Viniyoga is an individual approach to yoga which is all about adaptation. Viniyoga is an ancient Sanskrit word with multiple meanings including ‘separation’, ‘use’ and ‘application’. This yoga style is based on a teacher-student relationship and is designed to meet the specific needs of the individual by giving tools to individualize and actualize the process of self-discovery and personal transformation. The goal is to enhance wellness, healing, flexibility and strength of joints. Viniyoga includes asana, pranayama, bandha, chanting, meditation, personal rituals and study of texts. The emphasis of viniyoga is on coordinating breath and movement, in fact each movement is led by the breath. Viniyoga is usually taught privately, one on one or in small groups, since poses and flows are chosen to suit the student’s abilities.
Viniyoga is created by T.K.V. Desikachar, the son of Sri T. Krishnamacharya in the 1970s. Krishnamacharya prominent students include Pattabhi Jois and B.K.S. Iyengar, one of the most prominent figures in yoga’s dissemination to the West. His son Desikachar carries on the guru’s legacy as the world’s foremost Viniyoga authority. His conviction is that yoga practice should be adapted to fit the individuality and particular situation of each practitioner. He later distanced himself from the term.
What to Expect
The yoga poses are synchronized with the breath in sequences determined by the individual needs of the practitioner. Since Viniyoga is so adaptable, it makes yoga available to those with physical limitations, whether through injury, illness or age. The postures are modified to meet the needs of the individual student. It can be very gentle, but not necessarily or exclusively so. If a student is more adept, then so will the yoga practice. This adaptable approach requires an understanding of a person’s present condition, personal potential, appropriate goals and the means available. Because of this personal and adaptable approach, viniyoga teachers have had extensive training to create a personal practice for every student based on factors as health, age, physical condition and past or current injuries. Therefore teachers tend to be experts on anatomy and yoga therapy. In addition, they are well trained in creating a practice which addresses every level of your being – not just the body – but also on a spiritual or religious level through for example praying, music, chanting, rituals and intentions. This may also include emotional challenges managed by for example breathing practices.
Compared to other styles of yoga
The flowing movement seen in Viniyoga is similar to Ashtanga Vinyasa’s dynamic series, but it has a much less vigorous pace. There is a strong focus on alignment and poses are held for a consistent number of breaths with rest in between. Though compared to Iyengar Yoga, Viniyoga has a more relaxed approach to placement of the body, the emphasis is placed on lengthening the spine. A standardized program as seen in Bikram or Sivananda Yoga is not used, since the yoga practice is made suitable for the individual. The teacher will usually inquire about your condition, injuries and needs and then create your yoga practice based on your information. For the same reason, a viniyoga teacher will never push you into a posture nor encourage you to use force. The overall aim is to feel energized, strengthened and relaxed after your yoga practice. A yoga practice which is perfectly designed for you and includes the right challenges. How wonderful is that?