by Jessica Stickler
ॐ सर्वमङ्गलमङ्गल्ये शिवे सर्वाथ साधिके ।
शरण्ये त्र्यम्भके गौरि नारायणि नमोऽस्तु ते ॥
om sarva maṇgala-māṇgalye śive sarvātha-sādhike
śaraṇye tryambake gauri nārāyaṇi namostu te
We extend salutations to Narayani, who is the blessed mother among all that is good. O auspicious Goddess, you are the one who accomplishes every aim, and who gives refuge to her devotees, you are the glorious three-eyed, Gauri.
Durga Saptashati, Chapter 11
“When āsanas, the sequence of changes, are woven together with breath and conscious intention, we align ourselves with the continuous flow, the undulating rhythm, of the universe.” — SG
Vinyāsa is a moving meditation integrating five components; intention, gaze, breath, movement, and mūla bandha — when practiced together, the magic is forced to rise! Coordinating all five components in practice, we have the potential to experience yoga. Much like music, vinyāsa is an experience in time. Ujjāyī breathing gives us physical sound to focus our listening; it also provides a tempo, a timing for practice. By placing our movements in time we can become conscious of the unfolding of the sequence of life. The rhythmic breathing serves as the musical measure or metronome through which the sequence of āsana moves, like a melody.”In order to transcend time, we must first become a master of timing. We must become musical.” — Sharon Gannon
Surya namaskār, or sun salutation, is typically practiced by moving fluidly through a series of āsana set to a steady breath, where each movement gets the equal breathing. The breath and the body together make a sort of music.“Yoga is like music: the rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life.” — BKS Iyengar
Vinyāsa practice is sometimes referred to as a “moving meditation.” Unlike a seated practice, where the attention is focused on a single object, in vinyāsa we are quite literally focusing the ever present unfolding moment (kṣaṇa)— meditating on time itself. The dṛṣṭi/gaze moves with our attention, our single pointed attention follows the flow of time through the series of our actions. Think of those time lapse films that show the entire development of a blossom, because of the time lapse we can see how each moment leads to the next in an unbroken sequence.“The yoga is in the transitions.” — David Life Studying the nature of change in this way we may also be able to glimpse at that which is unchanging and eternal. When we practice vinyāsa krama, we are moving through space and observing all that is changing, the body, the mind, the environment; in order to also perceive that which is not changing – the eternal Self, ultimate reality, Brahman.
The practice also gives insight into the nature of cause and effect, the movements are a study of how we act in the world. Krishna reminds Arjuna that studying wise action (and wise inaction) is the yogis mission. Studying how thoughts become words become actions become habits allows us to investigate the self in relationship to others. By understanding where our motivations come from, and how our prejudices and preferences influence our actions, we increase our understanding and empathy for others as well as increase our own tendency to take compassionate action in the world. Now there are even studies showing that when we move in unison, our feeling of connectedness and belonging increases as does our propensity to take compassionate action.
Consistent application of mūla bandha, binds the other components together, gives them all en energetic boost, and channels them into a direction — like a fiber optic cable, moving the energy in one concentrated direction. mūla bandha organizes and directs the energy of the five components of vinyasa. Dṛṣṭi, the gaze, also relates to our vision; to seeing the divine everywhere. Higher intention, devotion — the love of investigating the self in order to understand our interconnection — uplifts the practice from a mundane series of movements to this indescribable experience – just as notes on a page cannot convey the feeling of the music, only the notes in combination with the instrument, the musician, and the genius of spirit.