Yoga FAQ and Related Information
a collection of quotes that will be helpful in your yoga practice
Information: articles on the mind / body connection, yoga for people with HIV / AIDS, as well as miscellaneous relevant articles
3) What is Viniyoga?
Hatha yoga is the physical discipline that falls within a group of ancient spiritual and philosophical traditions of India called yoga. It is only one of the eight limbs of yoga identified by the Indian sage Patanjali.
The word yoga has been interpreted to mean joining, with the first syllable representing the moon and the second, the sun. Metaphorically, the joining of these two elements thus can mean the integration of mind and body.
Yoga has been used in North America to benefit chronically ill, injured and postoperative individuals. It has been shown to be beneficial for a range of health problems such as back pain, stress, recovery from cancer and addictions, chronic fatigue, depression, and AIDS.
What is Kripalu* yoga?
In Sanskrit, kripalu means compassiona Kripalu* yoga is named after Swami Kripalvanandaji, who established this particular yoga tradition. The Kripalu practice of hatha yoga combines yoga postures with breathing techniques and a focussed, compassionate attitude towards oneself during practice. This combination is used as a vehicle for finding energy blocks in the body. The act of seeking out and then releasing physical tensions awakens and develops trust in the body's inner wisdom, facilitating deep feelings of well-being.
Kripalu Yoga's Three-stage Methodology
From the Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training Manual, Kripalu Yoga Fellowship
Stage One introduces you to the various yoga postures and breathing practices. You study how the human body functions in general and where your own body is open or closed, strong and weak. Here you are being carefully trained in what is anatomically safe and appropriate for your particular body. Your focus is concentrated in alignment and coordination of breath. Here you learn how far to go in the stretch and how long to safely hold without injuring your body.
Then, using the increased awareness you have gained through stage one practice, you attune to internal sensations with compassion and awareness. You begin to hold the postures longer as you enter the Second Stage of Kripalu Yoga. You begin to understand your habitual reactionary patterns by observing the interplay of body and the sensations within from the perspective of the detached witness. Because you can now study your body using the techniques and tools of yogic awareness, you come to understand slowly and internally how to move through any limitations present in your system. You discover new movement, developing more strength and range of motion, not only in your body but in your life as well.
During this process, if you are afraid of getting hurt, are pushing too fast or are aggressive, your body will contract and produce additional tensions. By maintaining an attitude of loving self-observation, however, you begin to understand the ways you unconsciously layer yourself with tension upon tension. You also learn that you can feel safe and relaxed by breathing deeply and being compassionately present to your whole and entire experience. Through alternating instructing your body what to do with allowing it to guide you, you develop a healthy partnership with your body. Instinct and instructions, body and mind, right and left brain hemispheres become balanced.
The result of this attunement can open the body's own evolutionary signals, and if they and your awareness are strong enough, you will feel an intuitive guidance moving your body from one position to another. This is Stage Three of Kripalu Yoga. This is where the practitioner offers the body to spirit, opens an invitation for prana to be the guide, and allows the controlling mind to release its duties as authority. As the yoga evolves and union touches deeper levels of your being, you find yourself, as T.S. Elliot said, “at the still point if the turning world”. A position of attention solidifies within, at the core of your body. Unmoving, your spirit is at rest, while all around you your body is alive, breathing and moving through positions and gestures, sounds and sensations. You remember what you already always knew, that spirit lives in you.
The Core of Kripalu Yoga
Shobhan Richard Faulds, President of Kripalu Yoga Fellowship
1. Encouraging self-sourcing and creating emotional and psychological safety.
Our role as teachers is to support students in accessing their own source consciousness. One of the ways we do this is by teaching yoga within the safety of a bonded and caring group and by encouraging students to be compassionate toward themselves. Kripalu is a path with heart, and that heart energy is reflected in the personal qualities of our teachers and the learning environments they create.
2. A respect for the body's limits and a focus on breathing and the internal experience of practice.
We teach people a yoga they can practice wherever they happen to be in terms of flexibility and fitness. While proper alignment is important, the internal experience of yoga practice is far more important than the external goal of achieving the idealized posture.
