Vinyasa is a popular form of Yoga that, in the West, is characterized by movement – both while in an asana and when moving between two asanas. The breath initiates all movement in a Vinyasa Yoga class, resulting in a beautiful slow flow. Here are seven things that teachers of Vinyasa Yoga must know:
1. The Primacy of the Breath. In a Vinyasa class, the breath helps the student move and focus on what is happening within. Without the emphasis on the breath, the practice becomes simply an aerobics class.
2. Yoga Philosophy. Yoga is an ancient science whose origin dates back over 5,000 years; whose knowledge has been carefully passed from one generation to the next. The philosophy is precious, and it is important for Vinyasa Yoga teachers to acknowledge their place in Yoga history and pass on its teachings to their students.
3. The Definition of Vinyasa. The common definition, today, is “flow” as in – to flow from one pose to the next. Traditionally, “Vinyasa” has been translated as “to place in a special way,” implying that there is an order to, and a reason for, the asanas the teacher selects.
4. Anatomy. Vinyasa Yoga teachers should have a basic knowledge of key bones, muscles, and joints. This will help the Yoga instructor better understand how the effect of the poses they are teaching may have on the students, and how to help students when the pose is not working for them.
5. Alignment. Vinyasa teachers need to understand the correct alignment of each pose they teach, so they can help their students experience the intended effect. Misalignment not only detracts from the practice’s intention, it is a risk factor for injuries as well.
6. Adaptation and Alternate Poses. Every body is unique, and there will be students who can do some poses, but not others. A Vinyasa Yoga instructor must know how to help students adapt their poses to better suit their bodies. The Yoga teacher must also understand when it might be best to introduce an alternative pose, rather than forcing the one that is not working.
7. Sequencing. Since people are physically moving in a Vinyasa class, there is less time to observe the student’s alignment in each pose. Therefore, it is critical that the teacher sequence the practice in an intelligent way. The student must be able to flow easily between poses, without injury, and the sequence must properly prepare practitioners before attempting any complex or challenging poses.