What is Yoga?

The word “yoga” derives from the Sanskrit root “yuj,” which means “to join.” Yoga is a system of practices whose goal is to achieve personal transformation by encouraging the various aspects of a person’s being – body, mind, and spirit – to join into a cohesive whole.

Is Yoga a religion?

No. Although yoga has spiritual aspects, it is not a religion per se. Yoga developed over thousands of years in India during the same period that Hinduism and Buddhism were developing, and these religions incorporated many aspects of yoga in their practices. Therefore it is common to associate yoga with Eastern religions.

What can Yoga do for me?

There are many benefits to a Yoga practice. Stretching poses help to improve flexibility, creating space in the joints so that movement is easier (and, often, joint pain is lessened or alleviated). Strengthening poses improve muscle tone. Breathing techniques can positively affect energy and mood. Focusing on coordinating breathing and movement helps to improve attention and concentration.

I’m very inflexible. Can I still do Yoga?

Although many people think of Yoga as exercise, physical movement is actually only one part of Yoga. And even the physical movement part of Yoga – asana practice – does not require flexibility. When moving through Yoga poses, the idea is to reach – gently – towards the edge of your range of motion, but not to go over the edge. As you do this, your flexibility will improve.

What is Viniyoga?

Viniyoga is an ancient Sanskrit term that implies differentiation, adaptation, and appropriate application. Viniyoga practice adapts the classical methods of yoga to the unique condition, needs and interests of the individual.

How is Viniyoga different from other forms of Yoga? There are four points that, taken together, characterize Viniyoga practice:

  1. Repetition between 2-3 poses, as well as holding poses.
  2. Emphasis on function rather than form: adapting classic poses to achieve desired results.
  3. Emphasis on breath: using the breath to initiate and facilitate movement, and adapting breathing patterns to achieve desired results.
  4. Sequencing of poses to suit the goals of each practice.

Is Viniyoga primarily a system of asana practice?

No. Although asana is important, it is only one aspect of yoga. Depending on the individual’s needs and desires, a yoga practice might also include pranayama (controlled breathing), bandha (held locks), chanting, meditation, personal ritual and study of texts.

Is Viniyoga the same as Vinyasa Yoga?

Although the names of these two yoga styles start with the same three letters, the derivation of the words in Sanskrit, as well as the nature of the practices, are quite different. “Vinyasa,” coming from the word “nyasa” plus the prefix “vi,” suggests placement, referring, in asana, to the sequence of poses. A Vinyasa yoga class generally incorporates many poses in an energetic, flowing sequence. The word “Viniyoga” derives from the word “yoga” plus the prefixes “vi” and “ni” and suggests appropriate application. In practice, this means that yoga methods are adapted to the practitioner’s needs and interests.

Isn’t Viniyoga only a gentle, therapeutic style of yoga?

No. Viniyoga is often thought of as only a therapeutic practice because its focus on individual adaptation makes it especially helpful for people with physical issues. However, a Viniyoga teacher can create a practice that is appropriate for the needs and desires of any individual or group.

How should I prepare to come to yoga class?

Wear comfortable clothes that are not too loose but that allow you to move and stretch. It is best to do yoga barefoot, or you can wear socks with non-slip soles. At some locations we have mats and other props but it’s a good idea to bring your own yoga or pilates mat. A blanket is also useful (we use them as cushions). Also, be sure not to eat for at least 2-3 hours before class.

Do we spend the entire class doing movement?

No – the class begins with a few minutes of sitting, slowing down the breath and focusing attention on our bodies. This is followed by asana (poses and movement). The class usually ends with savasana (resting pose) for 5-10 minutes, and pranayama (controlled breathing) for 5-10 minutes. All the parts of the class are important – to get the most out of the class, and also to ensure the experience of others in the class is not disrupted, I encourage you to not skip the beginning and/or the ending parts!

What is Yoga Therapy?

Yoga Therapy uses the tools and techniques of yoga to help people manage their health issues and symptoms: structural, physiological, and/or psychological. In a yoga therapy session, I would create a practice for you to do on your own to bring relief from symptoms, to help heal, and to help shift attitudes that might be impeding better overall health.

What can I expect in my first yoga therapy session?

Typically, a first session will take at least an hour. I would ask for health information relating to the condition for which you are seeking help. I would then do a static and moving structural assessment: looking at the structure of your body at rest and then while moving through some simple yoga poses. I might ask, depending on your issues, about sleep, digestion, exercise, lifestyle, psychological issues, etc. I would then design practices for you to try on your own – sometimes one practice, sometimes several, for different times of day. We would go through the practice in that session, and I would then give you the practice in written, and sometimes oral recorded, form, to take home with you.