What is a Vinyasa ?
What is a Vinyasa ?
Most people associate a vinyasa with a slick move that people do to transition from one asana to the next; and one popularized by the ashtanga vinyasa system. Some of these moves are actually quite difficult, especially as we get older. The Vinyasa system was designed for children in their teens by T. Krishnamacharya and it was systematized by Pattabhi Jois and Srivatsa Ramaswami separately in their own ways. Srivatsa Ramaswami taught the system to Bharatanatyam dancers of Kalakshetra. The vinyasas developed by them added aesthetics to the sequence of asanas and gave it a flow-like continuity.
The meaning of the word Vinyasa.
The word 'Nyasa' means a step. The prefix "vi" in Sanskrit is used to emphasize distinction, just like the word Vishishta-advaita is used to represent qualified non-dualism. Therefore Vinyasa is not just an ordinary step but a special, distinctive step.
What is this special step ?
The Vinyasa refers to the steps of Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi in the Yoga Sutras. Patanjali says "Tasya Bhumishu Viniyogah" i.e. Meditation has to be deployed in steps. These three steps, which together Patanjali calls "Samyama", are Dharana (focus, the 1st step), Dhyana (continued and easy focus, the second step) and Samadhi (meditative absorption, the final step).
Patanjali says that one cannot directly jump to Samadhi but has to go through focus on an object which then becomes an effortless focus on the same object, and finally causes one to melt into the object of focus, thus losing distinction between the self and the object. This last state, where there is meditative absorption with the object of focus is what gives a lot of superpowers that are outlined by Patanjali in the chapter on the Vibhutis. Depending on the object of focus, the vibhutis (super powers) obtained are different. More details on these superpowers can be found on the recordings and slides on the Siddhis.