On behalf of my field assignment, I chose to participate in a Core Vinyasa class at the Back Bay studio. Vinyasa means “breath-synchronized movement,” which instructs one to move from one pose to the next on an inhale or an exhale also known as a Vinyasa flow (Pizer, 2010). This flow is a smooth transition into the different yoga poses that will run together to become in sync with one’s breathing (Pizer, 2010). While attending the studio, I was able to analyze this practice based on what I learned during class. This paper will discuss the yoga site, the meaning behind Vinyasa yoga and how this type of yoga influences culture the demographic, the teacher’s background and style, and the aesthetics of this type of practice.
As I was researching different yoga studio sites, I found that Core Vinyasa yoga was the most intriguing and best fit for me. I thought this type of yoga would suit me best, since I am an athlete here at Lesley and wanted to participate in a more vigorous and dynamic physical class. I felt I would benefit from a class that was livelier, rather than a slow meditation or chanting class. I am extremely energetic and feel when occupied with a fast pace activity, it helps to relax me and to distract me from thinking about my problems and other stressors. I dislike sitting still and do not perform well with slow pace activities. The slow and sluggish pace just becomes more challenging to me, since it makes me think more about my problems and therefore makes me more stressed. This ultimately makes it difficult for me to control my mind and be relaxed. Once I decided to take this class, I was quite interested, and then researched online to learn more about this studio and this type of yoga.
The Back Bay studio is a vibrant and friendly place that is clean, natural, and peaceful. This studio has two spacious yoga practice rooms (which have a statue of a Guru in the front of the room and candles), a supply of yoga accessories and apparel, and locker rooms with many accommodations (Backbayyogastudio, 2011). This yoga studio’s mission is to “provide a space completely dedicated to yoga.” They offer a wide variety of classes-including Ashtanga, Forrest, Vinyasa, Resorative, Yin, and Meditation-workshops, and healing therapies including acupuncture and massage (Backbayyogastudio, 2011). This studio believes that by offering a variety of yoga styles, everyone will be able to find a class that suits them, and believes in the statement “yoga is not one size fits all” (Backbayyogastudio, 2011). This studio makes attending class sessions very easy, and include drop ins, no previous experience, or pre-registration requirements. The Back Bay studio is high priced; it is 15 dollars a session, however do offer packages and give discounts to students.
The teachers at this studio seem very dedicated, caring, and helpful to the beginners and experts who attend the classes. My teacher’s name for this course was Peter Crowley. According to the Back Bay Yoga website, I was able to discover more about my teacher’s background. Peter teaches the dynamic core-centric Forrest and Vinyasa yoga. He believes in the healing power of a strong and nurtured body and believes that physical movement leads to freedom. As a child, Peter experienced a food addiction causing him to become overweight and was diagnosed with obesity at eight years of age. He used food as a coping mechanism to deal with abusive environment at home and at school. Peter eventually started to lose weight quickly with doctor’s orders and unfortunately became addicted to cigarettes. At age 21, he was confused and unhappy and immersed himself in the culture of dance and movement at night clubs to find freedom and escape from all his problems. In 2001, he was introduced to yoga, and within two years, his life turned around for the better. He spent two years practicing Ashtanga, Power Vinyasa, and Bikram yoga. He participated in Ashtanga training and began teaching in 2003. Peter then used Forrest yoga to help himself heal from pain and to help him confront his compulsive and addictive behaviors. He then fused the power of an embodied Forrest yoga practice with the freedom of movement and release found in ecstatic and uncontrolled dance with Freedom Joy yoga. Peter also went on to study several yoga systems including Ashtanga, Baptiste Power Vinyasa, and Forrest Yoga. Peter was a very caring and experienced instructor who I enjoyed listening to. I also got a chance to talk to him after class for a short period of time about the class and how he enjoys teaching and following the different yoga practices he followed.
The setting of this yoga studio was very different than I expected. It was very warm and comforting compared to wear it is located in Boston. Everyone was very nice and warm welcoming when I walked in. When I told them I was new and never been there before, they were very excited for my first experience. I liked the studio since it felt cozy and at home when I walked in. There were couches and very nice locker rooms for us to use. The temperature in the room was very warm and comfortable. I also noticed that the colors of the walls in the room were light Tuscany colors. It felt as if they were trying to make a setting that was warm, relaxing, and comfortable. I also observed the people who attended this studio. There were both men and women who participated in the classes, and I could see the different levels of experience among the participants. The style of clothing worn was a lot different to the clothing of those who carried out the Eastern yoga practices. The men were wearing mostly sporty cut off shirts and either lose shorts or spandex shorts, and the woman were wearing tight clothes-some being very revealing.
This Core Vinyasa class that was offered at the Back Bay studio integrates the strength, stability and alignment of core work (abdominals, lower back, and shoulders) with the fluid power of Vinyasa flow. Bringing one deeper each class that will be fused with music - including world, eastern and more (Backbayyogastudio, 2011). This class is also held in a warm room to promote detoxification and suppleness. For this specific Vinyasa class I took, the underlying philosophy was to teach one to cultivate an awareness that links each action to the next on the yoga matt and in our lives. The founder of Vinyasa Yoga was named Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois. He was an Indian yoga teacher and a student of Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, who was one of a handful of true Hatha Yogis that existed at the turn of the 19th century (Roots of Vinyasa yoga? 2011). It was also said that he knew over 10,000 poses (Roots of Vinyasa yoga? 2011).
