One of the key hallmarks of Viniyoga is its unique combination of movement, flow and stay. Some yoga lineages, such as Iyengar and Yin, focus primarily on staying in poses. Others, such as Ashtanga and Vinyasa, primarily flow from pose to pose. Viniyoga, on the other hand, uses stays in poses and flows between them. And we do something even more powerful: we move in and out of most poses before staying in them.
Each of the three—movement, stay, and flow—has a unique cost/benefit tradeoff:
- Re-patterns dysfunctional movement patterns
- Warms the entire body (especially when large muscle groups are contracted)
- Warms and brings circulation to the specific muscle groups being contracted
- Builds energy (especially faster movement)
- Prepares the body to stay in a posture
- Compensates for and erases residual stress
- Provides deeper internal organ work
- Calms energy (especially in forward bends and twists)
- Stretches muscles (Exercise physiology fact: a stretch needs to be held a minimum of twenty seconds to be effective.)
- Strengthens muscles
- Focuses attention internally
- Allows for deepening micro-movements with the breath
- Significantly builds energy
- Builds heat
- Does not compensate for residual stresses as well as repetition
- Compromises form, which generally becomes sloppier
What does all of this mean for your teaching and your practice?
Understand the tool you’re using and why you’re using it. If your goal is to prepare your mind for meditation, a strong flow class won’t work as well as a class that includes the interior focusing of stays. If you’re a beginner, start by learning appropriate form in individual postures before trying to link multiple postures together in flows. If you’re working to re-pattern negative movement patterns, use repetition in and out of a pose more than stay.
And remember: Each tool has its unique purpose and gifts. Over time try to explore all of them. One of the many beauties of the Viniyoga approach is that it skillfully combines all three.