What is Viniyoga?
Viniyoga means adaptation. It is the yoga of T. Krishnamacharya, who is said to have launched the yoga renaissance still sweeping the world today. Krishnamacharya was a renowned gentleman who devoted many of his 100 years to reviving the ancient tradition of adaptive yoga. His students include some of today’s most influential teachers such as B.K.S. Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, Indra Devi and his son Desikachar.
There are five special features that distinguish Viniyoga from other yoga practices.
Viniyoga is a breath-inspired practice. In the Viniyoga method, each movement is initiated by the breath. In essence, the breath breathes life into the practitioner, prompting movement. Interesting breath sequencing is woven throughout a movement practice to bring about specific therapeutic results and to prepare the body and mind for the deeper practices of yoga.
Viniyoga can provide a challenging and progressive practice for the healthiest and most able-bodied student, as well as a gentle restorative practice to assist a student with heath conditions or special needs. Viniyoga is not a rigid style of yoga and emphasizes function over form. During class, each student is given the option of adaptations for poses that are not suitable for their body type or condition. By using these modified approaches, each student is able to experience yoga at a person level and achieve greater benefit and more personalized care.
The Viniyoga method is known for its eloquent, artful sequencing. Preparation, adaptation and compensation are an integral part of the science and beauty of Viniyoga sequencing. By carefully sequencing asana practice (poses) as well as other yogic practices, we reduce the chance of creating unnecessary stress to the body while optimizing benefits. As an example, to develop and perform a more challenging asana, we start by warming up the areas that will be challenged, then we carefully return back to compensation postures to relieve any stress. In a similar way, we sequence for practices of breathing, sound, and meditation.
Viniyoga emphasizes the importance of following an intention throughout class and chooses elements that will best serve the practitioner’s intention. As an example, if the intention is to strengthen the core, then stronger postures that work the large muscles of the body and focus on abdominal and back strength are appropriate. Stronger exhalation may be taught to enhance the strengthening role that breath plays for core stability, strength and health. If someone has chronic neck pain, then gentler movements that increase circulation would be appropriate. An intention can address a need at the physical, energetic, emotional or spiritual level and a combination of yogic tools including asana, meditation, sound, and breath may be sequenced to bring about specific effects to support a specific intention.
Dynamic Movement & Static Holding
The use of repetition warms the body, increases circulation, and engages neuromuscular re-patterning. We begin to observe habitual patterns which create stress rather than contribute to freedom of movement. Static holding builds strength and provides health and balance to our connective tissue system. In Viniyoga, movement in and out of posture following by a static hold optimizes strength, flexibility and freedom from chronic pain.
In summary, according to the teachings of Viniyoga, yoga is meant to be adapted to meet the needs of the individual, honoring and supporting where that individual is in life.