What is Viniyoga?
There is yoga and there is your yoga. Yoga includes an entire tool-kit of practices and techniques. A yoga class assembles these for a group of people, which may or may not be the best for any individual (instead, may be actually inimical for any individual). This is generic. Then there is your yoga.
The best yoga for you is done from understanding and tuning in to your particular condition; welcome to your yoga. Viniyoga is a particular approach to yoga which emphasizes creating a personal practice by selecting the right yoga tools for you – your unique tensions, injuries, quirks, shape, structure, emotions, mind and energy. What a relief it is to have your yoga be right-sized and just the right challenge so you do not struggle; but feel energized, strengthened and relaxed!
Viniyoga teachers have extensive training in creating a personal practice for you – including good preparation and compensation for the difficult parts of the practice, and also working internally with the support of the breath. So, enjoy a yoga class and then work with a Viniyoga teacher to understand how to do your yoga.
You can activate what you have learned from your yoga in a class, and you can do your practice anytime, anywhere without special equipment needed. It will always be yours, wherever you go.
How does Viniyoga compare to other styles of yoga?
Because Viniyoga teachers are oriented to making the yoga suit the individual, the teacher will usually inquire about your condition, injuries and needs, then spontaneously create the practice based on your report. Unlike some styles of yoga, which have a set practice which is followed by everyone (e.g. Bikram, Sivananda, Integral Yoga, Astanga), Viniyoga is not a standardized program.
As such, a Viniyoga teacher will never push you into a posture nor encourage you to use force. The teacher may suggest that you not do a posture or that you do it in a different way from everyone else, so that you can feel the benefit of the pose. This may involve softening the classic form of the posture by bending the knees or elbows. It always includes moving slowly with the breath. Adapting postures to help the student feel the benefit is essential to experiencing the full benefit of yoga. The means that anybody can do yoga, as my octogenarian students will attest (they just started practicing after age 80)!
This may seem soft or wimpy to some people who are accustomed to generating an aerobic workout, but it is actually very deep and internally challenging, especially for the mind! The primary focus will be finding a feeling of long spine and keeping an even and smooth breath throughout. The legs, arms and head will find their place in relation to the spine.
The experience of the posture will be directed from the teacher as an internal process generated from your own breath and finding your own alignment/integrity in the pose. It will feel good! Right effort brings happy yoga!
Viniyoga practice also includes the art of how the postures are sequenced. If you do the hardest posture too soon, you will not be well prepared. If the body is not loosened and warmed, it will not be able to do a pose very effectively or safely. So, a Viniyoga class includes lots of movement, repeating postures, to warm the body (similar to Vinyasa Flow, Power, Tri-yoga and Astanga, but done more simply and slowly.)
When the body is opened and prepared from the movement, postures will be held (similar to Hatha, Iyengar, Yin and other styles but some of these styles do not use movement first).
Furthermore, the Viniyoga teachers are extraordinarily well trained in creating a practice which addresses every level of your being, not just the body. The practice may include linking with your spiritual or religious side (whatever your religion) through prayer, music, chanting, ritual, intention. It may also address some emotional challenges with these same tools, including breathing practices. This is similar to the inspirational and meditative quality of some styles of yoga such as Kripalu, Anusara, Ananda, Svaroopa, Integral, Sivananda, Kundalini, for example.
Viniyoga brings it all together in an integrated practice, guided by a skillful, throughly trained teacher and gives you the best yoga for you – your yoga.