3. Attunement to energy and awakening prana.
We teach people how to shift from the thinking centre to the feeling centre and thereby free up the flow of energy in their bodies. This includes the three stages of body and breath awareness, holding the posture, and meditation-in-motion. The increase in vitality and self-awareness that comes from Kripalu Yoga is a byproduct of this free flow of energy.
4. Yoga on and off the mat.
The full expression of Kripalu Yoga is a way of being that allows us to embrace the divine mystery of life. It is much more than the practice of asana. Kripalu Yoga is about using the heightened awareness and deepened compassion that results from yoga practice to create a lifestyle supportive of our deepest identity and highest aspirations.
What is Viniyoga?
Viniyoga is a term that describes the integration of elements of yoga to develop a practice specific to the individual’s needs. Viniyoga is a term used to describe the yoga taught by Sri T. Krishnamacharya. A descendant of the legendary 9th century yogi Nathamuni, Krishnamacharya's Viniyoga is firmly rooted in his lifetime scholarship of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. Krishnamacharya was the most influential yoga teacher of his times. His son, T.K.V. Desikachar, had the good fortune to live and study with his father for more than 35 years, and is the current Viniyoga lineage holder.
The elements that make Viniyoga different from other styles of yoga are the emphasis of linking breath and movement, and the use of adaptations in asana (postures).
- Breath and movement are linked together as a way to move the body and quiet the mind. In Viniyoga, students are taught that the breath should actually lead the body into and out of each posture. Viniyoga is less concerned with arduous precise exercises than with developing a balanced and appropriate practice for each student.
- Viniyoga encourages students to practice each asana according to their individual needs and capabilities. Therefore, adaptations to accommodate a person’s unique physical circumstances are used to facilitate the function of the posture over the form.
- Depending on the person’s emotional and spiritual needs, meditation, chanting, prayer, and ritual can be incorporated into each individual’s practice to deepen their yogic practice and enrich their lives.
In youth, our practice supports growth, and as we age, it should promote and maintain our health and stability. The link with the teacher is vital to design effective personal practices that will facilitate these changing needs.
Is Yoga a religion?
The short answer is: no. The long answer is: not necessarily. Yoga can be treated as simple physical exercise, as an introspective mind/body experience, or as an integral part of a system of worship. In this case the yoga practice itself is not inherently religious in nature, but is treated as a way to access and communicate with the Divine by fostering deep meditative states, experiences of which are interpreted through the lens of a particularly mythology or theology.
What's with that OM thing?
The OM sound of classical yoga has been used by almost every Eastern religion to signify one thing or another in their particular theology. However, in classical yoga, OM is used purely as a psychological tool. These aspects of OM were described in the 2,500-year-old yoga writing called the Manduka Upanishad. In this book, OM was interpreted as an allegory for four different states of consciousness. In actual practice, the OM sound is pronounced more like "AUM". Thus the first part, the A sound, is said to represent the awake and conscious self. The U sound is believed to refer to the subconscious, asleep and dreaming, self. The third element of OM, the M, signifies the unconscious self of deep and dreamless sleep. Finally, the fourth dimension of OM, the silence before and after its vocalization, is related to the part of the self that exists in silence, in the quiet of the meditating mind that is the witness consciousness.
The use of OM in yoga and yoga-related meditation is intended as a point of focus, and as a way to lead one's mind gently into peace and silence, and thus to greater knowledge of one's own self.
adapted from The American Yoga Association's Easy Does it Yoga: The Safe and Gentle Way to Health and Well-being, by Alice Christensen (Simon and Schuster, 1999)
My Approach to Yoga
I am a certified Kripalu* yoga instructor, and a Registered Yoga Teacher with the Yoga Alliance. I completed the two-week Integrative Yoga Therapy Core Intensive training in July, 2000, and am currently enrolled in the Kripalu Advanced Certification Program, and just completing a one-year Viniyoga Foundations program. In addition, I am also certified by the Federation of Ontario Yoga Teachers because I believe it is important to support and promote Canadian yoga institutions. I have a regular personal practice which carries me along the path of personal transformation. I believe regular sadhana (practice) is essential to my teaching.
