Sunday, March 3, 2013
What is Sivananda Yoga (Besides My Favorite Style)?
Sivananda yoga was developed by Swami Sivananda, a medical doctor and yoga devotee who wanted yoga to spread to the Western world. The Sivananda method is simple, but not particularly diluted. The foundation of the practice is a sequence of twelve basic poses that work together to build strength, flexibility and focus. Sivananda yogis of all levels include these twelve poses in practice as often as every day, although with a longer practice additional poses may also be added.
I love the Sivananda sequence, and practice it daily when I'm in the yoga habit. The twelve poses are relatively easy to remember, and do provide a thorough whole-body workout that I feel great after finishing. I think my favorite thing about it, though, is how well it has suited me at many different levels of fitness.
It isn't a method that coddles beginners. For example, one of the twelve basic poses is headstand. The cool thing, though, is that of course it's acceptable to practice the poses at whatever level is comfortable for you. So, if you spend months doing preparatory poses instead of the full version of a pose (or even if you never make it to the full version at all) that's totally fine. When you're ready to move on, though, so is the routine. Almost all of the poses have more advanced variations. The time of practice is also flexible – the most basic way of practicing the sequence takes about twenty minutes, but you can build a practice as long as you want by adding long poses and variations.
Another thing I really like about the Sivananda system is the books. The Sivananda Companion to Yoga is my all time favorite yoga book. The pictures are a bit dated, but they are still beautiful color photos showing almost all the poses. The book describes basic and advanced variations on all the poses, plus how to build a routine the right length and difficulty for you. There is also information on yoga for children, older adults and pregnancy. The book does include interesting sections on yogic philosophy, diet, pranayama, meditation and so on, but it's still a great place to start if you just want to try the poses.