Let’s look at why some people call this tradition Viniyoga®. A very important aspect of Yoga is that we have to respect each and every individual as an unique being. Nobody is the same. We are all having different heights, different weights, different body types, different constitutions, different potentials, different interests and very importantly different purposes and paths in this life.
Patanjali, the Master of Yoga, was very clear that one way will not be suitable for everybody. Patanjali offers practices that have to be tailor-made to suit every individual so that the best of each person can shine. If we take a standardized approach it will not work for everybody. It is not work for anybody in their whole life because we are changing each day of our life.
We are not the same people as we were few years ago and nor we will remain the same person few years from now. That’s why Patanjali calls the process of appropriate application of the tools of Yoga as the Viniyoga® of Yoga. Acarya T. Krishnamacharya was very instrumental in reviving this art when this art was slowly losing its relevance from the field of Yoga when group classes had become very common since the 1930s. Acarya T.
Krishnamacharya was very clear that we have to teach Yoga individually so that the best potential of every person can actually come forth. This becomes more important even in the domain of Yoga as a Therapy. Yoga as a Therapy cannot be done in group situations to the best possible way because every individual’s experience with the disease is different. Some one may have diabetes with high blood pressure; one person may have diabetes with arthritis; one person may have diabetes with depression. The same tools will not work for everybody. It is very important even in the field of Yoga as a Therapy and more so because we have to deal with people one to one as their experience is very unique. Because Acarya T. Krishnamacharya brought this back in a very strong way and it was made very popular by his son and primary student Sri. TKV Desikachar.
A lot of people started to associate this tradition of Yoga as the “Viniyoga®” tradition. It would be inaccurate to call this tradition as Viniyoga® tradition because there is no style of yoga of Viniyoga® of Yoga is only an approach of Yoga that every tradition of Yoga must embrace. The word Viniyoga® in this context is a verb and not a noun. In the Viniyoga® of Yoga where the Yoga is the noun Viniyoga® is the verb which means the appropriate application of Yoga. It would be inaccurate to call Viniyoga® as a particular style of Yoga. Viniyoga® is the approach of Yoga that everyone must embrace for Yoga actually is to reach every person in the most appropriate manner. Viniyoga® is the Universal term that has to be followed, not just for Yoga but in every aspect of life. We do that in many aspects of our life we must not forget that in the context of Yoga.
A big market for Yogis today is the Yoga clothing market where many people are told to buy special Yogic clothes like yoga pants, Yoga shorts, Yoga underwear etc., which have become a very essential part of all Yoga conferences and seminars. But actually, when we go back to the history we see that Yogis were practicing Yoga in their normal clothes of that time.
The normal clothes of those times were dhotis which were very traditional Indian cloth and that is what they were wearing. This was like pants for us now. Yogis were not actually going shopping to buy some special pants for Yoga or special clothes for Yoga, but they practiced with what they had.
In the 1950s Acarya T. Krishnamacharya wrote an article on this topic of why Yoga is in fact the most accessible ways for practicing for the main public. In this he describes that one of the reasons is that it is very economical, no need to buy extra clothing, no need to by extra equipment etc. In fact references on this can also be found in his first book the “Yogamakaranta” which he wrote in 1934.
If you look at all this Yoga actually does not require not just extra clothing but extra equipment like crops and all those kinds of things. The Yogis were very practical and used what was available. There is no need to buy anything additional to practice Yoga. The only investment that we need to practice is “time”.
A natural question that comes from all Yoga School is whether Yoga is actually a religious school. Yoga is a spiritual school that is not necessarily imposing a religious belief or religious faith.
However, Yoga is acknowledging that those who are of religious faith may have faith in connecting with something called “Isvara” Yoga defines as the Universal Consciousness.
“Purusha” is the individual consciousness and that must have a source. That must be somewhere where it came from and that is what Yoga calls as “Isvara” saying for those who are believing Isvara represents that source from which the consciousness comes. We can call that as collective consciousness or universal consciousness. Yoga presents it in a non-dogmatic way. Yoga is presenting it as a Teacher who is showing us Light and direction in our path of spiritual exploration and spiritual evolution.
