Iyengar and Vinyasa
“Children and youngsters do like this method (vinyasa practice) and thoroughly enjoy it since it gives them quickness, agility, speed, and variety. In the late 40s, Guruji (Krishnamacharya) abandoned it. In my case, as I had to teach in schools, colleges, as well as the cadets of the National Defence Academy, I followed it wherever and whenever it was appropriate. In the Institute (Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Institute in Pune, India) even now we do continue to teach this method in children’s classes and once in a while in other classes too. But they are not done as a permanent feature. In children’s classes, I often teach with vinyasa krama. If I have to take them to the depth of the asana, I preserve their energies from “jumpings” and make them concentrate on parts of the body that are needed for the asana and use their minds to penetrate their bodies with study in depth.“BKS Iyengar – Ashtadala Yogamala Vol 2 – pgs 245-253
What students encounter when walking into an Iyengar Yoga class doesn’t seem to resemble what we in the United States think of as “yoga”. For many, the “Hot” and “Vinyasa” forms of yoga have taken on the identity of all of yoga in the Western mind. Movement is of course key in yoga practice, but what does the term “vinyasa” actually mean? You will notice that the above paragraph does not refer to “Vinyasa Yoga” as a style or method, but as “vinyasa krama” as one approach or progression within the wider practice of yoga, done under certain circumstances and for certain purposes and populations.
“Yoga is one. So is asana but people give it different names and forms. Nothing like vinyasa yoga existed for astanga yoga and it is unfair to name yoga as vinyasa yoga...The word vinyasa has two parts – vi and nyasa. Vi means separating or disjuncting. Nyasa means placing or putting down. Vinyasa means separating and putting down or placing in a sequential order. It is a way of arrangement or a method of proper disposition.“BKS Iyengar – Ashtadala Yogamala Vol 2 – pgs 245-253
Iyengar Yoga as a “style of yoga” was named by the students of BKS Iyengar, not by BKS Iyengar himself. BKS Iyengar always claimed to teach Patanjali’s Yoga based upon The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. As stated above, Krishnamacharya began by demonstrating and teaching fast vinyasa krama to get people interested, but ultimately abandoned it. As BKS Iyengar aged himself, but also observed numerous bodies in practice over his lifetime, he became known for his genius in the use of sequencing for therapy as well as just to gain depth, intensity, and knowledge of one’s Self through asana. This is truly the use of “vinyasa”. HOW poses are put together in a sequence and WHAT is focused on within that sequence makes all the difference in what is experienced or attained through practice. And, these movements do not always have to be fast or jumping, but also could be slow and deliberate. They can be a mix of many categories of posture, or land in one category alone. Ultimately the purpose of any sequence is to gain understanding of some aspect of our being, mind, body, breath and all.
“As pupils of yoga, remember that vinyasa is not merely a fast mobile movement in asana. It is a procedure of building oneself. A fast and gross movement is enchanting to youngsters who get carried away by them. If the practitioner of yoga is satisfied at a gross level by scratching the external body and not penetrating, then that kind of practice helps but at a certain point it becomes a yoga of pleasure (preyas yoga). What I teach and practice is to explore the subtlety and firmness in each asana. Therefore it is auspicious yoga (sreyas yoga). Let us not be carried away by motion, but static dynamism in action.”BKS Iyengar – Ashtadala Yogamala Vol 2 – pgs 245-253
There is a reason that meditation is done sitting still and that asana is not translated as “posture”, but as “seat”. Ultimately any asana is practiced to be fully embodied, known, and experienced. This takes time, immersion, and attention. The flow of the external body must sooner or later be used to flow inward toward awareness of the movements in emotion and mental fluctuations, ultimately leading toward the ability to fully settle the body and mind into the “seat” of pure consciousness.
In our next 4-week special series, we will explore some of the vinyasa krama (both fast and slow) that BKS Iyengar has suggested in his Chapter on “Vinyasa” in Volume 2 of Ashtadala Yogamala. We will also explore some of the concepts of sequencing and asana placement in general as presented by Prashant Iyengar in his book, Alpha and Omega of Trikonasana.
Wednesday Morning From Oct 25 – Nov 15 – 8-9:30am