/ 3 July 2008

Find your rhythm

Get on to your mat, practise deep ujjayi breathing. Generate good body heat and gracefully find yourself challenged and more flexed to a powerful gymnastic form of yoga called vinyasa.

Vinyasa is a Sanskrit word that most commonly defines the powerful trancelike form of yoga through movement. Vinyasa also characterises a jump in between poses to intensify body heat and allow for deeper stretching.

As with all yoga, breathing is central. Ujjayi is also know as the breath of fire, the breath of the warrior and eventually the breath of victory. But the most unique aspect of this form of yoga is the art of doing poses in sequences. This aspect is called vinyasa krama.

In this process an asana (pose) is practised in three to four different variations, ensuring that every little and often underutilised muscle in the body is exercised.

Ashtanga vinyasa yoga stems from the lineage of one of India’s most acknowledged yogi, Krishnamarcharya. This form of yoga was initially designed for the king of Mysore. The intention was to combine yoga and meditation with gymnastics to render a powerful and challenging form of yoga.

Given the intensity and challenge, it is now one of the most popular forms of yoga in the West – made more so by celebrities such as Madonna, Sting, leading dancers and other creative bodies who frequent the yoga centre in Mysore.

Here they train under the guidance of the present guru, Pattabi Jois, and his family.

The sequence which is taught in Mysore is called the ashtanga primary series.

This consists of a set of asanas aimed at disciplining the mind of the practitioner, developing deep body intelligence and eventually rendering a strong self-discipline called Mysore style.

Many ayurvedic scholars have highlighted the intelligence of this sequence, which allows the practioner to pace the set to the needs of different body types. For example, those who are hyped on energy (vata types) and who require a meditative focus should go slower and gentler with their set.

Whereas those who want to focus on weight loss and metabolism boosting should be more intense and fast-paced.

Given the style of different ashtanga teachers, this style of yoga has led to a more general term of vinyasa yoga where different schools have emerged, for example jivanmukti yoga in the United States and the yoga trance style by internationally acclaimed yoga practioner Shiva Rea.

Vinyasa yoga is based on the same principles as the primary series style, which integrates deep breathing to generate body heat and start the body purification known as yoga chikitsa.

Working on points of focus in each pose stills the mind and gives the body lightness during the jumps in between the poses.

Bhavini’s method
Bhavini Kalan Maharaj teaches vinyasa yoga integrating aspects of nada yoga (music for meditation) in her classes.

Her classes are medium-paced rendering a more graceful, dancelike flow of vinyasa yoga. The music used is repetitive meditative chants which work with the power of the deep ujjayi breathing to allow the practitioner to go deeper into each pose.

The sequence is similar to the ashtanga primary series with variations added to the poses and to give a creative edge.

The set starts ideally from two styles of sun salutes, going through to the forward bends, standing poses, triangle series, the balancing poses, seated forward bends, backbends and inversions. With this regime of pretzel positions, this is a yoga which initially makes one say: “There is no way —” But you eventually do get there.

This style of hatha yoga is deep, fun, creative, dancelike, challenging and offers a balance of a great workout and the graceful effects of yoga and meditation.

Maharaj teaches vinyasa flow at the international yoga festival in Rishikesh every year, where she teaches with a faculty of teachers from all the different hatha yoga and other lineages.

She also conducts vinyasa retreats and life-coaching sessions for the Ananda Group – at Ananda in the Himalayas and Shanti Ananda in Mauritius. She conducts teachers’ training programmes in Rishikesh as well as an advanced teacher’s training programme for the Ananda Spa Institute in Hyderabad, India.

For more information, go to www.anandaspainstitute.com. For the International Yoga Festival look at www.internationalyogafestival.com.

In South Africa she will be running vinyasa retreats in Cape Town, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo with her yoga colleague, Ilana Fintz.

For more information on these coming retreats look at www.aromaspa.co.za.

Contact Maharaj on [email protected]

Next year Bhavini will also arrange a big vinyasa event with internationally acclaimed vinyasa yoga teacher Shiva Rea, as well as Kundalini teacher Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, who recently visited South Africa. This event is planned for July 2009 – so look out for this yoga event.