Jivamukti Yoga is considered as a major style of Yoga in 1984, created by the infamous Sharon Gannon and David Life. It is a spiritual, physical and ethical practice combining various types of vinyasa (mostly those that are part of hatha yoga) and placing them with adherence to five important elements of the yoga known as Shastra (Scripture), Dhyana (Mediation), Bhakti (Devotion), Nada (Music) and Ahimsa (Non-Violence). The Jivamukti Yoga activists emphasize on environmentalism, veganism, animal rights and social activism. Jivamukti Yoga also has a renowned reputation that it also gained adequate significance of celebrities.
Meaning of Jivamukti Yoga
The title ‘Jivamukti’ is actually derived from the world ‘Jivanmuktih’ that gets bifurcated to ‘Jiva’ and ‘Muktih’. While Jivah stands for the living soul of an individual, muktih gets translated into liberation, what most of the people call ‘Moksha’ from death to rebirth. Thus, Jivamukti is the method of liberation while you are living itself.
Origin of Jivamukti Yoga
Jivamukti Yoga was originally founded back in New York by a musician cum dancer, Sharon Gannon along with David Life, her partner, cafe owner who also happened to be an artist. David Life and Sharon Gannon met in Manhattan, in 1982 and they happened to travel to India in 1986 together. They have met Swami Nirmalananda and have taken a vigorous teaching under Yogi Sivananda.
After being taught for 4 years, they opened the first Yoga Society dedicated exclusively to ‘Jivamukti’ in East Village, New York City. Initially, the started practicing Ashtanga Yoga along with Pattabhi Jois back in Mysore, India in 1990. Later, after going back to New York in 1993, they met Sri Brahmananda Sarasvati. Five years later, the centre was moved to Lafayette Street. Gabriela Bozic and Patrick Broome, two students who got trained at the first society later opened the Jivamukti Yoga Center outside the New York City back in 2003. Later in 2006, Gannon and Life relocated the NYC main headquarters to Union Square where the building is carefully architectured as a constructive studio with an adaptive vegan cafe.
Main Elements of Jivamukti Yoga
Shastra, known to be called as scripture is the study of major four texts of Jivamukti yoga along with the study of Sun Salutations and Sanskrit language. When they were first written, the four texts were known to be Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and the Patanjali Yoga Sutras.
Bhakti, translated to belief in God, is the practice of humility along with devoting oneself to the God. Jivamukti Yoga has ‘Theism’ as the main goal of practice, and it doesn’t matter what kind of God that you’re devoting yourself or in love with. Then, what’s the point, if you ask? It says that the devotion of a person should be towards something that he believes is higher than himself or his narcissism, understanding. While interreligious beliefs, building tolerance is the corollaries to the practice, the altars in the Jivamukti institutes are adorned with multiple idols and also some moral personalities like Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, etc.
Ahimsa is the practice of non-harm and non-violence. It is often informed by the shared compassion between the practitioners. According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras; there are total five Yamas that define how the Yogi should behave with the people around him and how he should act in the materialistic world. The methods taught in Jivamukti Yoga extend to not only humans but also the animals. Therefore, the yogis who practice Jivamukti Yoga are ethical vegetarians as they believe in the humanity, environmental imperative and also karma tri folding that Ahimsa is a lifestyle.
Translated as elevated music, Nada involves chanting, listening to the deeper dwelling sound of the body. The practical and theoretical aspects are based on the things that exist including humans, animals, flora and fauna that are capable of making sound vibrations. Known in Sanskrit as Nadam – it is a soundless sound – widely referred for ‘Om’, the sound that is said to be existing in the entire universe. Jivamukti classes include the chanting that integrates both Shastra along with bhakti.
Contrary to many schools, Jivamukti doesn’t teach postures alone but encourages the students actually to embrace them along with the music. The students learn by listening and it helps in developing the listening abilities.
Dhyana taught in almost all types of Jivamukti is known as mediation and is a method of practicing inner peace by being still and calm. It is intended to identify the self-consciousness of a person and realize what they are thinking and what are the reasons behind their thoughts. All the classes primarily beging with Dhyana.
Types of Jivamukti Classes
The open classes of Jivamukti are often theme based and are built on the essay written by David Life and Sharon Gannon. The theme that has often been explored through chanting, dharma talks, yoga scripture, asanas, pranayama, music and also meditation. The largest part of the class mostly consists of asanas that are extracted from vinyasa. In Vinyasa, the movement is synchronized with intention and breath where the teacher guides the students with a sequence of poses.
The basic class is structured as the fundamental class that lasts for four weeks. In this class, it explores different aspects of yoga starting with the basic asanas and then covers forward bending and backward bending asanas concluding with meditation and inversion. In the basic class, just like the open class; the stress is on vinyasa and alignment. Students will be taught how to use the props along with ‘how to do’ of the poses.
The third class is designed again with the same underlying vinyasa basics. The class will have a set of sequences assigned to it but which are practiced at a much slower and relaxed pace when compared to the upcoming classes. A bit advanced than both open and basic classes, it offers an opportunity to the students to refine themselves with a deeper exploration.
Spiritual Warrior class is exclusively designed for people who can’t spend much time in order to practice yoga. The structure of the class is set as it includes only warm up, sun salutations, poses that are done in standing, twists, both forwards and backbends, relaxation, inversions and as well as meditation. The concentration is put mainly on the pace.
