When it comes to yoga, there are quite a variety of styles that have different approaches that you can decide to go with. Viniyoga is one of the many styles that have become popular in the West.
In this beginner’s guide to Viniyoga, we will look at what Viniyoga really is, its origins, how it works, its benefits, and how to do it.
What is Viniyoga?
This is a style of yoga that is more focused on the student as opposed to the practice itself.
In many other yoga styles, the people doing the practice aim to follow the guidelines outlined by the practice so as to experience the benefits associated with it.
There are many styles of yoga that you can read more about in this beginner’s guide to yoga, that follow that ideology.
As opposed to that general ideology, Viniyoga is based on adapting exercises to the person doing the practice. And this means that you and your friend may be both doing Viniyoga, but you are doing different exercises because you both have different needs, goals, and limitations.
Viniyoga is loosely translated in Sanskrit to mean “differentiation” and “adaption”. It keeps into account the practitioner’s age, health status, physical and mental ability, and with the help of a yoga instructor, a set of student-focused exercises are formulated to help them improve their mental, physical and spiritual well-being.
Viniyoga is a unique style of Hatha yoga.
Viniyoga works with controlled poses, breathing exercises, meditation, chanting, hand gestures, and others that are more suited for a specific individual, based on the mentioned factors above to ensure they have a rewarding yoga experience and get to benefit from it in the long term.
So if you are the person who wants to get into yoga and would like one-on-one guidance through your yoga journey by a yoga instructor and would also love to engage in exercises that are best matched for you and your current health status, age, abilities, and other essentials factors, then Viniyoga is the way to go for you.
History of Viniyoga
Viniyoga can trace back its origin in Chennai, India, from a yoga teacher called Krishnamacharya. His son, T. K. V. Desikachar, is responsible for making it a popular practice. Desikachar was the one who named the practice Viniyoga after learning yoga from his father and then modifying the practice as well as its name.
Some of the well-known students who also learned from Krishnamacharya were B. K. S. Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois, who are among the figures mentioned when yoga is mentioned in the West as they were responsible for spreading its good word in western countries.
Desikachar founded the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandirum and taught Viniyoga there. Later on, he passed on the teaching responsibilities to his son, Kausthub, due to sickness that was followed by death.
Kausthub ran the yoga center for a few years and had to step down following accusations of sexual and mental abuse from his female clients.
Some of the most notable figures who have made Viniyoga popular include Gary Kraftsow under the American Viniyoga Institute, Chase Bossart who studied Viniyoga from Desikachar for 2 decades, and Leslie Kaminoff who co-authored “Yoga Anatomy”.
How Viniyoga Works
Viniyoga is pretty much all about the student, also known as the yogi, or practitioner. The practice is based on finding the right exercises and sequences that align with the student’s needs, which brings us to the first step of the practice. Determining what each student’s needs are.
The teacher should have a deep discussion with each student and understand what they look forward to getting from Viniyoga. They should understand well what benefits every student seeks to enjoy. They also make an effort of inquiring about any present or past health conditions the student has or has had, and how that affects their abilities to practice yoga.
From there, the teacher formulates a series of poses, physical movements, meditation exercises, Vedic chanting, and controlled breathing exercises that are easy for them to do without going beyond the limits they can hold and cause a health risk to them, and modifying any other aspect of the exercises to make it favorable for the student.
In essence, Viniyoga uses breathing and connects it with physical movements to increase mindfulness and make the movements more effective.
It also uses sequencing and repetition and is more focused on function, that is, what function or essence or impact the physical poses the students will be doing have on them as opposed to following a certain specified way of doing the exercises.
Benefits of Viniyoga
Little research has been done on Viniyoga as a yoga style on its own, which is why not many benefits are linked to the practice.
The American Pain Society as well as the American College of Physicians have revealed in practice guidance that the practice of Viniyoga has a moderate benefit for dealing with chronic lower back pain (1).
More focused research on this style of yoga in the near future will help us understand what other great benefits come from the practice and how properly we can utilize it to enjoy those benefits.
How to Do Viniyoga
When it comes to practicing Viniyoga, you should do it under the guidance of a yoga instructor so that you can work with them to create a good set of exercises that specifically suit you and which will bring you the kind of benefits you are looking for from the practice.
One crucial thing to keep in mind is that you should take your time before you settle for an instructor to take you through your yoga journey. Make sure you do your due diligence to see to it that you only get the best yoga instructor available.
Make sure they are well-trained, qualified, and experienced.
You can look for an instructor by visiting the fitness center or yoga studio in your locality or by searching online. You can check out the student reviews of the instructors you feel might be good for you and see what they have to say about their experiences with the instructor.
You can also talk directly to the previous students if you can get hold of them, and get to know what to expect. Moreover, you can give the instructor a quick interview and ask questions you feel are critical such as their approach plan, where they were trained and their years of experience. All that will help you gauge their level of expertise and determine if they are right for you.
When you finally find one, and your sessions begin, remember to wear comfortable clothes you can stretch in, some water to keep you hydrated, and a yoga mat during each class if the place you’ll be having your classes doesn’t offer mats.
Also, be prepared for some warm-up exercises for your muscles before you begin stretching as that is what the practice recommends for all students to avoid injury or pain while doing the practice.
Some of the common poses in Viniyoga include the Dvipada Pitham (the bridge pose), Tadaka mudra, and apanasana (knee-to-chest pose) among others.