Vi = in a special way
Nyasa = to place
Vinyasa = to place the body in a special way through movements, through breath, and through linkage of movement to breath
Generally speaking, the term Vinyasa has become synonymous to yoga classes that are built around the sun salutations and include poses with shorter holds that create dynamic, fluid sequences. The original meaning of the world vinyasa however, suggests that we place our body in a specific way for a specific breath.
For example, if we were to analyze the sun salutation, the inhales all lend towards upward motions (pranic) where we open our chests (urdhva hastasana, ardha uttanasana, urdhva mukha svanasana) while the exhales lend towards downward motions (apanic) where we close in (uttanasana, caturanga dandasana, adho mukha svanasana). Even in this short sequence, we can already see that the sun salutation is designed specifically such that our movements seem to coordinate with our in or out breaths. Vinyasa is what makes yoga looks like a dance, fully coordinated to the orchestration of our breaths.
Technically speaking, yes, vinyasa is that, but let’s look at how vinyasa can be applied to our daily lives.
Our breath is like the continuous thread of an infinite loop—always present, always there. The beads we weave onto the thread thus are the asanas, and even the thoughts, words, and actions of our lives. Without the thread, the beads have no structure, they are loosely disconnected from one another, and perhaps rolling this way and that. By choosing a specific bead at each point to weave into the thread, we are creating a beautiful mala that reflects our practice on the mat and in life. A life created out of precision, consciousness, and structure.
So vinyasa is not just applicable on the mat, but everywhere in everything that we do, because the breath and movements are always there. And note that by movements, I also refer to our thoughts and words, for a thought is generated by the actions of our neurons, and a word is created by a combination of a thought that is transmitted to the muscles responsible for voice and speech. Therefore, to really practice yoga, we need to bring the same awareness of our breaths and movements off the mat. Since we are always breathing and moving, why not move in a conscious, organized, yet organic way that allow for the beautiful, undisrupted flow of our breath? By designing our actions, we are ultimately creating our own unique mala, our personal life story.