The founder of the American Viniyoga Institute shares insight on Viniyoga practices and a sequence for helping to manage addictive behavior.
We use the term Viniyoga—an ancient Sanskrit term that implies differentiation, adaptation, and appropriate application—to refer to an approach that adapts yoga practice to the unique conditions, needs, and interests of each individual. This traditional yoga lineage gives each practitioner the tools they need to individualize and actualize the process of self-discovery and personal transformation.
In Viniyoga, we believe that yoga can effect positive change in each practitioner. This requires an understanding of a person’s present condition, personal potential, and goals. Using the teachings and practices of yoga—including asana, pranayama, bandha, sound, chanting, meditation, personal ritual, and the study of texts—we create an integrated practice to help practitioners move through pain, grief, depression, addiction, and more.
There are four main differences between the Viniyoga approach to asana and most other forms of asana practice:
- Function over form. We emphasize the function rather than the form of asana and use the science of adapting the forms of the postures to achieve different results and benefits.
- Breath and adaptation. We focus on breath as the medium for movement in asana, and the science of adapting the pattern of breathing in postures to produce different effects, depending upon the goal.
- Repetition and stay. The use of repetition into and out of the postures, as well as holding the postures, enhances the structural and energetic effects of practice.
- The art and science of sequencing. Viniyoga teachers create practices of different orientation, length, and intensity to suit the intention and context of each practice and practitioner.
According to Krishnamacharya, the grandfather of most Western forms of the practice, a yoga teacher must strive to understand the true needs of the student and to adapt a practice to serve those needs. He reminded teachers emphatically that teaching is for the student, not the teacher. It is through the choices that we make in sequencing that we are able to create usable and relevant yoga practices for specific students.
Patanjali and other great yoga masters recognized the diversity among people and within the same person at different stages of life. They proposed a range of tools, leaving it up to the teacher to decide which were appropriate. Those tools include asana, pranayama, meditation, ritual, chanting or mantra, and prayer.
See also YJ Interview: Gary Kraftsow
A Viniyoga sequence is a logically ordered, context specific strategy that uses the tools of yoga to actualize an intention. It is effective, efficient, and elegant.
In the following sequence for working with addiction, you will notice the integrated use of all of these tools. Addiction impacts us in a multidimensional way, affecting our anatomy and physiology, emotions and cognition, and behavior. As such, an integrated practice that works on all of these levels is the ideal way to create a positive direction of change in our lives.
Find a comfortable, quiet space and be mindful of your breath—a primary focus of Viniyoga—as you work through the following sequence. As Krishnamacharya once said: “If you’re not regulating your breathing, you’re just doing calisthenics.”
Try This Viniyoga Sequence Below:
About our author
Yoga therapist Gary Kraftsow evolved this approach to yoga from the teachings transmitted by T. Krishnamacharya and T.K.V. Desikachar of Madras, India. Gary is the director and senior teacher of the American Viniyoga Institute; the author of two books: Yoga for Wellness and Yoga for Transformation, four DVDs, and several online workshops, including Pranayama Unlocked, Meditation Unlocked, Yoga Therapy for Depression, Yoga Therapy for Better Sleep, Yoga Therapy for Anxiety, and Asana Unlocked. Learn more at viniyoga.com.
About our Model
Model Evan Soroka is a Viniyoga therapist in Aspen, Colorado. Learn more at evansoroka.com.