When I first started on my teaching journey, I found myself teaching the same style Vinyasa routines over and over again that you’d see in most London studios. Students seemed to be going through the motions, usually jumping to the pose ahead (often not very present). I craved fresh inspiration as both a teacher and student, and was curious to explore other introspective, creative styles of yoga to reignite my passion for how I taught my flows.
My favourite yoga teacher and good friend suggested that I’d enjoy Mandala Vinyasa and that I should head over to her sessions to try this style of yoga one day. She told me the routines were fluid, intentional and fun (all the things I love in a yang style practice). I didn’t know what to expect, except she did mention that we would definitely be flowing 360 degrees around the mat. (And I could barely differentiate my left from rights at the time!)
“Mandala” is Sanskrit for completion or circle, hence the 360 degree flow. The intention behind the Mandala Vinyasa practice is to integrate the spiral shapes that nature uses to create all the material & energetic substances in our bodies, and to honour the elements.
Once I tried Mandala Vinyasa, it all made complete sense to me. After my first practice (an Earth Flow) I felt firmly rooted and so still, despite all the movement. Class was extremely intentional and I really appreciated how mindfully and meditatively we flowed between transitions as we moved 360 degrees around our mats.
After some time of practicing Mandala, I was so passionate about how it transformed my own practice that I wanted to learn how to teach it. So I went onto train in Mandala Vinyasa and the chakras in Mexico. The course was based on shamanic traditions, and the flows encouraged healing of the ego identity.
The structure of a Mandala sequence is quite methodical and layered despite its free flowing nature. It usually starts off with sun salutations centred around a chakra (energy centre), or muscle group, and then moves onto standing poses, seated postures and then a closing sequence. Every element (earth, water, fire, and air) corresponds to a group of muscles, and every element is also connected to a chakra. In nature, each element nurtures or affects the other element, e.g. air fuels fire, and too much air in the body can manifest itself as anger or aggression. It’s important to keep all chakras balanced to maintain harmony. Mandala flows help rotate these chakras and get energy flowing through the body.
Our first chakra, Muladhara chakra, or our root chakra, is located at the perineum, halfway between the anus and the genitals, and relates to the element Earth. It is connected to our ancestral history, and is to do with our basic survival, trust, and self protection. A practice centred around Muladhara will work to ground us, so it can be perfect for people who suffer with stress and anxiety. Imbalances with Muladhara may manifest as physical problems in the legs, the colon, the bladder, lower back or feet.
To activate Muladhara, we practice grounding postures such as Warrior One, which activates the back body chain (our soles of the feet, hamstrings, back, neck, and more subtly the crown of the head). The practice may be centred around forward folds which can help pacify the nervous system, or perhaps balances and standing postures which help connect our roots (our feet) to the Earth.
By practicing an Earth Mandala Flow, we can activate our Muladhara chakra and feel more grounded, both on and off the mat.
Want to learn more and experience Mandala for yourself? Follow @elena_georgiou_yoga on Instagram.