This past weekend in the YogaWorks 200hr teacher training I’m leading we talked about the meaning of Vinyasa and how this Sanskrit word doesn’t actually translate how many think it does. Vinyasa doesn’t mean ‘flow’ or ‘moving on the breath’ or ‘chaturanga, up-dog, down-dog.’
In his book, The Heart of Yoga, T. K. V. Desikachar breaks down the roots of the word Vinyasa within the phrase vinyasa krama.
“Krama is the step, nyasa means “to place” and the prefix vi- translates as “in a special way.” The concept of vinyasa krama tells us that it is not enough to simply take a step: that step needs to take us in the right direction and be made in the right way.”
If I put Desikichar’s ideas into my own words, for me this concept of vinyasa krama is to make the process the goal.
When I make the process the goal, I pay attention to my day to day experience to observe whether or not the steps I’m taking and how I’m taking them are moving me in the right direction. At the same time, though, in noticing my experience as I move toward my goals, I ask myself, “is this really what I want?” More importantly, is it what I need? During the process of vinyasa krama, the goal informs the steps, but the steps also inform the goal. Like moving targets, I allow my goals to change with me and course correct along the way.
The next time you hear your teacher say, “take the vinyasa” pause auto-pilot mode and ask yourself before that chaturanga, “What do I need?” Maybe it’s chaturanga and maybe not. Everyday is different. Everyday we’re different. At least some of the outcomes of our future depend on both our attentiveness and responsiveness to this flow of change. What better place to start this practice of attention than on the mat?
You’ll notice that in this video I’m moving very slowly. That’s because I’m actually moving with the pace of my breath.