Making the Most of Vinyasas in Power Yoga - dummies

Making the Most of Vinyasas in Power Yoga

By Doug Swenson, David Swenson

Vinyasas, or connecting movements, link the power of your Power Yoga poses like electrical lines that carry power between generating stations. As you use a vinyasa to move from one pose to the next, you build upon the body heat and life-force energy that your exercises generate, and you maintain the power of your routine’s momentum. The powerful conditioning and aerobic boost of the vinyasa connecting movements are what put the power in Power Yoga.

Moving with your breathing

Your breathing brings strength, vitality, and life to your vinyasa. As you move through your Power Yoga routines, always remember to move with your breathing. You can use your breathing to set the speed at which you move from one pose to the next. Use these guidelines for coordinating your breathing and movement during Power Yoga practice:

  • As a general rule, exhale as you move into a Yogaposture, and inhale as you move out.
  • Inhale when you are going against gravity, and exhale when you are going with gravity.
  • Expand your chest as you inhale, and contract your chest as you exhale.
  • Inhale before you move into a strength vinyasa, and then relax into the movement.

Using connecting links

In Power Yoga, you use connecting poses, or vinyasas, to enter and exit each posture, or asana. These connecting movements help you maintain the energy flow of your routine. For example, if you are in a seated posture and you need to go into a standing pose, you can scramble to your feet, tug at your workout clothes, and slowly shake yourself into position. The calm, gently flowing movement of a vinyasa, however, can transport you from one posture to the other with no break in energy, keeping the natural rhythm you’ve developed in your routine. Well-formed vinyasas make up the dance of Power Yoga. Do them correctly, and you’re in Swan Lake; ignore them, and your routine is Funky Chicken all the way.

Some vinyasas are very strenuous. Because one function of the vinyasas is to generate body heat, strenuous vinyasas are referred to as hot. Cool vinyasas are less strenuous movements that you use to connect poses in the warm-up and cool-down phases of your Power Yoga routine.

Floating like a butterfly

As you move from one pose to the next during your Power Yoga workout, try to enter and exit each posture with grace and elegance. When you’re first learning Yoga, you may find yourself moving between the poses like a clumsy bull. To refine your technique, think of each posture as a delicate flower. As you moved between them, try to float like a butterfly, so as not to disturb the calm beauty of the pose after you’ve landed.

In all forms of Yoga, you develop power by developing softness. The smoother, gentler, and more controlled your movements are, the more they strengthen your body. And don’t forget that the way you move has a big impact on your state of mind. When your body’s jumping and jerking, your mind is twitchy and unsettled. But when you float like a butterfly, your mind is calm, relaxed, and in control.

Don’t worry! It’s completely normal to be a bit awkward and uncoordinated when you first start practicing vinyasas and Power Yoga asanas. In the beginning, you’re likely to move into vinyasas in spurts of speed. But as you gain experience, your Power Yoga practice improves in many ways — careful controlled movement is just one of the improvements you’ll notice over time.

Time teaches you to go with the flow of your practice. Your practice becomes smooth and fluid and, ultimately, takes on the quality of a slow, soft dance. As you combine this gentle yet powerful movement with your deep breathing and mental focus, you gain the maximum Power Yoga benefit.

Keeping your eyes on the Power Yoga prize

“Looking good” during Power Yoga, doesn’t mean wearing the right clothes, having the right hairstyle, or sporting the right genetic background. Nope, “looking good” refers to the way you direct your gaze as you move into and hold each Power Yoga posture. The way you direct and hold your gaze during Power Yoga practice has an impact on your mental state, your posture, and your ability to remain focused and energized.

In Yoga, the gazing point for each posture is called a drishti, which means both “looking out” and “looking in.” The purpose of the drishti isn’t to get your vision fixed on a particular place or part of your body; it’s actually an exercise in turning your gaze inward. When you gaze inward, you can check to make sure that you’re breathing properly, that your posture alignment is accurate, and that your energy lock is engaged. Gazing inward is a form of sense withdrawal, so your gaze is a tool to help you in this important part of Power Yoga practice. When you’re “doing the drishti,” you’re focused: A gang of bikers could invade your Power Yoga studio, smoke cheap cigars, and gun their motorcycle engines, and you could go right on practicing without taking any notice of this unseemly distraction.

This list below includes the classic nine drishti used in traditional Yoga; the name of each drishti is followed by the place or thing on which you should focus your eyes when assuming this gazing point:

  • Nasagrai: Tip of nose
  • Ajna Chakra: Between the eyebrows
  • Nabi Chakra: Your navel
  • Hastagrai: Your hand
  • Padhayoragrai: Your toes
  • Parsva Drishti: Far to the side (either right or left)
  • Angustha Ma Dyai: Your thumbs
  • Urvhva or Antara Drishti: Up to the sky

In most Power Yoga postures, you gaze in the direction of the posture’s stretch. If you want to get technical about it and impress people at parties, you can memorize the focus or drishti gazing points listed above — but you don’t have to be a fanatical drishti-ite if you simply look in the direction of your stretches.