Vinyasa & flow; two of the most commonly used words to describe yoga practise. Usually the words are interchanged to describe one another. Yoga studios everywhere name their class offerings vinyasa flow yoga or some derivative of it. 

But, what is vinyasa and what does it have to do with flow

The word vinyasa comes from Sanskrit (the ancient language used to express yogic wisdom) and can be translated as "to put mindfully into place." And interestingly, one of the Sanskrit words for "flow" is sravati, which is rarely used to describe yoga classes.

So where does this connection between vinyasa and flow come from? 

"Vinyasa yoga teaches us to cultivate an awareness that links each action to the next..."

One of the greatest Indian yoga teachers of the recent past, Sri Krishnamacharya

"saw vinyasa as a method that could be applied to all the aspects of yoga. In his teachings, the vinyasa method included assessing the needs of the individual student (or group) and then building a complementary, step-by-step practice to meet those needs. Beyond this, he also emphasized vinyasa as an artful approach to living, a way of applying the skill and awareness of yoga to all the rhythms and sequences of life, including self-care, relationships, work, and personal evolution."

On the other hand, modern findings in positive psychology describe a state of function called flow;

"also known colloquially as being in the zone, it is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity." You can find flow in any activity, from surfing to gardening to meditation, and more! It is no surprise that modern science is realizing what ancient yogis have known for ages; that to do something full with awareness and intention yields the best results. 

Vinyasa and flow are about much more than going from one pose to the other. The magic happens when you are able to bring your entire focus and attention to the present moment, while maintaining a mindful understanding of your intentions for the actions taking place. Knowing this, yoga teachers should engage their full awareness when planning their classes and also be able to respond mindfully to the students needs' at the moment - this could mean changing things up completely if it is clear that most students in the class are in need of a different approach. 

In this sense any class, in fact, any action or series of actions can be both vinyasa and flow, as long as you are able to stay present with the moment and focused on your intentions for the action(s) taking place. 

A simple practise of vinyasa flow:

-pick an activity you enjoy (it can be anything; from drawing, listening to music or being in silence)

-set a timer for 3 minutes

-set an intention to remain focused on the selected activity until the timer goes off - be clear with yourself about what the intention is, perhaps even write it out

-begin the activity: for the next 3 minutes, every time you catch your mind drifting remember your intention

-observe the experiences of your senses: how the activity feels, looks, sounds

-allow yourself to enjoy every aspect and every moment of the activity

When the timer goes off you can choose to continue the exercise, in fact you'll probably be in the zone and will naturally remain there. If it was challenging, try again tomorrow. You are training yourself in vinyasa flow - and very much like water, the mind can wander in many directions with varying force, until it is channeled in the right direction. Sometimes that channel takes time to build - a worthwhile effort.


Resources:

Rea, Shiva. (2012) "Consciousness in Motion: Vinyasa" Retrieved from: www.yogajournal.com on 2/September 2019.

Flow (psychology) Retrieved from wikipedia.com on 2/September/2019