What is Yoga?

Yoga is an experience-based approach to life that aims to enhance your personal evolution at every level (physical, mental-emotional and spiritual) through the regular practice of transformational activities.

The philosophy of Yoga proposes that we can find freedom in our lives, and that freedom will come from the relief of mental-emotional suffering. The means to diminish our suffering is by training the mind in order to change our mental-emotional habits (known as samskaras). We do so using a variety of conscious practices such as posture and movement practices (asana), breath control techniques (pranayama) and a range of meditation practices (pratyahara, dharanam and dhyanam). 

It is worthy of mention that long before approaching this grand goal of freedom (often referred to as enlightenment or realisation) there can be a number of other benefits from regularly engaging in such Yoga practices. These include improvements in strength, mobility, flexibility, circulation, increases in energy, improvements in relaxation and ability to deal with stress and many other health benefits. These benefits are very helpful and indeed, are often of greater importance to students at the earlier stages of Yoga practice due to the level of suffering they cause. So before tending to the bigger goal of total freedom, Yoga first seeks to improve overall wellbeing in order to create a strong foundation from which the deeper work can begin.

Foundations of Yoga

The ground of our approach to Yoga comes from the teachings of Indian yogi, Sri T. Krishnamacharya. A renowned healer and scholar, Krishnamacharya taught such modern greats as BKS Iyengar (Iyengar Yoga), K. Pattabhi Jois (Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga) and Indra Devi. No other person had a greater impact on the evolution and modernisation of Yoga during the 20th century. Krishnamacharya died in 1989 and his work was continued by his son and closest student, TKV Desikachar, and the staff at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in Chennai.

Krishnamacharya’s fundamental belief is expressed in his oft-quoted saying: “Teach what is inside you, not as it applies to you, to yourself, but as it applies to the other.”

He insisted that the practices of Yoga must be adapted to meet each student’s individual needs (Viniyoga), so that Yoga could be truly accessible to all. This is the underlying principle that pervades every level of our teaching, as without it we feel that Yoga becomes a manipulative effort to change people beyond their true nature.

Our accumulated experience, amounting to more than forty years of study, practice and teaching, have shown us that this principle, along with the other attitudes to Yoga practice as taught by Krishnamacharya, protects and empowers Yoga students on every level. It is from this firm foundation of understanding that we pass on what we have learned.

The Pathless Path

Our approach to teaching Yoga is not a style or tradition, and does not represent any one school or lineage of Yoga—not even that of the great Krishnamacharya.

It is our belief that if you adhere to any given style you immediately (and unnecessarily) limit your options, and thereby restrict the potential of the resulting Yoga practices. The realm of Yoga practice is vast, and we openly consider all tools presented by all Yoga traditions—and beyond—to further our personal evolution and that of our students. In that sense, we have found that the way of Yoga is a pathless path, open in all six cardinal directions.

Our teachers’ journeys in Yoga have been varied, and we have drawn inspiration and gained understanding from many of the world’s wisdom schools. Held within the guiding principles of Krishnamacharya’s teachings, these varied approaches have helped us to open and broaden our perspectives on the complete Yoga journey.

The principles of practice offered below are attitudes that we have found to be practically useful on our own journeys, and helpful in guiding others along the pathless path.

At the Heart of Yoga

Yoga is for Everyone

It’s easy to get the wrong idea about Yoga. All across magazines and social media we see people promoting beautiful bodies in pretzel poses and gravity-defying inversions. Class titles and the publicity efforts of many Yoga instructors imply that Yoga is only for gymnasts, athletes and acrobats, far beyond the reach of ordinary people.

We disagree.

Yoga should be accessible to everyone.

Krishnamacharya’s key principle is Viniyoga, which is the adaptation of Yoga practices to meet the needs of the individual. Unlike other approaches, we don’t try to bend our students to fit a “one-size-fits-all” methodology. Following Krishnamacharya’s other principles of teaching, we change the practices to bring the right level of challenge in the right way.

We teach real Yoga for real people. Every person out there who is still breathing can, with intention and commitment, do a regular Yoga practice and change their life.

If you don’t believe us, come and see for yourself.

One Step at a Time

We all want big changes and we want them now. In our experience, if you gain something quickly you’ll lose it just as quickly. If what we really want is a more permanent change in our life situation, we need to settle in to work on it over the long term. Just as the sea gradually wears down massive stone cliffs, with the right practice over time we can erode our not-so-helpful habits.

Vinyasa Krama means to apply specific movements in stages. In other words, we need to start right where we are, with what we are capable of doing, and gradually progress towards our goals, one step after another. Our progress should always be challenging, but it’s important not to overstep. Often it’s when we’re determined to make that big leap forward that we create problems such as injuries, so it’s important to be intelligent in how we approach our practice.

Vinyasa Krama applies to how you approach each individual technique, how we sequence a number of techniques to create a practice, and how we evolve a student’s practice towards their goal over time. There are ups and downs for sure, but if we pay attention to what is going on, our direction will always lead us toward our intended goal.

Yoga starts in the Body

The aim of Yoga has never been the achievement of contorted body postures or complicated breath work. The ancient texts are clear that the practices of Yoga are about shifting the habits of your mind. This means moving away from our usual mode of analysing and judging everything, and into a direct and more intuitive experience of reality.

We believe that the best way to get out of your head is to get into the body. This is the practice of Embodied Awareness. This is the development of an intimate relationship between your body, your breath, your mind and beyond. In our experience, the development of Embodied Awareness is the most significant factor in moving towards total (mental-emotional) freedom.

It’s a very simple idea. You just take your awareness to what is happening in your body as you do your given Yoga practices, focusing all of your attention on the actual sensations that arise. But simple doesn’t mean easy, and it takes time and effort to develop the skill of staying embodied throughout your practice. Yet when you do, you will notice that your practice changes, and becomes a powerful force for change in your life.

Learning to Relate

Krishnamacharya was clear that Yoga is all about relationship. As your practice develops you will see more clearly the relationship between your body, your breath, and the various layers of your mind. You will begin to understand your authentic self, and how you can express in relationship with the rest of the world.

Yoga is a path of self-empowerment, where you must work with commitment and total personal responsibility. At times we may need the help of others, but authentic Yoga never aims to make you dependent. Yoga will show you the ways to step up and claim your own power, to live from a steady place of inner confidence (Sthira) and happiness (Sukham).

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