The Art of Vinyasa
- Richard Freeman, Mary Taylor
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The radiant seed-point of the inhaling pattern is in the heart. Its extended pattern all through the body is experienced as a feeling of upward expanding and floating. The seed-point of the exhaling pattern is the center of the pelvic floor, and that pattern gives the feeling of downward contracting and grounding throughout the body. When you inhale, you pull your attention like a thread up through the seed of the exhalation at the middle of the pelvic floor. When you exhale, you release the upper back of the palate to keep the heart open. Every time you inhale, you concentrate on the residue of the exhalation and with each exhalation your mind rests in the feelings and sensations of the inhalation.
It’s best to do them until a feeling of stability arises, and the breath seems to pervade your whole body. Sūrya Namaskāra is the great elixir among yoga practices; beginners and those who feel weak or emotionally distraught should do many repetitions!
Aṣṭāṅga Vinyāsa yoga is just this: simple ujjāyī breathing with a little movement tossed in.
When we inhale, we pull the attention of the mind like a thread up through the seed of the exhalation at the middle of the pelvic floor. When we exhale, we release the upper back of the palate to keep the heart open.
As with any art form, yoga nurtures seeds of aesthetic satisfaction that stimulate flashes of understanding and compassion.
Vinyāsa, then, means the focused, intentional sequence of form, thought movement, and breath that frees the mind by recontextualizing the body, sensations, form, and all objects of attention.
For example, if you are meditating with attention on feeling the relaxed upper portions of the sinuses, it can be a very exciting and luminous experience. But soon, some parts of your body are likely to become tense, and your thoughts will scatter; these changes in composition seep in quietly and unseen, gradually coming into full bloom. The vinyāsa process is to allow the arising of oppositional forces, contexts, and perspectives, and at just the right moment—before a story line or movement pattern is allowed to fully manifest and wander off—to consciously introduce the balancing counterstep to harmonize the field. In this way, the current focus and action merge with and digest the residue of the previous step.
In Aṣṭāṅga Vinyāsa yoga, four underlying threads are always at play, harmonizing relationships through vinyāsa to bring balance, depth, and integrity. These threads, or “internal forms,” are breath, bandha (bonding), mudrā (sealing), and dṛṣṭi (gazing) (discussed in Chapter 1).
A basic axiom of yoga is that Prāṇa and citta (the mind) move together like two fish swimming in tandem. Move one, and the other automatically follows.
Physiologically, we feel dṛṣṭi as a softening tension in and behind the eyeballs while we release the palate. Releasing the palate invites the dṛṣṭi to become integrated into the entire structure of the body, because the root of the palate is the kingpin of all the Prāṇa movements—that is, all the sensations throughout the body. Releasing the palate is a true art in that it corresponds to the letting go of technique. To begin to release, you can subtly smile, listen closely as if to a distant sound, or imagine that you feel the palate and nasal septum as pleasantly luminous. Releasing the palate is also simply suspending the language-making function and the unencumbered flooding of the sense fields with Prāṇa. During breathing practices or āsana practices, while practicing dṛṣṭi, or in everyday life situations, if you get confused, feel tension or anger, become lost in thought, or doubt yourself, simply release your palate. See what happens.