Traditionally, yoga used to be taught in one to one mode where the teacher used to be with the student, playing the role of an instructor. These days, the yoga is being taught in larger groups. However, this private class of Jivamukti yoga offers adequate privacy to the students by enabling them to experience the methods of teaching and learning together. The student and the assigned yoga teacher can also attend the regular class in the group and then practice it later with the guidance of a private teacher.
The meditation class is the utmost important type of class in Jivamukti Yoga classes. A typical meditation class only follows three steps including choosing the seat, being still and then focusing on whatever you want. You will be taught of the common mantra known as “Let-Go” while you try to align your breath with your thoughts through the repetition of the mantra. The continuum in the breath will provide clarity in the practitioner helping them to realise the enlightenment or the supreme self. Usually, the class lasts for around 20 minutes to 30 minutes starting with chanting and ending with Q&A.
Jivamukti Yoga Practice Centres
Being taught as a primary yoga at around 11 program centers, it has become famous over the years and recognized to be taught at 30 affiliated centres as of now. All the yoga classes in these centres are based on the instructions and philosophy developed by both Life and Gannon who wrote essays based on the yoga they have learnt in India and the Pradipika, Patanjali sutras. To become a full-time instructor at any of these centres, one has to undergo rigorous training and then take a series of examinations. Only after passing these examinations, you will be selected as a potential teacher.
The full program of Jivamukti Yoga is taught at few centres located in New York, Washington D.C, New Jersey, Munich, Schloss Elmau, Berlin, Puebla, London, Japan, Greece, Netherlands, Russia, Norway, Spain, Luxembourg and also Switzerland. In the year 2003, Jivamukti Yoga has established a nature preservation centre of 125-acre area in the Catskill Mountains, Woodstock in southern New York. Later it became prominent as Jivamukti Forest Sanctuary, Wild Woodstock serving as the Jivamukti Yoga Scool. The entire construction is considered to be totally unpolluted and a building that promotes the lives of flora and fauna.
5 Predominant Jivamukti Poses
The Hero pose is one of those basic poses and is actually an effective pose in meditation, open and basic classes. Being one of the simpler yoga poses, it brings a relaxation to the body and relief to the limbs.
- Sit on the mat simply with your legs folded.
- Make sure that the folded legs are under your buttocks and both the upper and lower part of your legs are in a straight line.
- You can also transit to other poses from this pose where you can start lowering your upper body by bending it backwards towards the floor while maintaining a rigidity in the pose.
This pose is clearly named after the Hindu God, Hanuman. As a strong figure in Hindu mythology, he is known for his unique core strength and courage. Therefore this pose requires high levels of strength and flexibility for the execution. There are various other semi poses involved in this asana, but the end posture is the extension of arms over the head.
- While you need to avoid the strain in your body by knowing its abilities and limits, the pose involves in splitting the legs by placing one leg forward and the other leg backwards.
- While doing this one has to attain the balance and strength to hold this pose and then slowly move the hands over the head while taking full breath cycles.
- Make sure that you chant during the entire asana in order to attain inner calmness and peace.
Extracted from the Dance God or the King Dancer in the Hindu Mythology, it resembles the Shiva Tandava Pose, the dance posture of Lord Shiva, again the Hindu God. This pose tests your strength, focus, flexibility, concentration and balance.
- One has to have the ability to shift the balance and weight onto one leg.
- Starting by standing and then shifting the weight onto a leg, slightly bend forward from the hip area while your other leg is held towards the hips behind the hand.
- Try grasping the ankle of the leg by reaching for the toes as you extend your arm backwards while you raise the other arm to gain balance to the front.
Known as the Peacock pose, it is one of the advanced Yoga poses that requires a lot of strength and concentration. It is usually not taught in the first three class types and is only recommended to practice in either Spiritual Warrior class or the private class.
- In this pose, one has to lift the entire body off the ground by taking the support from the hands.
- Starting with keeping the body straight on the floor and then placing the hands on the ground, you will lift the body into the air while you keep the bent elbows very close to the body.
- As this body requires maximum upper body strength, you won’t be able to do it in the very first go.
This particular pose is known to be performed in different ways in different yoga styles. Perhaps, this pose can be considered as the most modified and customised yoga poses in the list of vinyasa. Because of its significant effectiveness, it is widely adapted as it involves the movement of all parts of the body including the core body, arms, legs, muscle groups, glutes, etc.
- Initially, you have to start with lying down on the mat with your face placed downwards and then start lifting your legs and chest part off the floor with the help of arms.
- Keep your arms stretched behind you as you try to grasp both the ankles by raising the legs up and keeping the arms extended.
Wrapping up, all the vinyasa involved in Jivamukti Yoga are not persistent and based on the level of training; one can customise these poses after acquiring adequate knowledge about the texts, poses and the practice. In case if you find it difficult to practice it in the start, know that practice will eventually give you a focus on balance. Jivamukti Yoga is entirely about opening yourself to you and also to the world.
As you proceed with practicing the Jivamukti Yoga, you will form a mindset that helps you understand the deeper immersion in a cultivated lifestyle that involves peace, patience and calmness. Therefore, start practicing it if you think that it suits your personality by joining the nearby Jivamukti Yoga centre or by consulting an acute instructor.