Before you begin to read this article, look at the yoga images. Do you notice anything interesting about the pattern of movement? Yoga means union of body and mind, and the images portray a vinyasa flow. Vinyasa flow incorporates progressive sequences of exercises that include various breathing patterns. This particular vinyasa flow portrays an underlying pattern of the flow of the seasons, a rise and fall of the tides, us physically waking up and going to sleep, and more.
Vinyasa has both mental and physical benefits. The mental benefits include relaxation, improved thinking, boosted memory and concentration, and better metabolism, blood circulation, and flexibility. And best of all… when you are performing your vinyasas, you are actually detoxifying and re-energizing your entire body!
To begin your vinyasa flow, first acknowledge your emotions before actually starting. Are you anxious? Nervous? Happy? Stressed? Take a note of your state of mind and then notice how you feel after a few vinyasa flows.
Let us begin by mastering your ujjayi breath, also known as ocean breath. This breathing style is a diaphragmatic breathing technique. Begin by inhaling from your nose. Fill up your lower belly, and as you exhale, swallow your breath to the back of your throat making a soothing ocean sound. Try doing a couple of these before you start your practice as this technique will be utilized throughout your entire workout.
Now that you have mastered your breath, allow us to begin a phenomenal workout.
Begin by standing tall and focusing on 10 deep ujjayi breaths. With your last inhale, fall forward to uttansasa and exhale completely (hands reach to the ground). Pull your belly into your spine and let go of upper neck and shoulder tension.
Uttanasana is a great cooling or anti-stress pose; so use it anytime you feel you are going through stress or emotional turmoil.
Move onto the next pose by engaging your belly muscles and lifting your spine half way. Place your hands above or below your knee caps. Inhale, focus on lengthening out, and with your exhale, tighten your core and step back to plank position.
From plank position, slowly lower onto your tummy on the floor while keeping your hands near your armpits. Roll your shoulders back, lengthen your neck, engage your upper back muscles, and slowly extend your spine up toward the sky (option: tilt head to buttocks). Stay for 3-5 deep breaths, and with your last inhale, curl your toes and push your hips back to downward facing dog.
Downward facing dog is the most well-known yoga pose. It has many benefits, which include improving digestion, naturally re-energizing, promoting blood circulation, strengthening bones, arms, and core, and decreasing stress.
In downward facing dog, focus on pressing your heels to the ground and drawing your shoulders away from your ears. This will remove neck tension and stress. Stay for 5 deep breaths.
From downward facing dog, come into warrior one by stepping with your right leg through your hands into a lunge position. Press your left heel to a 45 degree angle and focus on drawing your left hip forward. Engage your belly muscles and reach both hands upwards. On your exhale, slowly step back to plank and repeat the entire sequence: upward facing dog, downward facing dog, and then step with your left leg through into your warrior one position.
On your next exhale, step back to plank and add a chaturanga by shifting your shoulder 2 inches forward to your fingertips. Keep your elbows tucked to your ribcage and begin to bend your elbows while focusing on triceps and back strength. From chaturanga, reach your heart forward back to upward facing dog.
Take several deep breaths and then press your hips back to downward facing dog and jump or step forward to standing position.
This entire sequence can be repeated daily 5-10 times depending on your fitness level. Remember to practice your vinyasa with your breath, and most importantly, without resistance. It is only when we learn to mentally and physically let go that things start to flow.