Yoga is saying that this Light is no further away than our own hearts and that is what Yoga is saying to us that if you want to find Isvara don’t find it from outside you. Find it from within your heart. In that way Yoga is telling us not necessarily to go a religious belief system like to a temple, a mosque, a church or other system, but rather connect with Isvara with which we are all gifted which is right there in our own hearts. This is, I think, the most beautiful teaching that Patanjali offers where he says just because there is the presence of Isvara in all our hearts we become not material / biological beings but also spiritual being.
That is why we have to respect each other as we do have a presence of a divine consciousness in our own hearts. When we embrace this teaching we will look at each other as friends not as enemies. We will transcend gender, we will transcend boundaries, we will embrace a collective consciousness and a collective unconsciousness and we will feel this power with such a great potency. I hope that is what we will all do in the field of Yoga by following the direction given by our great Teacher Patanjali.
It is long understood that Yoga is basically Asana practice. Wherever I go if I tell that I am a Yoga Teacher, many people ask me “can you stand on the head? “ because that is the idea being given in the Yoga in the eyes of the Public. It is far from the truth. Yoga is a holistic system that encompasses a wide range of practices which include many many tools that are transcending the human body. We have, for example Asana practice that is very well known that addresses the human body. But that is not the only tool of Yoga.
Pranayama which is the technique of conscious breath regulation .
Mudras– which includes the bandha-s which are also additional tools of Pranayama not only using the breath but also the body and consciousness in order to enhance our Prana, the energy in our system.
Mantra-s very important part of Yoga which is using sacred sounds to create positive vibrations in our body. In modern days we have positive affirmation mantra-s are the original version of this.
Swadhyaya – reflection / Self enquiry. We have time for reflection. We are asked to reflect our patterns, we are asked to reflect our negative and aggressive behaviours sometimes, so that we enquire into what kind of memories we carry, what types of impressions we carry and how to resolve them.
We also have meditative practices which are under the names Dhyana, Dharana and Samadhi where we are given an object of focus to meditate in both in a static manner as well as in a dynamic manner for many forms of meditation that are part of Yoga which include both active and passive positions and these are very fundamentals to Yoga.
In fact in the Yogasutra of patanjali an entire chapter is dedicated to meditation which is very very fantastic and which is something worthy of reflection.
Apart from this we also have sensory practices that are called “Pratyahara” where we are directing the senses to function in a particular manner so that we gain control over the same and they are not distracting us or misleading us in our life.
We also have dietary regulations which is called as “Ahara Niyama“ where according to constitution, according to age, according to the seasons, we are recommended a different kinds of diet which is also a part of Yoga.
We are also given what is called “Vihara Niyama” which is lifestyle practices, changes of lifestyle, choice of lifestyle etc which are also very significant part of Yoga.
Then we have what is called “Iswarapranidana” which is a relationship with the divine that is also a tool of Yoga.
If you look at the tools that Yoga has to offer, it is a multifaceted technique. It is not just focused on the body through asana practice. We all as Yoga students and Yoga teachers must remember that Yoga is a very vast discipline worthy of a lifetime study and practice.
Meditation is among the most important tools in Yoga practice. Patanjali dedicates an entire chapter – Chapter 3 for meditative practices. Meditation is the process of staying linked with an object of focus without any distraction which includes not only distractions from the outside but also distractions from the inside.
What does it mean? It means that many times we get distracted based on the memories we have of the object, imaginations we have of the object and even past experiences we have of the object. When we relate with an object in thatway, when we are staying with that object in that way, we are no more in the present connection.
So meditation is a process of staying present or staying connected to an object of focus without judgements, without pre-conceived ideas, without any memories or imaginations. This can happen only when we make sure that the connection happens from our heart. So meditation is the process of opening our heart. Making a connection to the object of focus and the heart. Staying sustained with that object of focus within the heart so that we internalize the object of focus and eventually we achieve the qualities of these object of focus.
Presenting a more simple definition of meditation is my own teacher Sri TKV Desikachar. Sir TKV Desikachar defines Yoga as a meditation and as a relationship. What happens in a relationship? When we are really in a Relationship in a deep way it is a heart to heart relationship. That is what is meditation. Meditation is the relationship from our heart to the heart of the object of focus. This is Yoga. This is meditation.