Thursday, April 17, 2014

Why I Love Viniyoga

I admit it. I’m a Viniyoga snob. I won’t practice any other style of yoga, and I certainly won’t teach any other style. But I didn’t start out that way. Like most people, when I took my first yoga class I didn’t even know different types of yoga existed. I thought all yoga was the same, and honestly, I thought all yoga was a little weird.

My first yoga class changed all that, even though it wasn’t Viniyoga; it was Iyengar-influenced Hatha yoga. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry. Neither do most of the people down-dogging next to you. Suffice it to say that Hatha is an umbrella term for the physical practice of yoga, and Iyengar is a specific style, focused on holding poses with exact alignment.

I liked my first yoga class. A lot. In fact, I liked it so much that I was afraid if my yoga teacher knew how much it was hurting me, she might not let me attend anymore. She knew of my injuries, but even though she was a well known and very experienced yoga teacher (she even co-authored a yoga book!) she didn’t know how to adapt yoga for my body. But that didn’t matter to me. All that mattered was the incredible peace of mind I received from practicing.

Then that teacher went on a month’s vacation.

Determined to keep up my practice, I went to a number of studios in the Seattle area and tried a variety of styles. Luckily for me, one of those styles was Viniyoga. I didn’t know why at the time, but for the first time, I left a yoga class feeling not only mentally, but also physically, better. Over time, I continued to experiment, but I kept coming back to Viniyoga. And then one day I knew: I was destined to teach this wonderful lineage.

Flash-forward 13 years, and I can now explain what makes this style so unique. My teacher calls it The Four Key Differentiators of Viniyoga:
  • Linkage of Breath and Movement: Viniyoga links movement with the breath, which makes each movement more powerful, mindful, and structurally integrated than non-breath-centered movement.
  • Use of Movement and Stay: Viniyoga students move in and out of poses before staying in them. Movement systematically prepares the body to hold a pose by warming the muscle groups that will be taxed in that pose. Movement also helps reprogram habitual movement patterns, so students move more functionally, even in non-yoga activities.
  • Adaptation: Viniyoga adapts poses to the practitioner, rather than assuming there is one “right” way to do a pose. The goal is to achieve the function of a pose, instead of its form.
  • Sequencing: Viniyoga teachers carefully design classes so that each pose prepares for or erases strain from the poses before and after it.
But I’ve found something even more powerful in Viniyoga—community. Viniyoga emphasizes the teacher-student relationship. With no “one size fits all” approach, a Viniyoga teacher must be present with her students, get to know her students, even care about her students to be effective. I came to love practicing Viniyoga for what it did for my mind and my body. I came to love teaching Viniyoga because it made me a more observant, caring part of my larger community.

More than anything else, that’s why I love Viniyoga.



Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber's author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Whole Life Yoga, and wherever books are sold.


Linda O. Johnston said...

Yoga sounds enjoyable but potentially complicated, Tracy. How many different styles are there?

Tracy Weber said...

There are more styles than I can talk about here. But, honestly--all that matters is finding one you can connect with. I think the West has made it more complicated than it needs to be. The most important thing is to practice!