Have you ever found yourself completely stumped when a teacher tells you to "flow through your Vinyasa"? Do you get confused over which options you can take? We're gonna break it all down for you in a minute... but first, it's important to know what Vinyasa actually means before diving right into it.
In Sanskrit, Vinyasa is defined as "to place in a special way" – whereby one pose is connected to the next, while in sync with the breath. This is how the style of yoga, traditionally named Vinyasa Yoga (or Power Flow, here at YM) came into being. The consciousness in motion alongside the breath is what sets a Power Flow class apart from a more static class, like Power or Basics.
In recent years, the term "Vinyasa" has been used more loosely to refer to the physical representation that connects posture to posture. This is when the teacher cues a "Vinyasa" in between poses, to reset the body – not necessarily just in a Power Flow class. A "Vinyasa" is found within our Sun Salutation sequences, which can typically be used as a simple warm up. Think starting with an inhale to lift the arms up, exhaling as you fold forward, and inhaling for a halfway lift... Sound familiar? What comes after, in the "Vinyasa" itself, is entirely up to you: you may choose to step back to Plank, or lightly jump back to a Chaturanga before flowing through your Vinyasa. Although there are no hard and fast rules, there are some options you can take in your practice:
1. Knees-chest-chin > Low Cobra
Newbies to yoga can take this first option for a start. With an inhale, shift the shoulders forward. Then, exhale to drop the knees, chest and chin down. Inhale to slide forward into a Low Cobra. In your Low Cobra, apply minimal weight on your palms, and rely more on the lower back to lift the chest instead; press the tops of your feet firmly down into the mat, with your quads and glutes engaged. Exhale and push back into your Downward-Facing Dog (check your Downdog form here).
2. Half-Chaturanga > Full Cobra
If you want to work those triceps a little more, take this variation. Drop your knees down from Plank, lean forwards and bend those elbows to a 90-degree angle, keeping them close to your ribs. Bear in mind that the shoulders, hips and elbows should be in one straight line, so don't let the chest dip down! This is your half-push up. Then, slide up into a Full Cobra with your arms straight but elbows soft; back arched; knees and shins still on the ground. Lift your knees and push back into your Downward-Facing Dog.
3. Full Chaturanga > Upward-Facing Dog
Confident in your Half-Chaturanga and wanna go to the next level? Tighten your core, squeeze your glutes, engage your thighs and lower your body down halfway. Your elbows should be bent at 90-degrees, and your chest should not dip lower than your elbows (if you take a look into the mirror, your whole body should be in one straight line). Slide forward to an Upward-Facing Dog with your arms straight but elbows soft; and your thighs, knees and shins off the mat – arching your back like you would in Full Cobra, with the toes still untucked. Press right back into your Downward-Facing Dog.
But of course, there are no rules to say that you cannot go into a Full Cobra from Knees-Chest-Chin; or a Low Cobra from a Half-Chaturanga... however, a good guide would be to pair simple variations with each other, as suggested above, for progession's sake. And always, always keep in mind that it's better to ace your form in a simpler variation, than compromise on alignment just to achieve depth in a more advanced option – especially if your body is not ready for it. We want to be working the right muscles, while preventing any injuries that could happen due to poor alignment... so be patient with your practice, and have fun working on your Vinyasas with one breath, and one movement!
Want to delve deeper into Vinyasas and the world of Power Flow? Book a mat here, or stay tuned for a Vinyasa focused Level Up coming your way...