My approach to yoga is introspective and breath-focussed, informed by the Kripalu and Viniyoga traditions. It is designed to enable you to:
1) access your body's own wisdom so you can promote health and wholeness for your self;
2) connect breath and movement so the breath can lengthen and deepen and you can become invigorated and relaxed.
The physical experience of yoga in a class I lead can be gentle or vigorous. At all times I encourage self-awareness and self-respect. In my opinion, the practice of yoga is not measured by how "pretzel-y" you can get; it lies in the experience of each pose. This can mean, for example, not bending so far forward in a standing forward bend position that your hands touch the ground, if doing so means strain, stress, or difficulty breathing. If you cannot achieve a pose with "effortless effort", then you are not benefitting from the deepest experience of yoga.
As you continue in your practice you may find the introspective and mind-calming nature of yoga leads you to a deeper relationship with, and awareness of your self, and perhaps into a closer relationship with the Divine Source, however you define and experience it. I do not impose any interpretations on your experiences.
Choosing a teacher
In her book How Yoga Works, Eleanor Criswell quotes Haridas Chaudhuri on the qualities of a good yoga teacher:
"A mature spiritual guide sees to it that the disciple does not become emotionally fixated on him.
His main job is to help the disciple to discover the divine guru (teacher) within the disciple's own unconscious psyche. As soon as the disciple learns to stand on his own feet, capable of treading the right path leading to the ultimate goal, the guru gracefully parts company, liberating the disciple from his last emotional bonds."
Professional yoga teachers will speak knowledgeably and respectfully about different yoga traditions. A teacher may specialize in gentle yoga, or an athletic vigorous approach, or be trained in a style that is somewhere in the middle. The teacher's role is to enable you to find the practice that compliments your inherent constitution, and not to try to sell you on his or her class.
The cheapest deal in town is not necessarily the best. Factors such as class size, the cost of maintaining the space, equipment, and staff are important. Teachers who have established a studio usually incur higher expenses than a teacher in a recreation program or health club setting.
If your desire is to study yoga not as a form of exercise or entertainment but as a transformational personal practice, look for a facility that has hired a trained yoga teacher. Spiritual teachers do not generally speak in terms of "certification" programs.
Many individuals who teach yoga consider themselves lifelong students, rather than teachers.
Questions to ask of a potential teacher:
In what tradition do you study?
Who is your teacher?
How long have you been practicing yoga?
How long have you been teaching yoga?
What is the emphasis of your teaching practice?
What is Yoga Therapy?
The facet of yoga that focuses on the health and wellness
of the physical body, yoga therapy encourages the balance
and integration of the mind and emotions. It awakens the
spiritual dimension. It is student centered, nonsectarian
and nonhierarchical, with an equal focus on Mind, Body
Yoga Therapy addresses the needs of the individual with
· Specific physical conditions
· Culture and religion
· Student's goals or needs
The Yoga Therapist is a guide or mentor for self discovery.
She or he creates a safe learning environment, uses the
understanding of the elements of yoga to facilitate a safe
environment for the student, and creates an energetic
space by being present for the student. A yoga therapist
avoids judgment, diagnosing, advising, lecturing, or
counseling, but rather communicates the form and
essence of yoga.
A yoga therapist's tools of assessment include:
· Body and breath awareness exercises by the student.
· Observation by the therapist at both the physical and
· Student's own inner awareness
· Teacher's experiential understanding
The list of people who can benefit from yoga therapy reads
like Physical Therapy/Occupational Therapy specialty
Orthopedic/Sports Medicine, Pediatrics, Cardiopulmonary,
Women's Health, Geriatrics, Stress Management,
Chronic Pain, Performing Arts, Mental Health, Oncology.