Why Viniyoga is our Chosen Methodology
Viniyoga is an ancient Sanskrit term that means appropriate application and implies differentiation and adaptation. It is a holistic healing discipline that addresses the entire person (body, breath, mind, behaviors, emotions, & spirit) in an interconnected way.
Its teaching emphasizes a comprehensive and authentic transmission of yoga designed for everyone’s unique body and mind. It is a therapeutic approach to yoga that adapts the various means and methods of practice to each individual’s unique condition, needs, and interests – giving each practitioner the tools to individualize and actualize the process of self-discovery and personal transformation.
The practices of yoga provide the means to support each practitioner to embrace their life, health, and wellness fully and compassionately. This requires understanding a person’s present condition, personal potential, appropriate goals, and the means available. Just as every person is different, these aspects will vary with each individual.
Śri Krishnamacharya is one of the most influential Yogis of our era. He was an accomplished scholar in Vedic philosophy, an Āyurvedic Healer, and a reviver of ancient yoga traditions.
The teaching of Viniyoga was passed in this and the last century through Krishnamacharya (Kriṣṇamācārya) and dated back to his ancestor from the 7th to 9th centuries. He was an Indian yoga teacher, ayurvedic healer, and scholar who is often seen as one of the most important gurus of modern yoga—sometimes called “the father of modern yoga” because of his vast influence on the development of postural yoga.
Son of Śri Krishnamacharya, T.K.V. Desikachar studied daily with his father for 29 years until his early 50s, when his father died. During his thirty years of study, Desikachar learned the practice and application of yoga techniques and texts for therapeutic, exercise, and spiritual purposes and founded an individualized form of yoga therapy called Viniyoga, a term from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, as a holistic approach aligned with the Yoga Sutras.
T.K.V. Desikachar carried on his father’s teachings as the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandirum (KYM) founder in Chennai, India. Here, he began to call his method Viniyoga.
Melanie began her yoga studies in 1990 at a time of deep pain. She is grateful for her teacher’s grace, love, and unconditional listening. Over several years, she was taken under her teacher’s wing to develop her personal practice, which she attributes to saving her life. She studied as a student of the Hatha lineage for over 25 years before transitioning to Viniyoga in 2015.
Over 32+ years, she has learned these ancient lineages’ principles and practical tools, with application in Ayurveda and somatic coaching. Since 2014, she has made the breadth and depth of these teachings available to her clients and students.
What the Yoga Sutras tell us – Yoga Sūtra III.6
Patañjali tells us there is no fixed recipe for this journey. We are individuals in varying stages of development and evolution, with unique interests, needs, and capacities. So, the tools leading us to awareness and understanding may look different for each of us. But also, we are ever-changing throughout life, so our practice requires acceptance and compassion for ourselves in the current moment and with our strengths and challenges.
For some, focusing on a mantra in a seated posture may lead to inner peace. For others, it may be taking a walk in nature, the techniques are limitless, and the key is to stay dedicated to what works, knowing it may change as we do. To be honest about our current stage, and not skip them.
Stages of Life
What is essential to gain from this look back into the history of those who studied with Krishnamacharya is the length of learning and stage of life that the studies occurred in. Many of the teachings of Viniyoga that we focus on were not traditionally taught until you reached the mid-stage of life.
Srivatsa Ramaswami, whose father was a personal friend of Krishnamacharya’s, spent 33 years as his student. He would become a teacher of Vinyasa yoga and the author of the book “Yoga for the Three Stages of Life: Developing Your Practice as an Art Form, a Physical Therapy, and a Guiding Philosophy, Inner Traditions,” where he would describe the three stages of life:
This wisdom is the foundation of “appropriate application” in Viniyoga. Yoga was never designed to be a one size fits all practice! It was always designed to be adapted to the yogi, as they are in the moment of the practice. Not something we learn once, and we now know all there is to know; it is a lifetime practice of self-study and applying the tools of yoga through our stages of life and those of our students.
The Practice of Viniyoga
Logistically, Viniyoga is practiced through the offerings of the Yoga Sutras, such as āsana, prāṇāyāma, bandha, sound, chanting, meditation, personal ritual, and study of texts. However, there is an underlying context of appropriately applying these tools of yoga to the student’s Dharma (how each of us fulfills our responsibilities to ourselves, each other, the earth, the universe, and the divine; our purpose), Swadharma (practicing one’s own dharma, a personal mission or purpose), with the understanding of a person’s swabhav (their innate traits, nature, and capacities as well as their present condition, potential, goals, and means. Which will differ and vary not only within the individual but also with each individual.)
The Yoga Sutras tell us that truly taking care of ourselves, recognizing, and honoring our uniqueness comes from tapas (the disciplines we undertake to care for ourselves at a multi-dimensional level). At the Life of Wellness Institute, we believe we must also include self-compassion.
Ultimately, our practice is designed to help us see who we truly are, in all our layers (koshas) of self, understanding our functional anatomy, physiology, emotional states, self-concept, beliefs about ourselves and the world around us, the direction of our future so that we can make choices that increase our sense of balance, harmony, and peacefulness—adapting our practice to our needs using the broad spectrum of yoga tools that are available to help us create sympathetic and parasympathetic regulation, love, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, and clarity. Simultaneously improving our immune function, having structural integrity, sleeping better, and being clear about who we are and where we are heading in our life.
What is Yoga Therapy?
Yoga Therapy is derived from the yoga tradition of Patañjali, and the Ayurvedic system of health that refers to the adaptation and application of yoga techniques and practices to help individuals facing health challenges at any level manage their condition.
The long-term goals of Yoga Therapy include:
- Reducing the symptoms of suffering that can be reduced
- Managing the symptoms that cannot be reduced
- Rooting out causes wherever possible
- Improving life function
- Shifting attitude and perspective in relationship to life’s challenges