” Come to your practice consciously, like an artist, ready to transform the shape of your body, the quality of your thoughts, and the space around you.

Namaste.

Workshop Information:

http://www.yogaworks.com/files/flyers/f989bf3196.pdf

Key Parts:
• Deconstructing and Reconstructing Sun Salutations
• Learning the relationship between Alignment and Transitions in Standing Poses
• Understanding the Art of Moving on the Breath
• The Role of Props in Vinyasa Class
• Safely Incorporating Balance Postures and Inversions into the Flow

Schedule Information
January 22, 2011
Saturday 1:30-4:30pm

Pricing Information
Pre-Registration Required (to secure enrollment)
$45 Pre-Reg
$55 Day Of

Call Yogaworks Union Square: 212.647.9642

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About Joyce Englander

I teach weekly yoga classes in New York City, which focus on moving mindfully and gracefully with the breath. I believe that learning yoga is similar to learning a language, and the more you are around it the more fluent you become. This blog is an opportunity to share my thoughts and re-visit lessons from class; to create a bridge for students to translate their classroom experience into real life. I am interested in how practicing yoga can help to improve people's lives and reduce needless suffering.
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