a small path in the forest

Why Viniyoga is our chosen methodology

Viniyoga

Viniyoga (prefixes vi and ni plus yoga) is an ancient Sanskrit term that means appropriate application and implies differentiation and adaptation. 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.

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

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 universe, 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 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.

तस्य भूमिषु विनियोगः I
tasya bhūmiṣu Viniyogaḥ
Its application is in stages.

Yoga Sūtra III.6
ViniYoga at the Life of Wellness Institute

The History of Viniyoga

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.

Krishnamacharya’s students included many of yoga’s most renowned and influential teachers:

  • Indra Devi, who went to India in her twenties and studied with Krishnamacharya for one year, was a pioneering teacher of yoga as exercise, becoming a film star there and acquiring the stage name Indra Devi. She was the first woman to study under the yoga guru Krishnamacharya at the Mysore Palace.
  • K. Pattabhi Jois, who came to study at the Maharaja Palace and studied with Krishnamacharya for two years, developed and popularized the flowing style of yoga as an exercise known as Ashtanga vinyasa yoga. 
  • K. S. Iyengar, the young brother of Krishnamacharya’s wife, became the founder of Iyengar yoga. Iyengar considers his association with his brother-in-law a turning point in his life, saying that over two years, “he (Krishnamacharya) only taught me for about ten or fifteen days, but those few days determined what I have become today!”
  • T. K. V. Desikachar was Krishnamacharya’s son. He began his studies much younger and stayed a student 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.

“During the early part of life, learning yoga as a physical art form is most beneficial for the self-confidence and discipline it instills. In middle age, yoga should focus on physical therapy and maintaining optimum health as far into life as possible. In the last stages of life, the practitioner will be ready to focus on the ultimate goal of yoga--true understanding of the philosophy behind it and the realization of truth.”

Srivatsa Ramaswami from the book Yoga for the Three Stages of Life

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 is where the “appropriate application” becomes essential. 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 application of the tools of yoga through our stages of life and those of our students.

This is the foundation of our methodology!

The Life of Wellness Institute Methodology

After more than 20 years in Hatha Yoga training, teaching, and personal practice, our founder had a personal experience with ViniYoga, and everything changed! What struck her was the focus on the movement with the adaptation that honored the yogi as they are in the moment. Having this combined with the breath lead movement that had been a part of her practice for decades, she knew she had stumbled onto a foundation for her practice that would eventually lead to her founding of the Life of Wellness Institute and has spent the last six years dedicated to sharing this methodology.

The beauty of this lineage and methodology is the adaptability to every student, in every moment. This is essential to honoring and supporting the yogi as a yoga teacher! Viniyoga meets each yogi EXACTLY where they are and adapts the practice to meet the yogi's unique condition and specific goals. In this way, everything about the practice is customized to the student. There is no single practice, no single style, no single intention, and no right way to be in a pose. From this foundation, Viniyoga can be as gentle and as rigorous as any other practice while also honoring the individual as they are.

Four Key Differentiators of ViniYoga

Appropriate application of the tools of yoga
"Viniyoga emphasizes a comprehensive and authentic transmission of yoga designed for everyone’s unique body and mind."
Gary Kraftsow

There are four points that characterize the main difference between the Viniyoga approach and most other forms of āsana practice:
Click Here