Traditional Yoga Vinyasa Krama

A Pranic Practice - Stillness in Movement Breath Mastery - Power of the Pause

Structured classes for beginning to advanced students.​  Offering private one on one and small intimate group sessions, public classes, and workshops

Maintaining the art & science of yoga, yoga as a system helps with our modern day imbalances due to multi tasking, living in a fast paced society, anxiety and stress. Reducing our rajas (restlessness, body/mind disturbances), tamas (inactivity, lethargy, laziness) and promoting sattva (purity, clarity, calmness, peace).

Asana and Pranayama are familiar terms of Hatha Yoga and Patanjali's Ashtanga Yoga.  Relating to a yogasana/vinyasa practice, asanas are pranayama guided physical postures within a movement practice with a focused yogic state of mind.  Hatha Yoga (often misunderstood & limited to asanas in the west) is a method preparing the physical body, energetic/subtle body, mind & breath through purification practices, asanas, mudras, pranayama (especially kumbhaka), mental exercises & lifestyle regimens to awaken the kundalini energy as a prep for Higher Raja Yoga. For Raja Yoga (higher mental yogic practices that have many elements depending on the system & tradition), asana refers to the established (in body, breath and mind) sitting posture for higher pranayama and meditation.  Pranayama is the practice of expanding, regulating and controlling our prana (life force, energy) through the vehicle of our breath guided by the mind.  Both yogic movement and sitting practices use pranayama techniques as well as higher (raja) yoga practices of meditation.  Here the asana and scriptural meanings are relating to the movement practice of postures, as well as seated breathing practices as a preparation for Raja Yoga.  Any authentic practice of Hatha Yoga must have elements of Raja Yoga.  Yoga Vinyasa Krama is considered the beginning of Higher Yoga.  

The term "yoga" has many definitions depending on the context, system, method & practice, etc.  It is commonly translated - to conjoin, create union.  The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali define yoga as samadhi (absolute quietude of mind) and cessation of chitta vritti or fluctuations of the mind - "yogas citta vritti nirodha".  The Hatha Yoga Pradipika states "hatham vina rajayogho rajayogam vina hathah na sidhyati tato yughmamanishpatteh samabhyaset - there can be no perfection if Hatha Yoga is without Raja Yoga and Raja Yoga without Hatha Yoga. Therefore, through the practice of both perfection is attained."  So for yogasana/vinyasa to be considered an authentic practice of yoga (and preparation for raja yoga), a correct practice must have components of raja yoga and aim at training and stilling the mind and is not to be practiced casually or with distractions or as a mere workout or relaxation class.  In Yoga Vinyasa the body, breath and mind are integrated to create balance, harmony and stillness.  It involves understanding stillness within movement and the power of the pause. 

Traditionally, for classical yoga with respect to yogasanas, asana should be practiced with vinyasa.  Moving without the breath is said to cause severe stress in the musculature.  Traditionally the breath is learnt first and then integrated with asana.  Yoga Vinyasa Krama is the original Himalayan yogasana that integrates pranayama into the asana practice and is distinct from modern vinyasa practices.

The Sanskrit term Vinyāsa refers to an art form - aesthetic variations & placing things in a certain way within certain parameters - and is used in other vedic arts such as poetry, mantras and music.  When referring to an asana practice, a simple translation means movement variations linked to one another superimposed on the conscious ujjayi breath (with pauses) while "placed in a certain intelligent order"- krama (sequence/method), (prep & counter practices and practices that build upon one another) with the mind focused on the breath while following other parameters.  Vinyāsa Krama is a step by step progression to reach a certain goal.  The process is designed for purification, neuromuscular fitness, awakening subtle energy and stilling the mind.  The system is comprehensive with many practices and different goals may be set depending on the intention of the daily practice, including using the practices with a therapeutic approach.  The main goals are ananta samapatti" (engrossment in the the breath/prana) & "asana siddhi" (the established sitting posture in body, mind & breath for meditation).  The process unfolds through a breathing system of exploring many aesthetic variations of each posture to correctly establish the main asanas, concentration, cleansing kriyas, pranayama/kumbhaka (pauses/breath retention), bandha, mudra (bodily gestures), mantra, nada & salutations to the sun and directional spheres.  The physical movements are preliminary to advanced pranayama, pratyahara & meditation.

