I love a strong Vinyasa practice. I love the flow between breath and movement. I love building heat and then letting go. I love that post class, sweaty, blissed out smile you get at Namaste. But there are days when my body says, “don’t you dare do another vinyasa.” And like any good yogi, I find ways to listen to my body.
The reality is that for some students, the traditional vinyasa sequence – Down Dog, Plank, Chatturanga, Up Dog, Down Dog – is not their friend, ever. And for others of us, we just have days when the body shouldn’t be doing the sequence. But that doesn’t mean we need to avoid Vinyasa classes or give up the sweaty, feel good flow. We just need to get a little bit more creative.
One definition of “vinyasa” is “to place in a special way” or to place in a way that achieves a purpose. When we look at the traditional vinyasa sequence, it accomplishes a number of things, including:
1. Strengthening (Down Dog, Plank, Chatturanga)
2. Neutralizing (Both the forward fold of Down Dog and the backbend of Up Dog or Cobra)
3. Rhythmically syncs the movement of the breath and body
4. Meditative through repetition, familiarity, and regularity of breath
So will a lightning bolt strike us down if we veer away from the traditional vinyasa sequence when our teacher tells us to take a vinyasa?! Definitely not. If you’ve taken a class with me, you know that I generally encourage students to take a vinyasa that accomplishes what they need in that moment. A transition of your choice. If you’re staying in tune with your body, breath, energy and mind as you flow – you should know what you need as those transitions approach – more strengthening? release? meditation through movement? reconnecting with your breath? And then find a pose or poses that accomplish that. Here are 8 ideas (other than just dropping into Child’s Pose) to get you started – but feel free to expand and get creative!
1. Skip the Chatturanga
2. Introspective & Strengthening Flow
Skip the chatturanga and the backbend, and get more time in forward folding shapes that encourage you to draw inward, but still enjoy the strengthening aspect of plank. From Down Dog, sink the knees towards the floor for Floating Childs Pose, float forward to Plank and return to Down Dog.
3. Simple Strengthening
4. Strengthening with a wrist time out
5. Hang out in Down Dog
6. Simplified Core Work
7. Cat Cow
8. Expanded Cat Cow
I saved my favorite for last. A more dramatic version of cat cow – finding your cat back in child’s pose and then rolling all the way forward into Cobra or Up Dog. Feels so good you might never want to do a chatturanga ever again 😉