Yoga: A Play In Three Acts

Most people associate the term vinyasa with the yoga practice of moving with breath and each pose “flowing” into the next. Flow took on a much deeper meaning when I heard it described last year at the Om Yoga training to teach Women Cancer Survivors by Tari Prinster** who learned it from her teacher, Cyndi Lee, owner of the recently closed Om Yoga in NYC.

According to them, vinyasa has three parts: the arising— the beginning, the natural urge to inhale and draw in what sustains us; then there’s the abiding— the pause, the place where the asana (pose) resides and exists. Finally there’s the dissolving— the exhale, the release, the letting go.

Flow is our natural state. We describe being “in the flow” when we feel most connected to ourselves, particularly in a creative way. For example, writers love to talk about flow. The words flow. Ideas flow.

And then there’s “going with the flow”— being open to all that life has to offer, to the current of life as it passes through us, the wave that carries us upward and onward and then deposits us back to shore. Just like with the breath, life circumstances arise, hold us, and then let us go.

Stories are vinyasas as well. They have a beginning— an introduction of characters, the set-up of what’s to come— followed by the peak— where the meat of the story exists— and then there’s always an ending, always a last page. Whether the story follows a linear structure or not, there’s no way to get around it. There must be a beginning, middle and end. Just like in a blog post, there’s an introduction, the discussion and then the conclusion.

So is life. We can think of our breath as a microcosm of the macrocosm. Our entire life as one breath, one vinyasa. Thousands of millennia as one part of a vinyasa. The Big Bang as either arising or dissolving. Possibly the dissolving in order to arise. The end is actually the beginning; it occurs naturally and only to allow the breath to rise up once again.

And just like in fiction, we can play around. We can start at the end and finish with a beginning, but the story itself can’t go anywhere else— it exists because the beginning and end frame it and hold it up. You get to the last page but can always go right back to the first sentence and find the same story.

This flow is how the breath creates and recreates the asana. The pose is alive because we are in it and alive and breathing it into being. The pause— the abiding— is the sacred silence between the waves. It’s the being. It’s where the story exists; it’s the meat, the heart of the tale. There’s no book without it. It’s where life is lived.

Yogis talk of the silence beneath the endless chatter of thoughts. Yet even when we are still things move. Flow is inescapable. In a static pose, there is not just breath movement but change on a cellular level. Change is the only constant. It’s the exquisite paradox of life. We can’t catch time and yet we live our lives in a great big pause, in the gap of silence between the great inhale and exhale.


** To support a cancer survivor’s ability to attend a fall retreat, donate at: The Retreat Project

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