Friday, June 03, 2016

On vinyasas - a list

1. One decade (!) I thought that the vinyasas, the dynamic movement to connect the asanas make my Ashtanga yoga practise to a workout. A few months ago I bought a fitbit armwrist, which I wore during my practise. Afterwards I checked my heart rate. This was a shock. Only when I did the sun salutations and when I did urdhva dhanurasana the heart was challenged. This was all under 1 minute. I had to realize that  Ashtanga yoga is not a work out, also not because we practise the vinyasas.

2. In order to being able to do the vinyasas one must be strong and flexible and one must understand the how to do it, the technique. All this might be a reason to practise the vinyasas. But what I see in classes (I include myself)  most students betray themselves or they don't know what to exercise. After 12 years of practicing Ashtanga yoga I got close to being able to perform it. Close. By now I'm not able to do it nicely. This is a wake-up call to reflect on what happened.

3. Almost 30 times the vinyasas are exercised when doing primary. I didn't count the transition from kurmasana and supta kurmasana ie. Now imagine how long I try this dynamic movement without being able to do it.
What does this mean not being able to do it? My feet touch the floor during this transition. The goal is to float through the arms without touching neither the arms nor the floor.
In the first years I learned that this transition is science fiction. Later, when the community grew more and more talented yoginis joined the community. They also analyzed the movement. I learned how to do the vinyasas from the generous yoginis on YouTube and other social channels. I didn't learn it because I practises it 30 times every day for years.

4. It is said that in the early years of Ashtanga yoga there were not so many vinyasas. There were no vinyasa between sides. Similar asanas were formed to a group and only in the beginning and afterward a vinyasa was performed.

5. Why doing the vinyasas at all? For me there is one main reason. During the vinyasas is a counter pose, upward facing dog. Being flexible means not only being able to have a deep forward bend. Flexible people can alter from forward bending to back bending to twists without long preparations.
The upward facing dog is often done very sloppily. This is what I see in classes. I know why. It comes with discomfort. But this is it. It's good to stand it till the discomfort fades away. This makes flexible.

6. The huge disadvantage of the vinyasas is that when done correctly the chest muscles get stronger and stronger. The upward facing dog is not enough to balance this. It would be good to do back bending, that is second series. Students are held too long at primary. When they finally start second series, they are stiff in the upper body. Back bending becomes horrible.
There are authors who say that one shall not practise pincha mayurasana when not being able to do kapotasana, because the chest muscles get too strong then when practicing pincha mayurasana. This author forgets that this exactly happens if one practises too long primary.
In my opinion it's also better to omit primary when starting second series for exactly this reason.

7. Quality over quantity.
Up to 30 times every day, year in year out students try to manage the vinyasas. Most are not so successful. It is much better to do less and correctly.

Today was primary on the schedule. Despite my cold I practiced. I had no fever, so why not practicing? If it would have been too much today, I could have stopped anytime.
I practiced vinyasas as described under point 4.
Then almost at the end I did chakrasana and pulled my neck. I was too fearful today. I feared that the back pain would return and it did. A wrong movement and it's back, I thought. I'm glad that this neck pain faded away after the practise. I added fascia massage at the end.
Oh yes, it was good, that I practised. It's always worth doing it.


Ataner said...

Dear Ursula,
I discovered your blog yesterday and I read many of your posts.
I am writing from Brasil, so excuse me if my English is not so good.
I intend to start yoga ashtanga next week and I am 52 years old. I practised hatha yoga these past years, but not consistently enough.
Reading your considerations I am in doubt if it is beneficial or not to take this step of doing ashtanga at this age.
This is it. I am insecure, you know?

Ursula Preiss said...

Dear Renata,

I discovered Ashtanga yoga when 44 years old. Now I'm 57 years old, but I feel fit.

If you're looking for something dynamic, something that challenges you, then go for it. Don't expect quick results. One needs patience to master the asanas of Ashtanga yoga.But mastering the asanas is only one aspect.

I would say, try it for a year. Do a mixture of Ashtanga class and also start a home practice. Step on the mat up to 6 days a week, start with sun salutations and some asanas. After a year you can decide if you want to keep practicing this style of yoga. I'm loving it.

You are not too old for this style. But it can be that it's better to have a teacher who is not very strict. At our age we must take care of our bodies.

The huge benefit of Ashtanga yoga is that you also get stronger.

Keep me informed. All the best and stay healthy. Ursula