I am not saying that Vinyasa Yoga is bad. It all depends on the teacher who is teaching the class, and I would say that I myself am somewhat of a Vinyasa teacher. I am going to generalize a bit, but nonetheless, the topic comes up often enough for  me to want to address it in more detail here.

You know the kind of class that I am talking about if I add "high speed" to it, right? The kind of class often found in gyms and also Yoga studios that treat Yoga as a workout. The kind of class where everything is happening so fast, as fast as possible, that you can barely keep up, if at all. Here is a video of Mr. Iyengar himself teaching precisely that type of class - watch how some of the students are unable to complete a single pose at that speed (especially the girl in the dark leotard on the right, poor thing).

It is the kind of class where the teacher is mostly too busy doing the practice for themselves to pay any attention to the students. What distinguishes this class from practicing with a videotape? With a videotape, at least, you can hit the pause button, but this is relentless. In which case - why is it even called a class?

A class is where the teacher is there to teach the student. If the student can't follow along properly, then the teacher is not fulfilling his Dharma, his purpose for being there. Sorry, Mr. Iyengar... nothing personal, it's just that this type of class is so prevalent in the Yoga culture.

What use is there in slowing down, you may ask. Well, let me count the ways. When you slow down:

  • You can take a slower breath and begin to relax. Healing happens in a relaxed state.
  • You cultivate greater awareness. The more relaxed you are when you are moving, the more aware you are of your habitual patterns that maybe are the source of your suffering. You begin to notice how your arms move, how your spine moves, how you hold yourself, where you carry tension, where you are weak, and you begin to identify your deeply entrenched habits (samskaras) and make different choices.
  • You are able to then transform how you habitually respond to yourself. When we slow everything down and connect the movement with the breath, we are able to observe ourselves more closely and begin to understand ourselves better. It is called Svadyaya, or self-study, where we become experts on ourselves.
  • By understanding how we habituate in our bodies, we begin to understand how we habituate in our minds. By changing the way you stand, the way you move, you may begin to change the way you think.
  • And here is where we come to the most important benefit - Yoga is for finding liberation from suffering.  Our mental state, our negative thoughts, our habitual stories that we tell ourselves that "I can't", all of that gradually begins to shift once we realize that not only do we have a choice of how to move, we have a choice of how to think. And that we actually can do it.

For all of the above to take place, there needs to be time. It is a gradual process. Yoga is not just exercise, it is a method for self-transformation. So, I invite you to slow down. Take a long exhale and relax. Open your inner eye of awareness and look into the stillness deep within.


Anna M.