Prana vashya yoga is a method of yoga developed by Vinay Kumar of Mysore, India. It is a set of asanas (yoga postures) linked by vinyasas (i.e. controlled movements following the breath) practiced in given sequences with main emphasis on breath control. There is a primary series and more advanced second series, and Vinay is currently finalising the third series. The primary series is not easy, yet it is suitable to practicioners of all levels since each asana offers a range of approachable modifications and the amount of vinyasas may be reduced to get accustomed to the series first. Hence beginners do not need to worry 🙂 Who wants to learn, will learn and I will be happy embark on the journey with you 🙂 Also advanced practicioners will not be bored since the series can be truly challenging if practiced to the full extent, both physically and mentally.
Prana vashya means control („vashya“) of life energy („prana“). It is ment to bring a drop of pranayama (control of prana through the practice of breathing exercises) into the asana practice. In prana vashya the slow deliberate breathing sets the rhytm for the movements that follow the breath. The breathing rhythm is maintained throughout the practice. Through breath control, prana vashya keeps the attention fixed on the asana, not allowing the mind to wander elsewhere. Utilizing breath locks („kumbhakas“) in certain movements while performing asana and vinyasa has a very powerful and dynamic effect that develops intense stamina physically, physiologically, and psychologically. This developed capacity can then be taken from the yoga mat into life. The main benefit is calmness and stability of the mind, which affects the way in which one faces life.
When a person is not able to face life challenges, s/he might have to deal with lots of emotional disturbances that will affect their mind and body making them suffer, not allowing them to experience peace. Hence the idea is to bring more confidence into the person by saying “If you can control your breath on the mat, then you can have control of your life” that’s what we mean by prana vashya, “control of your emotional responses towards life challenges.” Then you are able to see life neither in an over-excited state, nor in a complete depressed state. You will have the stability and clarity to see the world in its own true essence.
Benefits of prana vashya yoga
A healthy body and mind is the basic requirement for understanding the self. Hence the focus is to increase the awareness of their capacities, thus developing control over them. Prana vashya yoga aims to direct this consciousness towards prana or the Self, through a process of asana to the body and through pranayama to the mind.
The basic focus of prana vashya is to strengthen the nerves through the powerful influence of breath, which helps the practitioner to remain calm in any stressful situation in their daily life. So we create stress on the mat to learn to be more stress-resilient in our life 🙂
Prana vashya provides equilibrium for the upper and lower body. There is a good balance between forward and back bending, twisting, balancing; training the body equally in terms of strength, balance, flexibility, and stamina, while calming the mind and the nervous system. Prana vashya is distinguished by its unique approach to flow and balance. The flow is slow, deliberate, and deep, and the body is trained evenly along its front, back and transverse lines.
Prana vashya ensures saturated physiological response from the body because of the depth, to which the practitioner carries his body through his own efforts to attain perfection in the asana. Even though the practice seems to be hard at the beginning, it will give the practicioner enough confidence and energy as the practitioner gets used to it.
Is prana vashya similar to ashtanga yoga?
It may seem similar when you see the chart of the asana sequences, but when you actually start practising it, you will understand that they work in quite a different way. In prana vashya, the body is aligned from the outside (i.e. extremities like arms and legs) towards inside. Whereas in ashtanga, the work is opposite – from inside towards outside. The concept of moola banda (one of energy locks) used in ashtanga does not apply to prana vashya because the spine and pelvic line is approached here from the outside. Also prana vashya uses breath locks while performing certain movements, unlike ashtanga. Prana vashya also requires less strength of wrists, arms and shoulders, as there are no repetitive „jumping“ vinyasas. The flow is slow with deep breathing and deliberate movements. Both practices bring great benefits, but they approach the yoga practice from a different angle. I find their main benefits in the set sequences which are very healthy for the mind and its development. It trains us not to seek only pleasureable asanas, but also remain strong at the time of difficulties (i.e. asanas we may not like). The set sequences bring us outside of our comfort zones making us mentally stronger and more stable, regardless what is happening around 🙂
This text combines the words of Vinay Kumar and Jana Mikšíčková 🙂 For more information about Vinay, his yoga shala in Mysore, and interviews with him, please visit the links below. Vinay is a truly inspiring teacher and a very nice humble person, so if you ever get the chance, I highly recommend to meet him/ practice with him.
About Vinay and his Prana Vashya Yoga Shala
Vinay Kumar´s Prana Vashya Yoga Shala (our „home away from home“, the birth place of prana vashya yoga from where it spreads to the world 🙂 ) in Mysore, India
Vinay´s yogasana demonstrations on YouTube, 2012 (the commentator is Vinay´s younger brother Vijay Kumar, a well-known Mysorian ashtanga yoga teacher)
Here are some useful materials that can serve as helpful support for the prana vashya yoga practice:
- Opening and closing mantras (with Czech translation)
- Opening and closing mantras (with English translation)
- Prana Vashya Primary Series (asana cheatsheet by Vinay)
- Prana Vashya Second Series (asana cheatsheet by Vinay)
- Prana Vashya Second Series (asana cheatsheet by Yogi Mark, describing it in more detail)