“Meditation in motion” is a recurring trope when teachers speak about vinyasa. I confess to using it regularly myself because it perfectly describes the magical elixir that has kept me hooked on this particular way of practicing yoga for almost 30 years. But using posture, breath, and attention to attain a meditative state is easier said than done. Linking posture and breath isn’t sufficient. There must be intention and intelligence behind sequencing, or flow-style yoga becomes tedious at best, injurious at worst.
My introduction to yoga was Ashtanga Yoga. I loved the practice for its rigor, straightforward approach to spirituality, and the reliable access to a state of flow that came from a set sequence of postures with a priority on the breath. But I developed as many injuries as I overcame and craved more breadth and knowledge. Stage II of my evolution was a love affair with the Iyengar Yoga tradition. Since then, I’ve developed and refined a way of sequencing that artfully weaves the two influences, creating a rigorous practice that heals the body and tones the nervous system: Kula Flow (which is what is taught at the Wanderlust Hollywood studio today).
See also Ashtanga Yoga Sequences
I’m often reluctant to talk about what I love to do on the yoga mat as a brand. For many years, the notion of “branding” yoga completely turned me off; it seemed silly and presumptuous to put a stamp on a particular way of serving up asana. My New York City studio, Kula, had been open 10 years before the issue of branding came up. During that time, students continually asked our teachers what style we taught, and we all said, “Um … I dunno … vinyasa…” And they would say, “No. This is different.”
Eventually, I conceded that names are powerful, that in its purest sense branding is simply naming and that by codifying my style I could more clearly communicate with students and the teachers I train. What is yoga if not communication? The illumination of the unseen? As a practitioner, this dialogue often involves observing the ego and happens among brain, body, and, especially the breath. As a teacher, you are the guide for students on this same journey.
My hope is that a Kula Flow experience is both visceral (sweaty and present-moment focused) and smart (alignment-heavy and aspirational); that the lower and upper chakras are both well served; and that through the practice we fully express the definition of vinyasa—to place in a special way. Place the mind on the breath. Place the breath in the body. Place attention to the nuanced transition of thoughts, movement, and energy—illuminating the seemingly mundane as exquisitely special.
See also Yoga Hybrids
KULA SEQUENCE: ROUND 1
Creating a Kula Flow sequence with a challenging peak pose is like untangling a rat’s nest from my daughter’s hair: You can’t just go at it. You have to tease it out slowly, through patient deconstruction and repetition. In asana, that translates to progressively opening and strengthening the body and channeling the power of the breath. If you slowly practice the shapes and actions that comprise a tricky pose, you might find you have more ability and less fear when you finally do get there. For example, to safely practice Pincha Mayurasana (Feathered Peacock Pose, aka Forearm Balance) with a stag-leg variation, you need to open your chest and shoulders and prepare them to support the weight of your body. And you need to both open and engage your hamstrings. You need to wake up your core, and you need to open your hip flexors and quadriceps. Kula Flow is creative, but the posture choices are never arbitrary. There should be a reason behind everything that you put into a given sequence.
KULA SEQUENCE: ROUND 2
KULA SEQUENCE: ROUND 3
About our Author
Schuyler Grant co-created the Wanderlust festival and founded Kula Yoga Project in New York City. As developer of Kula Flow, she was noted by The New York Times as a go-to teacher for advanced practice. Learn more at wanderlust.com.