BY ADITHI MATHEWS
There is an inspiring story about the guru-disciple relationship. As a young man Swami Vishnudevananda (disciple) was in the army and accidentally stumbled upon a booklet with a quote by Swami Sivananda (guru). The quote read, ‘An ounce of practice is worth tons in theory.’ Swami Vishnudevananda was so inspired by the quote that he set out and traveled the breath of India to meet the writer. The first meeting with Swami Sivananda left a strong impression on the young Swami, he was so inspired that he decided to return again and ultimately surrender to the feet of his guru and immerse himself in learning everything about the Yogic science. This story in a certain way forms the premise of Sivanada Yoga – a traditional system of Yoga which is the dedication of a disciple to the teachings of his Guru.
Sivananda Yoga was one of the first forms of Yoga to be taught in the west during the 1950’s. Swami Sivananda chose his disciple Swami Vishnudevananda to travel and spread the message of Yoga to the west. The lessons that which were imparted during these travels gave birth to what is now known as Sivananda Yoga. The International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Organization is one of the most well-known and recognised voices in the field of Yoga, with over 60 locations – ashrams, yoga and affiliate centres in over 30 countries around the world. Swami Vishnudevananda is also credited with having created the first Teachers Training Program – enabling everyone to learn the basics of Yoga – Philosophy, Asanas, Pranayama and Meditation. The Sivavanda organisation conducts one of the most in demand and easily accessible Yoga Teacher Training courses, many of the sought after Yoga teachers in the world have trained at the Sivananda Yoga Organisations which are located worldwide.
This form of Yoga emphasises on a Yogic lifestyle rather than culling out Asana separately from the other limb of Yoga. A simple way Swami Vishnudevananda explained the basic principles of a Yogic Life are through the five points of Yoga
– Proper Exercise: Asana
– Proper Breathing: Pranayama
– Proper Relaxation: Savasana
– Proper Diet: Vegetarian Diet
– Positive Thinking and Meditation : Vedanta and Dhyaana
A classic Sivananda Yoga class is a gentle form of Hatha Yoga which consists of Pranayama and 12 basic Yoga Asanas. The Sivananda Yoga practice has been strongly inspired from the Rishikesh series and aims to increasing the practitioner’s strength, vitality and energy through the basic practice. Each class begins with an initial relaxation, which is followed by the introductory chant and 2 Pranayamas – Rapid Fire Breathing (Kapalbhati) and Alternate nostril (Anulom Vilom) breathing. The class proceeds further with Sun-Salutations and 12 basic postures which consist of inversions, forward bends, backbends, twists, arm balances and standing postures. Each class ends with the final relaxation and a final chant. There are a few pointers which make the Sivananda class different from the other schools of yoga– each pose is held for a long time, deep rhythmic breathing is encouraged, intermediate poses are inter spaced with resting poses in between and the inclusion of Pranayama in every class. Sometimes the classic format of 12 basic postures can be modified by adding variations, this completely depends upon the yoga teacher.
The beauty of Sivananda Yoga is that the basic structure of 12 postures can be modified for everyone – irrespective of age, physical ability or illnesses. The classes are perfect for those who want to take their first step towards understanding what Yoga is all about – as the lessons, the practice and the philosophy is simplified to suit everyone from all walks of life. Swami Sivananda whose teachings are the light behind Sivananda Yoga can be summaried in six words – ”Give, Love, Serve, Purify, Meditate and Realise”.
Know more about Sivananda Yoga in our book – Zu den Quellen des Yoga (To the source of Yoga) published by Random House. There is also an exclusive interview with Nataraj, the director of the Sivananda Ashram in Neyyar Dam, also if you’d like to practice a short Sivananda class, do check out our 30 minute Sivananda Yoga class video.
Adithi Mathews is a writer and yoga practitioner currently living in Germany. A former Radio Jockey, TV Journalist and Web Editor, she was introduced to the practise of Yoga at the age of 13, but settled into a serious practice only much later. Her thirst to learn, led her to The Sivananda Vedanta Danwantri Ashram in Kerala where she completed her Teachers Training and Advanced Teachers Training Course. Connect with Adithi via Facebook or Twitter.