An integrative flow-based yoga-asana practice is a powerful way of experiencing ourselves being simultaneously present to our body, mind, and breath. A flow-based practice is a metaphor for life in the western world where from when we wake up in the morning to when we go to sleep, we are constantly in motion. In our own lives we often find ourselves somewhere other than where we really are, consumed with thoughts about the past or the future. Our asana practice on the mat, which begins in balasana, child’s pose, symbolizing the beginning of a life, is a series of postures that move from one to another, ending in savasana, or corpse pose. Our time on the mat presents us with the opportunity to both give ourselves fully to each moment while also observing our own thoughts and actions. We are in essence, using our mat as a laboratory for how we respond to each challenge we are given in our very short and precious life.
Hatha means “sun” and “moon.” Vinyasa means “movement breathing system.” The qualities of both sun (active, masculine) and the moon (receptive, feminine) arise in our bodies. I teach either a ‘sun based’ vinyasa practice, a dynamic, often playful and exploratory heat generating class or a ‘moon-based gentle yoga class, where we are in the postures for longer periods of time, present with the flow of our breath and the rising and passing of our thoughts, sensations and emotions. In this context, both dynamic and gentle expressions of the practice are vinyasa.
In either type of integrative flow class, we address – or integrate – five essential components: 1) allowing gravity to draw us downward to create stability, 2) softening the outer surface of the body while maintaining the inherent structure of any given posture, 3) directing our energy through our body, 4) developing moment by moment awareness through attention to the breath, 5) and enhancing our capacity to witness ourselves seamlessly moving from one posture to another on the thread of breath, becoming more present to each moment. Each of these principles builds upon the one before it.
The yoga-asana practice was traditionally designed to release bound tension in the body to prepare for meditation. Unlike many asana classes, there is meditation toward the end of my class to encourage our ability to be present to life as it is unfolding in and around us. With consistent practice, the principles we apply during our time on the mat become part of our everyday lives. Stability becomes ease, ease becomes contentment and contentment becomes joy.