The intelligent architecture of vinyasa krama properly distributes prana into the cartilage tissue, sinuous musculature of the body, internal organs, nerve pathways and nadis, and each krama has built in or assigned preparatory vinyasas and pratikriyas (counter poses) as well as dristhi (outer or inner focused gaze to help concentration). 

The Yoga Sutras give guidelines (these are basic translations relating to vinyasa - sanskrit cannot be translated to a single term - it has many layers and it also depends on the context and practice) to practice with sthira ("steadiness" of body and mind), sukha (comfort), and prayatna shaithilya - ("ease into effortlessly" - smooth and long breaths, ease in breath and movement) ananta samapatti ("engrossment {due to persistent practice} in infinitude {translating to breath in this particular context}" - the mind focused on the breath - with dedicated practice the synchronized movements are memorized and become second nature as the mind remains relaxed and absorbed in the breath). The ujjayi breath (mindful, willful throat breathing -"breath of victory" or "psychic breath") is traditionally used in vinyasa and many yogic practices as it - allows us to guide and control the length and quality of the breath, cultivates and directs the prana, increases the pressure of air in the lungs allowing us to breath more effectively - enabling more oxygen to the cells in the lungs. Increased oxygen transfer in the lungs promotes blood flow in the body even in a relaxed state.  Ujjayi breathing stimulates the vagus nerve which controls the parasympathetic nervous system promoting parasympathetic dominance.  As the rhythmic breath informs the nervous system it calms the mind and effects our psychic state.  The contraction in the throat during ujjayi effects the carotid sinuses that regulate blood pressure - lowering blood pressure, reducing tension and slowing down mind chatter.  

To practice vinyasa (and ujjayi) correctly one should not have short or shallow breathing, be panting and losing breath control or straining and uncomfortable in postures (contrary to modern vinyasa that has become aerobic, traditionally the heart rate is not supposed to increase during yogic practices - yoga is designed to create a sattvic state and slow down the breath & heart rate).  The breath must be conscious and deliberate, remaining SLOW, long, smooth and controlled (with ease-although when beginning it may take more effort) with a pause/kumbhak after each inhalation and exhalation.  The inhales and exhales remain at a uniform ratio when moving through vinyasas.  The mindful, slow movements are matched precisely to the breath (Inhale with Movement - Pause/Stillness - Exhale with Movement - Pause/Stillness.  When holding postures and moving into a deeper stretch we may have a shorter inhale and emphasize a longer exhale and vice versa. The ujjayi (throated breath) makes a hissing sound and is not a shallow chest or nasal breath - the glottis is subtly contracted and the breath is controlled by the core.  Eventually the practitioner can barely feel the breath under the nose.  The advanced practitioner strives to take fewer breaths per minute, practices with grace and ease, and has the mind on the breath, with awareness of the subtle heart and nada (internal sound current).  To maintain ease in the regulation of breath during movements - and to allow the heart rate to normalize - brief rests are taken in samasthiti, asanasthiti, or savasana throughout the practice.

Mantras and subtle elements are built into the practice as well as kriyas, mudra and pranayama.  The bandhas (energy locks/gates) - mula (root), uddiyana (abdominal) and jalandhara (chin) bandha are important tools that control - contain and direct the energy flow (prana), create stability in postures, tone the neck -abdominal-pelvic floor muscles, stimulate the thyroid, stretch the spine, cleanse out toxins, massage internal organs, improve digestion and strengthen the nervous, circulatory, respiratory and endocrine systems.  In certain postures the use of the uddiyana bandha is said to massage the heart.   Bandhas and Bodily Mudras (in which bandhas are subsets) are important tools for both vinyasa and seated pranayama practices to influence energy by locking in the energy and unlocking certain potentials.  They assist in releasing negative energy and past impressions.

