Vinyāsa (// vi-NYAAH-sa;Sanskrit: विन्यास; IAST:vinyāsa) is a Sanskrit term often employed in relation to certain styles of yoga, that usually refers to a transition between two different positions. The term vinyāsa may be broken down into its Sanskritic roots to assist in decoding its meaning. Nyasa denotes "to place" and vi denotes "in a special way." Like many Sanskrit words, vinyāsa is a term that has many meanings.
Maehle (2007: p. 294) defines vinyasa as:
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.
Vinyasa is also employed as a noun to describe the sequence of poses that are performed between Adho Mukha Svanasanas or Downward Facing Dog as part of a Surya Namaskara or Sun Salutation sequence. Though this is more correctly termed half-vinyasa as full-vinyasa returns to complete standing asana or positions.
Srivasta Ramaswami, author of The Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga and a direct disciple of the legendary Yoga teacher Krishnamacharya, brings forth the essence of Vinyasa in asana practice in the following way,
My guru believed that the correct vinyasa method is essential in order to receive the full benefits from yoga practice. The following quote, which I translated from Yoga Makaranda, perfectly captures this sentiment.
"From time immemorial the Vedic syllables…are chanted with the correct (high, low, and level) notes. Likewise, sruti (pitch) and laya (rhythm) govern Indian classical music. Classical Sanskrit poetry follows strict rules of chandas (meter), yati (caesura), and prasa (assemblage). Further, in mantra worship, nyasas (usually the assignment of different parts of the body to various deities, with mantras and gestures)—such as Kala nyasa, Matruka nyasa, Tatwa nyasa—are integral parts. Likewise yogasana (yogic poses), pranayama (yogic breathing exercises), and mudras (seals, locks, gestures) have been practiced with vinyasas from time immemorial.
"However, these days, in many places, many great souls who teach yoga do so without the vinyasas. They merely stretch or contract the limbs and proclaim that they are practicing yoga…"
Ramaswami further goes on to add, "Just as music without proper pitch (sruti) and rhythm (laya) will not give happiness, yogasana practice without the observance of vinyasas will not give health. That being the case what can I say about the long life, strength and other benefits?"
- Maehle, Gregor (2007). Ashtanga Yoga: Practice and Philosophy (Paperback). New World Library. ISBN 1-57731-606-1 & ISBN 978-1-57731-606-0, p.294
- Ramaswami Srivasta, The Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga (2005), Marlowe & Company, New York. ISBN 1-56924-402-2. Page xx–xxi.
- Maehle, Gregor (2007). Ashtanga Yoga: Practice and Philosophy (Paperback). New World Library. ISBN 1-57731-606-1 & ISBN 978-1-57731-606-0
- Apte, Vaman Shivram (1970). The Student's Sanskrit-English Dictionary(Cloth) Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited. ISBN 81-208-0044-3 (Cloth); ISBN 81-208-0045-1 (Paper)
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