Viniyoga of Yoga

Special application of the tools of Yoga

Someone new to Yoga might be confused by the seemingly vast amount of different Yoga styles on offer.

Viniyoga is not a style of Yoga, and a term I rarely use, yet there is some benefit to using it to denote the particular approach to Yoga that has come from T. Krishnamacharya, "the father of modern Yoga", and was transmitted to his son T.K.V. Desikachar, who passed away in 2016.

The Sanskrit term "Viniyoga" is found in the Yoga Sūtra of Patañjali and means "special application". The "Viniyoga of Yoga" is the notion that the tools of Yoga must be adapted to suit the individual (and not the other way around), which is central to these teachings. Those tools include working with the body and the breath, but can also include meditation, study (of ancient or modern texts), work with sound... all depending on the needs, abilities and interests of the student.

This specific situation, where Yoga is taught one-to-one (as traditionally was always the case), with the teacher devising a personalised Yoga program and the student practising at home, is at times also referred to as Yoga Therapy. This is another term I do not use - Yoga is Yoga, I simply teach Yoga -, but thinking about it that way can be useful, especially if a student has a particular physical, emotional or mental issue that needs to be addressed.

According to Gary Kraftsow, senior teacher of T.K.V. Desikachar and founder of the American Viniyoga Institute, there are four points that characterise the main difference between the Viniyoga approach and most other forms of āsana (posture) practices:

  • Function Over Form: The emphasis on function rather than form in āsana practice, and the science of adapting the forms of the postures to achieve different results
  • Breath and Adaptation: The emphasis on breath as the medium for movement in āsana, and the science of adapting the pattern of breathing in āsana to produce different effects
  • Repetition and Stay: The use of repetition into and out of the postures, as well as holding the postures
  • Art and Science of Sequencing: The refined art and science of sequencing which allows teachers to create practices of different orientation, length, and intensity to suit the intention and context of each practice and/or practitioner

Links: - Association for Yoga Studies - American Viniyoga Institute