Along with ujjayi in vinyasa, morning kriyas and seated pranayama practices play an essential role in purifying the energy channels (nadis), oxygenating the blood, increasing blood flow to the brain, calming the mind and nervous system, cultivating and channeling prana (energy/life force), strengthening immunity, cleansing toxins and helping digestion.  Pranayama brings us into higher states of awareness/consciousness.

When we consciously breath we are spreading prana throughout the body and this consciousness permeates down to the cellular level.  Our practice is not only creating a strong, healthy, supple body and massaging our internal organs, but also improving the flow of our energetic system and affecting us on subtler levels.

​The most important aspect of an asana practice is uniting the body-mind connection with proper breathing and concentration on the breath.  While learning postures and getting comfortable in the practice, it may not flow so smooth at first, but eventually after dedication our practice becomes smooth and graceful.  This takes time and patience  - remembering as we establish our practice - we receive the most health, therapeutic and spiritual benefits when we consciously breath.

Yogasana/Vinyasa is not traditionally practiced alone as it is in the west.  Many hybrids have become a physical fitness culture missing the philosophy, correct understanding and relationship to the principles of yoga.  To experience the optimal benefits and results yoga has to offer, we must approach physical practices in their correct context within certain parameters via sanskrit wisdom and adhere (as much to our ability) to a yogic lifestyle, using yoga's holistic system rather than extracted and diluted "pieces" of yoga.  Following the yamas (restraints) and niyamas (observances) is an aspect of the vinyasa krama system, as well as pranayama, pratyahara, meditation and scriptural study.   These are all methods of self inquiry/self discovery -  igniting a deeper connection and understanding of oneself.   Traditionally, asana, pranayama, and other physical cleanses are practiced to relieve bodily and mind disturbances, promote a healthy body that prepares and supports us for higher pranayama and meditation disciplines.  Yoga Nidra is also a beneficial practice as is it one of the best ways to remove our emotional disturbances.   

Healthy diet and lifestyle choices are essential.  Specific ayurvedic diets support our bodies to receive and maintain the benefits of the practice. Choosing an organic and untampered with, high pranic, nonviolent, doshic appropriate diet with limited processed food is recommended. For discipline meditators or anyone who wishes to maintain a yogic lifestyle, a sattvic diet is best.  Our food is medicine and effects us on subtle levels.  Creating a lifestyle that is healthy, surrounded by people that support our endeavors and environments that are uplifting is most favorable - being aware of the impressions that we take in through our senses as they create a strong imprint on us. 

Embracing yoga as a holistic system, implementing it's values, philosophy, mind/body techniques, and diet/lifestyle guidance through a proper unbroken lineage is how the practices take a grip on us and we reap the benefits.  Yogic practices will not stick if we practice incorrectly.  Yoga can either heal us or harm us.  Isolating and watering down practices, practicing in ways that do not align with Sanskrit/scriptural reference and proper lineage transmission is said cause the 'six enemies' (desire, anger, greed, illusion, infatuation and envy) around the heart.  Yoga grips our values.

Whether we are practicing yogic movement, breathing, devotional, scriptural study or contemplative and meditation disciplines - yoga is an inward journey of connecting our body, mind, and spirit.

​​​​My intention is to offer instruction that emphasizes the focus, breath, nuances and subtle energies of a traditional vinyasa and pranayama practice, that when understood and embodied, the practitioner can tangibly experience the profound effects of a pranic practice. Ultimately, inspiring others to take their practice home, be absorbed in the breath, and delve deeper into the inner discoveries that arise in a personal practice.

Himalayan Yoga