According to Yoga Journal “Consciousness in Motion,” by Shiva Rea, Vinyasa yoga includes a view called parinamavada, the idea that constant change is an inherent part of life. For that reason, to ensue skillfully with any action, we must first assess where we are starting from today, and not assume we are relatively the same person as we were in the past. This is the first step in reaching the Vinyasa philosophy, which is called the course of action. Once one followed the proper course of action, he or she can assess conditions and focus on the next phase of Vinyasa: building up one’s power, and the capacity for a given action (Rea, 2011). One of the primary teachings is to align and initiate action from our breath and our life force, in order to help open the natural flow and power of prana (the energy that sustains us all on a cellular level) (Rea, 2011). Therefore in Vinyasa yoga practice, expansive actions are initiated with the inhalation, and the contractive actions are associated with the exhalation.
This is similar to the text Hatha Yoga Pradipika, by Swami Mutibodhananda, because it talks about another type of yoga called Hatha yoga. The objective of Hatha yoga is similar to core Vinyasa yoga when it comes to the natural flow and poser of prana. The objective of Hatha yoga stated in the text: is to create an absolute balance of the interacting activities and processes of the physical body, mind and energy. When the balance is created, the impulse generated awakens the central force, which is responsible for the evolution of human consciousness. Breathing techniques are very crucial for the practice of any yoga. By becoming aware of the nature of breathe and by restraining it, the whole system becomes controlled. Mental discipline is accomplished allowing the body and mind to be one and being able to have control of the body. One is never working with the body alone, which is a huge distinction between traditional yoga and modern adaptation of yoga. The body is a vehicle by which it creates a mental and physical stability, which relates to the Core Vinyasa class. This is because we use both the body and mind and breath to accomplish the strength, stability and alignment of core work.
The next step in accomplishing the philosophy of core Vinyasa is to gain the art of completion. The art of completion is completing an action and then making the transition into the next, which is very important in determining whether one will receive the action's entire benefit (Rea, 2011). The last step is the pathway of transformation. During this step, we bring the techniques of Vinyasa to stand throughout our lives, which opens similar pathways of transformation, inner and outer-step by step and breath by breath (Rea, 2011). During these four sequences of actions, it awakens and sustains consciousness. In this way, Vinyasa connects with the meditative practice of nyasa within the Tantric Yoga traditions. In nyasa practice, it is designed to awaken our inherent divine energy, and practitioners bring awareness to different parts of the body, and then through mantra and visualization (Rea, 2011). This awakens the inner pathways for shakti (divine force) to flow through the entire field of their being (Rea, 2011).
Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga is considered to be a perspective on all yoga, rather than just one style. It was started because of the lack of focus on the core of all yoga poses on all levels: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and energetic (Sadie Nardini, 2011). Sardi Nardini core strength Vinyasa yoga’s principles and poses simplify how to access, comprehend, and use the core most efficiently to gain the maximum yoga benefits (calorie burn, strength, flexibility, focus, self-awareness, and confidence) in the least amount of time. By looking at this type of yoga, I was able to analyze how this practice influenced culture in America. It is very different from Eastern Yoga practices, but did share some similarities when it came to breathing, energy, and using the body and mind as one. By going to this class, I could see that westernized yoga practice in America is a lot different from eastern yoga practices. This class followed more of an Americanized yoga practice rather than an Eastern yoga practice because, it seemed as if the class was more of a work out and strength class.
The culture of Americanized yoga looked more at athleticism and being physically sustained compared to the Eastern everyday lifestyle of being more spiritual in body and mind. It appears to me as though people mostly look at and practice yoga in America to keep in shape and to become/stay “beautiful.” Our world now, is so caught up on appearance and being beautiful. Physical appearance in our society is a very big part of fitting in or being liked. Everyone wants to have the perfect body and to be attractive. The way people dressed for this yoga class also characterized American culture, because most of the clothes were very tight and revealing.
The Vinyasa yoga class is similar to Eastern yoga practice in the way we focused on breathing techniques when transitioning into different poses. The positions were very challenging and by using certain breathing techniques to accomplish the Vinyasa flow transition into each pose made it much easier to do. I also thought the warm room temperature helped get rid of toxins and wastes that needed to be released in turn purify the body and help clear the mind. By doing this, it would allow the mind, body and breathe to work as one and accomplish the pathway of transformation.
In conclusion, I thought this field assignment was a great learning and enjoyable experience to be a part of. By taking this class, I was able to look deeper into a different practice of Yoga called Core Vinyasa. I was able to take what I observed, my personal experiences, and research on the philosophy of Vinyasa yoga to another level of understanding. I was able to get a better understanding of westernized yoga and culture and was able to compare and contrast it to Eastern yoga practice. From taking this class, I was able to find a specific yoga class that fit me best and in which I wish to continue. I also was able to bond with some of the students and teacher in the class. I truly enjoyed the entire experience with them. I will continue to study and perform this type of yoga to help with my inner problems and stressors, in order to achieve the process of healing and to change myself for the better.
Back Bay Yoga Studio (2011). In Back Bay Yoga Studio. Retrieved February 16, 2011, from http://www.backbayyoga.com/
Muktibodhananda,S. (1993). Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Bihar, India: Bihar School of Yoga.
Nardini, S. (2011). What is core strength Vinyasa yoga?. In Sadi Nardini. Retrieved February 16, 2011, from http://www.sadienardini.com/core-strength-vinyasa-yoga.html
Pizer, A. (2010, May 14). Vinyasa Yoga-Flow Yoga. In About.com Yoga. Retrieved February 16, 2011, from http://yoga.about.com/od/typesofyoga/a/vinyasa.htm
Rea, S. (2011). Consciousness in Motion. In Yoga Journal. Retrieved February 16, 2011, from http://www.yogajournal.com/wisdom/909
Roots of Vinyasa yoga? (2011). In Learning tools yoga cards. Retrieved February 16, 2011, from http://www.yogacards.com/vinyasa_yoga/history-of-vinyasa-yoga.html