Seriously! What’s with all the jumping?

I expect you know what I am referring to here. Yes, Vinyasa. I’m referring to all that leaping back and forward (sweating like a racehorse), or in my case, attempting to leap (am definitely not there yet on the leaping but I seem to be pretty good at sweating).
My initial thought on encountering Vinyasa for the first time was “really? That’s yoga”? I believed yoga was many things – some words that came to mind when I looked back on many years of yoga experiences from around the world were: slow, gentle, deep, measured, flowing, thoughtful, intense and mindful. This was what my practice has always meant to me.

Jumping, hopping (OK – it is supposed to be floating but I’m still at the hopping and hoping stage) and springing were a whole new dimension to yoga for me – so I started doing what I always do when encountering anything new. Coming up with a lot of questions and looking for some answers. Are my arms long enough for this? Are my feet just too big and I will never make it? HOW will this ever be possible? This is what I got to so far – a few steps in my continuing life and yoga journey.

To begin with – what does Vinyasa mean?
The dictionary says: Vinyasa is a noun.
movement between poses in yoga, typically accompanied by regulated breathing.
a method of yoga in which vinyasa movements form a flowing sequence in coordination with the breath.

I also liked the definition that it means: “to place in a special way.” When you break down the word into its Sanskrit roots, “Vi” means “in a special way” and “Nyasa” means “to place”. So literally, Vinyasa is “to place in a special way.”

From class I can see that one posture follows another in a specific and orderly manner – this is not new to me, but between asanas the “vinyasa” instruction means to jump to Chaturanga, flow into Urdhva mukha svanasana (upward-facing dog) and then segue smoothly into Adho mukha svanasana (downward-facing dog). This posture prepares for the next posture or counterbalances the previous posture.

I am not going to talk about the origins here as you can easily look up Sri Tirumala Krishnamacharya, BNS Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois to find out more (it is very interesting so I would highly recommend it).

I am interested in the benefits – why do it? Like all styles of yoga, Vinyasa has both mental and physical benefits. Physically, all that sweating I mentioned earlier? Well, sweating expels toxins and re-energizes your body. Mentally, the regulated breathing relaxes your mind and helps to release any blockage of energy flow throughout your body, it also does wonders for keeping your pace calm and steady as you build up a fire in your belly from all the continued movement.

I found this piece in my quest and I really liked the sound of it so am including it here: As you practice the postures in the Primary Series, you are moving things around, dislodging, kind of like squeezing out a wash rag. Herein lies the importance of the jump backs: they help to flush out the toxins. They move the dislodged materials through the lymphatic fluids, where they can be pushed into the bloodstream at the heart, and moved out of the body. The jump back opens your body back up (from being in a forward bend or backbend), then the up dog and down dog move and aid your circulation. As you are in a forward bend, you exit, curl into a ball, then straighten your legs, sending a rush of fresh blood to your joints and muscles that were bent into the stretch. You inhale, then open into upward facing dog, encouraging the blood flow away from your middle, then in down dog it is encouraged to flow down towards your heart. You then jump or step through and start all over again.

At this point I have to be honest and admit that when I hear the instruction to jump back though or float to Chaturanga I groan inwardly and try not to grimace outwardly. My floating and jumping technique is as dainty as an elephant falling out of a tree and it feels ungainly and uncomfortable. I know that if I keep trying I will eventually succeed (one day!) and that this will be it’s own reward in addition to the other benefits. It will also be nicer for the poor people next to me not to have to hear the thumps and weird scuffles as I sweat my way through yet another unsuccessful attempt to transition smoothly in Vinyasa and jump in or out of Chaturanga.

Now I understand the history, the biology and the point of Vinyasa I am even more determined to keep trying my best each time and enjoy the learning process and the changes in my own body and awareness.

I would write more but I better go and work on my core – I think that might be the issue!

Cara Maya 200Hr Weekday
Blog post 1 – personal experience/reflections.