Defining “Vinyasa”


I am a teacher but still like to go to others’ classes. Recently two teachers have said, “Take a vinyasa,” and then all of the students did a series: Plank Pose, Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose), Upward-Facing Dog, and Downward-Facing Dog Pose. Isn’t a vinyasa any sequence performed with the breath, not a specific sequence such as I witnessed? —Carol Ann

Read Maty Ezraty’s response:

Dear Carol Ann,

You are correct in your observation. “Vinyasa” has a much broader meaning than just doing ChaturangaUp DogDown Dog. In fact, the classical definition of the word vinyasa is an important one to know and understand.

Vinyasa means a gradual progression or a step-by-step approach that systematically and appropriately takes a student from one point and safely lands them at the next point. It is sometimes described as the “breathing system,” or the union of breath and movement that make up the steps.

The word vinyasa has been popularized and is now used in many yoga classes to describe the connection of one pose to the next, as in the Sun Salutation that you described. It is now a commonly used “shorthand” in many flow classes.

Maty Ezraty has been teaching and practicing yoga since 1985, and she founded the Yoga Works schools in Santa Monica, California. Since the sale of the school in 2003, she has lived in Hawaii with her husband, Chuck Miller. Both senior Ashtanga teachers, they lead workshops, teacher trainings, and retreats worldwide. For more information, visit http://www.chuckandmaty.com.