Seattle is blessed with a wide variety of truly phenomenal yoga styles and studios. Each lineage—style, if you will—brings with it something unique. I became a Viniyoga convert the moment I took my very first Viniyoga class. The adaptation, the movement, the breath: they all spoke to me. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was drawn to what my teacher, Gary Kraftsow, calls the four key differentiators of Viniyoga.
Four Key Differentiators of Viniyoga
- Linkage of Breath and Movement: Viniyoga links movement with the breath, which makes each movement more powerful, mindful, and structurally integrated than non-breath-centered movement. Some poses are done on inhale; others, on exhale. We even use the breath to do subtle, yet powerful, micro-movements when we stay in a pose.
- Use of Movement and Stay: Viniyoga students move in and out of poses before staying in them. Movement systematically prepares the body to hold a pose by warming the muscle groups that will be taxed in that pose. Movement also helps reprogram habitual movement patterns, so students move more functionally, even in non-yoga activities. We can also flow between poses with the best of them!
- Adaptation: Viniyoga adapts poses to the practitioner, rather than assuming there is one “right” way to do a pose. The goal is to achieve the function of a pose, instead of its form. This means that two students can do the same pose but look significantly different from each other. Ideally, they are feeling the same effects of the pose in their body.
- Sequencing: Viniyoga teachers carefully design classes so that each pose prepares for or erases strain from the poses before and after it. Proper sequencing both makes the practices safer (both in the short term and for years of consistent practice) and allows the practitioner to move more deeply into each posture with greater ease.
The beauty of this methodology is that it can be adapted to every level of student—from hospitalized, bedbound patients, to Olympic gymnasts, to weekend warriors. Viniyoga can be as gentle—or as strong—as any other style. Truthfully, though, our true gift lies in our therapeutic work. Viniyoga meets each practitioner exactly where she is and adapts the yoga to meet her unique condition and specific goals. No single practice. No single style. No single intention. No single form. Everything we do is customized to the student in front of us.
When translated, the word Viniyoga itself means proper application and adaptation. To me, it has always meant home.
And a little non-Viniyoga advice to the yoga practitioners reading this article: Find the yoga style that balances your body and makes your heart sing. Practice that style to the best of your capability.
To the yoga teachers: Teach the yoga style that meets your students’ needs; the one that balances their bodies and makes their hearts sing. Teaching yoga is not about you. It is about your students. Meet them where they are with an open mind and an adaptable heart.
Viniyoga can help.
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[Photo by Jean Henrique Wichinoski – CC BY]
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