“Vinyasa” is derived from the Sanskrit term “nyasa”, which means “to place” and the prefix “vi”, which means “in a special way”. We see Vinyasa in nature all around us, as night flows into day, day flows into night, following the cycle of the sun and the moon, the transition of the seasons, the rise and fall of the ocean tides, like our breath flowing from inhalation to exhalation, from exhalation to inhalation. In sync with the rhythms of life, our actions and creations harmoniously flow, from the composition of notes in a musical piece to the brushstrokes of a painting or every foot placed in front of the other while walking up a mountain, everything we do with meditative awareness is in sacred sequence.
It is this sequential flow that we weave into our Yoga practice as we link one Yoga posture to the next, with our breath and mindful movement.
Indian Yoga Guru Krishnamacharya, introduced the modern world to this ancient aesthetic approach to Yoga and life. His teaching of the Vinyasa method, continued by his students BKS Iyengar and Patthabhi Jois, included the assessment of the needs of his students, followed by the proper sequence of movement, form and alignment, to create safety and balance within their Yoga practice.
The idea of Vinyasa is beautifully expressed by one of the most accomplished Ashtanga Yoga teachers in the West, Eddie Stern, who wrote a foreword for Pattabhi Jois’s book called Yoga Mala. “Mala is a Sanskrit term that means ‘garland’. In India there are many different kinds of malas. There are japamalas, made up of sacred beads strung on a thread which are used in prayer for counting and keeping focused on the repetition of a mantra. There are also pushpamalas, which are garlands of vivid flowers, smelling of jasmine and other scents, that are strung in the form of wreaths and offered in worship to deities in homes and temples. Guruji here offers us another kind of mala, which is ancient in tradition, as sacred as a prayer, and as fragrant as flowers. His mala is a garland of Yoga, in which each Vinyasa (mindful movement) is like a sacred bead to be counted and focused on, and each Asana (posture) is like a fragrant flower strung on the thread of the breath.
“Just as a japamala adorns the neck and a pushpamala adorns the gods, so too does this garland of Yoga, when diligently practiced, adorn our entire being with peace, health, radiance and ultimately self-knowledge.”
(Yoga inspiration shared by Melanie de Villiers in Camps Bay, Cape Town)