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There are a variety of methods of practicing yoga, and one of the methods growing in popularity is “flow yoga.” Flow classes are often described as more challenging or quicker paced, billed for exercise and even weight loss. However, flow yoga is based on vinyasa krama, which isn’t meant to be a quick-paced challenging sequence. So, what is vinyasa krama and how can it benefit you physically and spiritually?
Defining Vinyasa Krama
First, let’s look at some definitions. Vinyasa is the act of synchronising movements with breathing. Vinyasa yoga is a style of yoga that relies on smooth transitions between poses (asanas), measured seamlessly through breathing. A Sun Salutation is an example of a vinyasa flow. Some teachers will speed up these transitions, creating a faster flow, which is why it’s often described as more challenging or faster paced.
Krama refers to steps or stages. The combination, vinyasa krama means wise progression, and, in reference to yoga poses, it’s the steady, coordinated movement of poses through stages going from simple poses to a more advanced. This method was used and taught by Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, the father of modern yoga.
Why Choose Vinyasa Krama
Vinyasa krama allows for the slow, studied progression from more basic asanas to more complicated or challenging asanas. While it’s very flowing, the idea isn’t to keep moving and push your body and mind. Instead, it prepares your body and mind to move forward to more challenging asanas. Often, you will have a goal pose or sequence in mind, and you will lead up to it using poses that will prepare your body and mind as well as your breathing to help you meet this goal and ensure you can find a neutral, peaceful end in savasana.
Successfully Practicing Vinyasa Krama
It’s important to note that these aren’t just stretching exercises to help get you ready to take on a hard pose, nor is it meant to be flowing and pretty or fast-paced and challenging, as that’s what flow yoga is often seen as and how many people practice vinyasa krama. Instead, the synchronization should offer your body alternating extensions and flexions, rotations, and symmetry. Each pose in the sequence acts as the appropriate counter pose to the one proceeding it and is linked to an inhalation or exhalation. You’re continually tapping into your awareness and listening to your body to understand when you’re ready to move to the next pose in a state of calm. Teaching the breath holds, experiencing the bandhas, allowing the attitude of patience and calm attention is not found in quicker paced and more challenging, but in well designed poses and counter poses that bring balance, and inward reflections.
Do you see how this is far different than the “quick-paced” and “more challenging poses” advertised in most flow yoga and vinyasa yoga classes? Vinyasa krama is a progression toward a goal, rather than a fast-paced challenge.