VINYASA KRAMA YOGA
Vinyasa Krama Yoga is a traditional and authentic yoga practice. It is based on the teachings of Sri T. Krishnamacharya. You can read more about Krishnamacharya here. I have written more on vinyasa krama yoga in my blog, but here I have tried to simply describe important principles of Vinyasa Krama Yoga, which may make it different to yoga classes you have done before.
Vinyasa krama yoga….
uses breath to unify
is a moving practice
makes adaptations or modifications to facilitate functional benefits for individuals
uses counter postures
uses sequences of movements
includes many variations of asana
accesses and engages all body parts
Uses breath to unify...
Yoga aims to unify the body, breath and mind. In vinyasa krama yoga this starts with a mental focus on the breath, thus the breath is the harness. During practice breathing should always be slow and smooth, and this is achieved by using ujjayi. Your breath is always synchronized with movement, for example inhaling on raising the arms, exhaling on bending into a forward bend, inhaling upright again and exhaling on lowering your arms. This supports movement, working with the body, and also enhances mental focus.
Is a moving practice...
Asana are the physical postures or body positions we undertake in yoga. Rather than seeing these as a position that we must get into and stay in, vinyasa krama yoga is a moving practice. It includes both dynamic and static asana. Typically you will move into and out of an asana three or more times. Moving in and out first before staying means you are alternately stretching and contracting muscles. This means you develop both flexibility and strength across the full range of movement. This prepares the body to hold postures for longer periods of time without cramping and makes it easier to return back to normal after holding. This style of practice facilitates a gradual transformation of tension and dysfunction patterns in the soft tissues of the body.
Makes adaptations or modifications to facilitate functional benefits for individuals...
All asana have a classical form – the picture-perfect image of the posture that one might strive to achieve. But all asana also have a function - this is their value or their purpose, the real reason to do it! In vinyasa krama yoga, function takes precedence. It is not about how it looks, but about how it feels. Vinyasa krama yoga makes adaptations or modifications to facilitate functional benefits for individuals. For example, in the classical form of a forward bend, the legs are straight and the palms are fully on the floor. In order to achieve this, flexibility must be developed in the spine and the back of the legs. Stretching the back is the primary purpose of the asana so the adaptation is to bend the knees, allowing the back to release and the hands to move to the floor. Making such adaptations and modifications means that (1) practice is specific to the individual, (2) you always start from where you are and (3) you can make progress towards the classical form and (4) along the way you are still achieving functional benefits. You will not be forced into a position; your practice will gradually take you there.
Uses counter postures...
Vinyasa krama yoga uses counter postures. In yoga, we move the spine in four primary directions - forward bends, backward bends, side bends and twists. Counter postures are used to restore balance in the body after a powerful asana in one of these directions. For example, after a cobra (which is a backbend), you would do a simple forward bending posture (such as knees to chest). This makes sure that practice does not stress or strain any one part of the body.
Uses sequences of movements...
Vinyasa krama yoga uses sequences of movements that are linked together in an intelligent pre-planned way. Easier, simple movements are done first to prepare the body for more difficult or complex asana. This applies to individual practice sessions, and progress across multiple sessions. Transitional movements are used to link postures.
Includes many variations of asana...
All asana are practiced with variations (vinyasas). This improves full joint range of motion in all planes and directions. Practice continues to evolve rather than becoming stagnant. Ramaswami outlines 10 sequences with over 700 vinyasas! If you follow the sequences, there is a gradual progression towards mastery of the core asanas.
Accesses and engages all body parts...
Vinyasa krama yoga should access and engage all body parts. Each practice should move the spine in all four directions. We also use both symmetrical and asymmetrical asana to restore balance in the body – You might need more/less emphasis on one side and this is addressed by using asymmetrical postures.