Reading this will take 3 minutes or so … The word Viniyoga comes from Sanskrit, the prefixes Vi and Ni, combine to mean “special application,” in this case in conjunction with the word Yoga. The term, Vini , is not only used for yoga, it is also used when defining anything that has a specific application in any context. In this “style” of yoga, the application of the techniques are always done in accordance with the special needs of the student.
Several styles of Yoga teach one or more specific sequences that never change, or always teach the postures in the same manner with the same purpose, whereas the posing practice for Viniyoga is constantly dependant on questions like: who is the student, in what physical condition are they in, how is their mood, what do they want to achieve, what time of day do they want to practice, etc.
The origins of Viniyoga are drawn directly from the teachings of T. Krishnamacharya, who is considered the grandfather of yoga as we know it in the West. He was the teacher of two very famous luminaries of Yoga: Pattabi Jois (who founded the school of Ashtanga Yoga) and B.K.S. Iyengar, the Teacher and founder of Iyengar Yoga. It is both interesting and important to recognise that stemming from the teachings of Krishnamacharya are two very different schools of Yoga and were developed within just a single generation.
The story of how and why these teachings vary so much will be the subject of a future article. This is important historical information, necessary for understanding how the practices of today were developed.
How Viniyoga is distinguished from other styles?
- The use of repetition, in entering and leaving the poses, as well as them. This is one of the aspects that most differentiates this style from the others. The constant joint movement prepares muscles for more intensified work and provides another dimension of muscle strengthening.
- The emphasis on function rather than form in the postures and the adaptation of poses for different results. Although Iyengar offers variations to poses according to the limitations of students, the emphasis is in the form of the pose more than the function of it. Viniyoga can adapt each pose not only to accommodate limitations, but in order to obtain different results in the same position, or to make the pose more effective for a specific body type.
- The prominence of breath as the axis of the practice. The breath is used to mobilise the back and breathing patterns are adapted to create different results. Almost all other styles of Yoga have a single type of breathing that is practiced during the postures, whereas in Viniyoga there are possible variations of breathing that affect the practice in each pose.
- The science and art of designing the sequences are very refined. Although it is hard to tell, each pose in a Viniyoga class is related to the whole. There is a very specific intention for each position and an efficiency that allows you to do a lot in a small amount of time.
If you attend a group class of Viniyoga, you might see people practicing their poses slightly differently, depending on what the teacher has observed in their bodies. You will also experience a constant focus on breathing and you will find help with getting into positions. Viniyoga cannot be described as vigorous, soft, therapeutic or spiritual, because it can be any and all of these things depending on the context. Viniyogis really excel in class one by one.
Due to the emphasis on adapting the practice specifically for the person, catering it to the individual. Creating a personal practice designed for your body is one of the greatest gifts this style has to offer.