Sivananda Yoga was founded by Swami Vishnudevananda. His guru was Swami Sivananda (1887-1963). Swami Sivananda taught a synthesis of all the formal doctrines of Yoga. He was born in 1887 in Pattamadai, Tamil Nadu, South India. His childhood name was Kuppuswami. He was a brilliant boy at studying, gymnastics and naturally inclined toward spiritual and religious practices.
His parents were devotees of Lord Siva. He authored more three hundred books on Yoga and health. Before renouncing worldly life for the spiritual path he was a medical doctor. He was one of the greatest Yoga masters of the 20th century. Serve, Love, Give, Purify, Meditate, Realize.The main essence of his teaching are: serve, love, give, purify, meditate, realize. He sent his one of the disciple Swami Vishnudevananda to the west to spread the teachings of Yoga and Vedanta.
He remains a world authority on Raja Yoga and Hatha Yoga. He created International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers. His bestsellers book is “The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga and Meditation and Mantras. Sivananda Yoga defines Yoga as “union of the mind, body, and spirit with the Divine and while this refers to a certain state of consciousness both individual and Universal, it is also a method to help one reach that goal.”
It teaches traditional and easy learning system that aims at naturally achieving the goal. It focuses on creating healthy body and mind that leads to spiritual evolvement. Swami Sivananda, Swami Vishnudevananda summarized the yoga philosophy in Five Points.
FIVE POINTS OF YOGA ACCORDING TO SIVANANDA YOGA:
A) Proper Exercise (Asanas) – Asana is the third limb of yoga. It helps to develop a strong and healthy body. It enhances flexibility and improves circulation and immunity.
12 BASIC ASANAS
There are varieties of asanas. Among them, 12 asanas are given more priority.
- Headstand (Sirshasana)
- Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana)
- Plough (Halasana)
- Fish (Matsyasana)
- Sitting Forward Bend (Paschimothanasana)
- Cobra (Bhujangasana)
- Locust (Shalabhasana)
- Bow (Dhanurasana)
- Spinal twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
- Crow (Kakasana) or Peacock (Mayurasana)
- Standing forward bend (Pada Hasthasana)
- Triangle (Trikonasana)
Asana suggests that pose should be balanced and comfortable, stable yet relaxed helping a practitioner to become more conscious of their body, mind, and environment. Asanas open the energy channels, chakras and psychic centers of the body. It increases the flexibility of the spine, strengthening bones and stimulating the circulatory and immune systems.
Along with proper breathing, asanas calm the mind and reduce stress. Regular practice ensures overall physical and mental health and the possible prevention of diseases. Conscious practice of asana, with proper pranayama, provides a mental exercise in concentration and meditation.
B) Proper Breathing (Pranayama)- Conscious breathing reduces stress and many diseases. Conscious breathing automatically corrects the way of breathing.
C) Proper Relaxation- It reliefs the body from going into overload mode, removing worries.
D) Proper Diet- Natural, healthy and vegetarian foods give a positive effect on the mind and body. It is also good for the environment and other living beings.
E) Positive Thinking (Vedanta) and Meditation (Dhyana)– Vedanta study and meditation practice are true keys to achieve peace of mind and eliminating negativity in our lives.
Sivananda Yoga talks about four types of yoga:
In order to achieve stronger and healthier body as well as a way of living that promotes peace and mindfulness to counteract day-to-day trials and tribulations, there are four paths in yoga. All these paths lead to the same place- union with the Divine. These paths give different options that fit different human temperaments and approaches to life. Whatever path is fit for a person, that path can be chosen.
- Karma Yoga( the yoga of action) states to act without egoist expectations in all activities of daily life -work, office, home, school. It says- just enjoy on work but not expect for fruit. This path is better for the person, who is outgoing and enjoys a certain sense of spiritual activism to help others.
- Bhakti Yoga(the path of devotion): Some people have emotional nature and enjoy prayer. They like worshipping and seeking God through unconditionally loving and helping others. Bhakti yoga is fit for this type of person. Bhakti Yoga normally follows kirtan or singing/chanting the names of Lord. Bhakti yogi enjoys singing and dancing on spiritual songs as well.
- Raja Yoga(the Science of the mind) takes us on a comprehensive journey to understand mind, imaginations and thinking patterns. We can be able to gain control of the physical body and the life force energy (prana) through mental control. This is good for the people who are interested in meditation and its effects on the mind.
- Jnana Yoga(the yoga of knowledge): It states intellect, wisdom and knowledge are the foundation for spiritual development. The person considered a good path for those with strong intellectual tendencies as it requires a high level of strength of will and mind. So this is not easy for all. The base of jnana yoga is Vedanta. It is good for the jnana yogi if they understand some other paths very well. This helps to broaden the path to move along towards Self-realization or profound spiritual awakening.