What is Viniyoga?
Part Two: Function Over Form – Adaption in Asana
“We are teaching people, not postures.”
— Gary Kraftsow
It is hard not to admire the beauty and flexibility of the models who grace the covers of yoga publications. Who would not want to look so graceful while practicing āsana?
Actually, āsana (the physical postures) is a relatively small part of Yoga, a discipline that has been passed down from teacher to student for centuries to help us make sense of our lives and ourselves. So rather than striving to look like a model in a magazine, the posture should serve you in your personal quest for a peaceful, happy life.
In Viniyoga, we adapt the posture to the needs of the individual. For example, a forward bend like Uttānāsana is traditionally practiced with the arms sweeping straight up, fingers toward the ceiling, and then lowering down toward the toes. In Viniyoga, depending upon the intention of the posture, we can use various placements for the hands in this posture: 1. hands on the buttocks, sliding down and then up the backs of the legs; 2. arms sweeping up wide and down; or 3. arms sweeping straight up and over as in the classic pose. All arm positions allow you to access the benefits of the posture, while giving you the freedom to honor your own personal needs, depending upon your intention for your practice, your needs for that day, and how you are feeling.
Adapting the posture avoids risk, allows for exploration of the body, and keeps things fresh in a practice.
Remember that your yoga practice is all about you, not magazine cover perfection.
Next week, we will talk about the magical element of your practice: the breath.