July 9, 2013

Yoga & Pilates Have the Same Blood Running Through Their Veins. ~ Chantill Lopez

Is there a kinship between yoga and Pilates?

I’ve practiced yoga for the past 15 years. I’ve also been teaching Pilates for the same amount of time.

For all of those years, I’ve believed that Pilates and yoga shared more than most people were willing to admit.

When I was introduced to the idea of Vinyasa Krama and how it could be applied to our daily lives, I knew right away that it was a common thread that tied Pilates and yoga closely together. Vinayasa Krama not only reflects the similarity in how each method is composed, but in the opportunity; each offers to take what we learn through physical practice and implement it into our everyday actions.

Lori Gasper writes this about Vinyasa Krama:

“The word, vinyasa, can be broken down into its Sanskrit roots to assist us in finding its meaning. Nyasa means, ‘to place’ and vi means, ‘in a special way.’ One common interpretation of vinyasa then, is a breath-synchronized movement; breath and movement are seamlessly united in such a way that each action encourages the other. For each movement, there is a corresponding breath. Krama is the ‘steps’ one takes ‘to place in a special way.’ It is the intelligent sequencing of a personal yoga practice designed with a specific intention or goal.”

Vinyasa Krama was further explained to me by yoga teacher Cori Martinez, owner of Asha Yoga and creator of the “Asha Yoga Advanced Studies and Teacher Training program” in Sacramento, California, as a moment to moment opportunity to be guided by a path that we have identified and made a commitment to.

For instance, if we are dedicated to being vegetarian, then each time we make a food choice we are guided by that commitment. We choose non-meat products to eat even when it’s inconvenient, challenging or frustrating. The reason we can do this is because our commitment is founded on something bigger than just calling ourselves vegetarian because it’s what we are supposed to do or because it’s trendy.

Sometimes, we aren’t guided by such commitments. If our intention is not clear or our commitment haphazard and half-assed, then perhaps we do eat meat when being vegetarian is inconvenient, challenging or frustrating. This, in and of itself, seems like reason to pause and reflect on our intention and notice that we are not living Vinyasa Krama. We are, in fact, living an inauthentic life.

We don’t simply decide to grab a burger because we are out with meat-eating friends and it’s easy. More to the point, we don’t proclaim to be vegetarians one day and not the next. It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t line up. There is no flow or connection to our greater intention.

When not following Vinyasa Krama, there exists wasted energy, potential apathy, stuck-ness and a feeling of discomfort and disconnection to purpose. We can see this both in our physical practice and in our lives!

This same purposefulness can be applied to how we practice and if we are teachers, to how we teach.

There can be a lot of pressure, both from the outside and from ourselves, to be somewhere “out there” where we are better than we are now and it is often a confusing place with lots of options and lots of people’s opinions.

For this and other conundrums we face in teaching and practicing, Vinyasa Krama can be a foundational skill, one that helps us to move toward not just a goal, but a deeply routed purpose.

Let’s look at the more physical definition of Vinyasa Krama and you will perhaps see more specifically what I mean.

The most basic understanding of Vinyasa Krama refers to sequencing of yoga asanas, the way in which each is placed and connected through breath. Qualities of Vinyasa Krama in this regard include (taken from sultanyoga.com):

  • Emphasis on stability and comfort in any asana
  • Slow, soft and smooth ujjayi breathing
  • Breath-movement synchronization
  • Hundreds of asanas tweaked to practitioner’s individual needs
  • Arrangement of asanas in specific sequences (vinyasas)
  • Preparatory asanas before major asanas (e.g. desk pose before shoulderstand, shoulderstand before headstand)
  • Counterposes to remove asana side effects while keeping their value
  • Pranayama (breath control) exercises following asana practice to prepare the mind for meditation
  • Smooth progression in asana and pranayama difficulty level

Therefore, there are questions we can ask to move us toward achieving skillfulness in our practice, in teaching or in our lives:

Does this action/what I’m about to say/this thought or thought pattern:

  • emphasize or support greater stability and comfort toward my core commitment, vision or mission?
  • enable me to stay connected to my center,my breath and my greater intention?
  • synchronize with a sense of ease, flow, peacefulness or lack of resistance?
  • reflect my individual needs, present-moment reality, current situation authentically?
  • feel like a natural progression in my path?
  • make sense now?
  • keep me in balance?
  • allow for the natural ebb and flow of effort and ease with this action, words or thought?

These questions are about allowing ourselves to have moments of intensity followed by moments of ease or rest so that we may not only honor our natural flow, but also give ourselves opportunities to replenish and restore. The duration of these periods is very individual.

What I love about Vinyasa Krama, is that from the physical perspective of progression and breath integration, it looks exactly like Pilates. In this way, it becomes very obvious that at least Hatha Yoga and Pilates have the same blood flowing through their veins.

Look and see where you can find this flow the next time you practice yoga, Pilates or life.

Chantill Lopez is a writer and master Pilates teacher. She currently does make a living as a teacher and loves it! To learn more about Chantill, visit her blog and check out her new book.

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{Photo by: Electron}

Assistant Ed: Stephanie Richard/Ed: Brianna Bemel



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