Prana Flow Yoga or Prana Vinyasa Yoga is a distinct yoga practice created by Shiva Rea in 2005. As a form of Vinyasa yoga, it’s based on an almost non-stop movement and sequences (dynamic set of poses) that spontaneously flow into each other, usually accompanied by music and dance. We can say that it resembles a traditional Vinyasa Yoga practice, which at times spontaneously transforms into a dance, but keeping at all times grounded on the yoga mat.
However, Prana Flow Yoga focuses more on the physical aspects of yoga, meaning it’s a challenging exercise enriched with breathing techniques and relaxing music.
Prana Flow Yoga is a syncretic contemporary yoga practice, which means that it’s a combination of many traditional and modern forms of yoga schools, spiritual practices, and exercises.
To be more specific, we can say that Prana Flow draws inspiration from Ayurveda, a form of alternative medicine that has its roots in India; Tantra, the esoteric (secret, mystic) traditions of Hinduism; and Bhakti, a hindy form of devotion, somatics, dancing, and music. Also, the personal stories and experiences of its founder, the famous Shiva Rea, had a share in forming this distinct form of contemporary yoga.
The Ideas Behind Prana Flow Yoga
We can better understand the main idea behind Prana Flow by breaking down the name. First, “Prana,” second, “Vinyasa” (or “Flow”), and finally, “Yoga.”
The first word, “Prana,” comes from ancient Sanskrit and has an ambiguous meaning, which can be interpreted in three ways: breath, life force, and vital principle. All three meanings are interconnected.
The students of Prana Flow Yoga are stimulated and encouraged to experience prana, the life energy or force (universal source of breath, life, and consciousness), as a way towards a better, fuller, and more meaningful life. They are taught how to breathe and, by doing that, to come to a better understanding of themselves from the inside out (listening to the body).
But what is life, what is breathing, if not constant change and continuous movement? That’s the meaning of the second word: flow. Prana Flow Yoga is today also known as Prana Vinyasa Yoga, and for a good reason. The central tenets of its ideas are based on the traditional practice called Vinyasa.
Unlike Bikram Yoga, where the same 26 postures are repeated in every class, or Ashtanga Yoga, where the same sequence is practiced repeatedly, Vinyasa classes are variable and ever-changing, just like the Prana itself.
As a philosophy and as an idea, it’s said that Vinyasa recognizes the temporary and transitional nature of everything in our lives. That’s why it enters an asana (pose) for some time, and then it moves to something else, thus following the natural rhythms of Prana: asanas transforming into a slow dance and vice versa. It’s dynamic and dancelike, favoring movement over stability and spontaneity over strict routines.
The origin of the world can help us here, too. Vinyasa comes from “Vi,” which means “variation,” and “Nyasa,” which means “to place” or “within prescribed parameters.” The basic idea of the word can be interpreted as making order out of chaos, to follow the ever-changing nature of life itself, but to structure it so as to become meaningful. Here, breathing is the key because every alignment in the asanas should come with the help of breathing, or “to move with breath,” so to speak.
Yoga, derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Yuj,’ means to join or unite, symbolizing the fusion of body and consciousness. As an ancient practice that evolved and transformed through time, it encompasses many different teachings and practices. However, the general idea is integrating physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation to achieve harmony between the mind and body. Through this unity, practitioners experience a rejuvenating energy flow, promoting holistic well-being and inner peace.
In summary, the ideas behind Prana Flow Yoga are:
- Prana: Becoming aware of your breathing and how it gives you energy.
- Vinyasa: Continuously moving through the breathing.
- Yoga: Uniting the mind and body into an energizing flow.
What are the Benefits of Prana Flow Yoga
Prana Flow Yoga is more than an exercise; some believe it to be a way of life. Experiencing the prana, parallel with the breathing exercises and the river-like movements of the Vinyasa system, allows practitioners to feel calm and relaxed while physically challenging their bodies.
The most significant benefit of Prana Flow Yoga may come precisely from combining ancient philosophical and spiritual practices with modern forms of dance and music. At least on paper, the combination comes off as a delicate balance between the past and present, ancient and contemporary ways of life. Many practitioners say they experience the general benefits associated with yoga while feeling free and fresh.
Is Prana Flow Yoga for Everybody?
It all depends on the preferences of the person. For some, Prana Flow Yoga may be both too spiritual and philosophical. At the same time, for some who expect a more gentle and slow-paced practice, it might be too physically demanding and challenging. For others, the spiritual part may be a deciding factor. The prana-related philosophy, which is finely interrelated with Vinyasa yoga, dancing, and music, may be just what they need. Therefore, people who love a spiritual practice but also love to challenge themselves would probably enjoy Prana Flow Yoga.
Nevertheless, you should keep in mind that the practice may be too challenging for people who are just starting out. Some say that Prana Flow Yoga is a very demanding activity, too intense both from the physical and the spiritual aspect. The philosophical aspects related to prana may be difficult to grasp for those who aren’t interested in the spiritual aspects of yoga, and the Vinyasa-dance combination can have a negative effect on a person not prepared to handle the intensity.
The music, in the end, is not for everybody. Some people prefer to do their yoga in silence, while others click with the idea of background music.
Prana Flow Yoga is an exciting combination of ancient wisdom and contemporary forms of physical yoga, dance, and music. Its philosophy is interesting and can help people get to know themselves and their bodies better. It may come as too much for some people, but for others, it could be just what they need.