Ashtanga-Vinyasa Flow

Vinyasa or Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga was popularized by K. Pattabhi Jois. He began his yoga studies in 1927 at the age of 12, and by 1948 had established an institute for teaching the specific yoga practice known as Ashtanga (Sanskrit for "eight-limbed") Yoga.

The term "vinyasa" refers to the alignment of movement and breath, a method which turns static yoga postures into a dynamic flow.  Vinyasa means "to place in a special way". This style of yoga is defined by sequential movement that interlinks postures to form a continuous flow. It creates a movement meditation that reveals all forms as being impermanent and for this reason are not held on to.

The length of one inhale or one exhale dictates the length of time spent transitioning between postures. Poses are then held for a predefined number of breaths. In effect, attention is placed on the breath and the journey between the postures rather than solely on achieving perfect body alignment in a pose, as is emphasized in Hatha yoga.

Vinyasa also refers to a specific series of movements that are frequently done between each pose in a series. This vinyasa 'flow' is a variant of the Sun Salutation, and is used in other styles of yoga beside Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. A standard vinyasa consists (for example) of the flow from caturanga, or plank, to caturanga daṇḍasana, or low plank, to urdhva mukha svanasana or upward-facing dog, to adho mukha savasana, or downward-facing dog.

The breathing style used in Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is "ujjayi" which is a relaxed diaphragmatic style of breathing, characterized by an ocean sound which resonates in the practitioner's throat. Throughout a practice, this specific breathing style is maintained in alignment with movements. The steady cycle of inhales and exhales provides the practitioner with a calming, mental focal point. Additionally, viṅyasa and ujjayi together create internal heat, which leads to purification of the body through increased circulation and sweating.

The goal of this style is not to learn the more difficult poses but rather to learn to maintain internal focus throughout the practice.

Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is different from Vinyasa yoga classes in the west in that the order of poses is completely predefined. A practice will comprise four main parts: an "opening sequence," one of the six main "series", a back-bending sequence, and a set of inverted postures, referred to as the "finishing sequence." Practice always ends with savasana, or resting pose. The opening sequence begins with 10 Sun Salutations and then several standing postures. Next, the practitioner will do one of the six main series. Beginners start with the primary series. It is a more muscular and vigorous hatha yoga.


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