The Opposite of Vinyasa by Witold Fitz-Simon

October 10, 2012

If vinyasa is the orderly placing of one pose after another in a specific sequence, what could the opposite of vinyasa be? In his article on Vinyasa Yoga in volume 8 of Ashtadala Yogamala, B. K. S. Iyengar coins the term “vishamanyasa” as “placing in an odd or irregular manner,” as a way of challenging the student. The flow from one pose to the next is maintained, but poses from different categories, even ones that might seem opposite, are intermixed. In the article, Iyengar tells of how his guru, the great Krishnamacharya, would ask him to do Salamba Shirshasana (Head Stand) and then quickly come out of it and transition to Natarajasana (King Dancer Pose).

 

One classic example of vishamanyasa that may be familiar to you, especially if you have taken any of Alison”s ropes classes or workshops is what is commonly called “Ropes 1″ in Iyengar Yoga. In this flowing sequence you hold on to two high ropes with your feet on the wall and swing from what could be thought of as an intense variation of Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog) or Shalabhasana (Locust Pose) to a hanging variation of Urdhva Mukha Pashchimottanasana (Upward Facing Intense West Stretch Pose). For those of you unfamiliar with these poses, you are going from a deep, unsupported, chest-opening backbend to a forward bend that intensely stretches out the back of the body from the heels to the upper back. Even though the differences between the two poses are extreme, the arrangement of the limbs and set-up of the props allow for an intelligent and seamless flow between the two.

 

In my last post, we explored Iyengar”s three classifications of vinyasa: viloma, anuloma and pratiloma. In viloma vishamanyasa, poses from one category are linked together with a single pose of a different, or even opposite, category. For example:

 

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Ushtrasana (Camel Pose)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana (Two Leg Inverted Staff Pose)

 

In pratiloma vishamanyasa, the progression is from simple to complex, from easy to challenging, or from external to internal, with an intension to enliven and energize the system. This could be done in a viloma style, with a single pose of the different category linking the progressing poses. One could even intertwine progressively challenging poses from both categories. An example of the simpler progression might look like this, where a simple baby back bend is interspersed with a series of progressively more challenging arm balances:

 

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose)

Bakasana (Crow Pose)

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose)

Parshva Bakasana (Side Crow Pose)

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose)

Koundinyasana (Koundinya”s Pose)

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose)

Eka Pada Koundinyasana 1 (Single Leg Koundinya”s Pose 1)

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose)

Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2 (Single Leg Koundinya”s Pose 2)

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose)

 

We could take the same progression of arm balances Kate Mehr joined Citizen geico defensive driving course in 2005. and intersperse them with a more challenging progression of baby back bends:

 

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose)

Bakasana (Crow Pose)

Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose)

Parshva Bakasana (Side Crow Pose)

Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)

Koundinyasana (Koundinya”s Pose)

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)

Eka Pada Koundinyasana 1 (Single Leg Koundinya”s Pose 1)

Parshva Dhanurasana (Side Bow Pose)

Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2 (Single Leg Koundinya”s Pose 2)

 

In anuloma vishamanyasa, the progression is from complex to simple, with the intention of coming and settling the system. Here we have a restorative, supported sequence that intersperses Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose), a supported back bend) with forward restorative poses:

 

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose) over a bolster

Child”s Pose over a bolster

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose) over a bolster

Parshva Bharadwajasana (Side Bharadwaja”s Pose) over a bolster

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose) over a bolster

Adho Mukha Shavasana (Downward Facing Corpse Pose) over a bolster

 

So why practice this way? Yes, there is the challenge of it. To be done safely, the more active and complex variations of this mode of sequencing require careful preparation and keen attention to detail. But this is the way that Krishnamacharya taught the young children in his care to keep them interested and to use up their endless amounts of energy. What about those of us who are older and more mature, who have perhaps had an injury or two and have a more cautious attitude to their bodies? This will be the subject of my next post, and also the subject of my next workshop at Yoga Union on Saturday, October 13th. Come join me at the workshop to discover some absolute principles that can apply to every category of pose and make every transition make sense in the face of a balanced and open union of body and mind.

 

 Visit Witold’s Site Here: yogaartandscience.com

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