As individuals on our own paths, we are all at different places, with different bodies, different histories and our purposes for Yoga are often different as well.
Viniyoga means to start at the appropriate place for each individual and proceed with appropriate steps in the desired direction. Viniyoga, in this broad sense of practice and purpose, is thus not so much a style as it is a methodology for the cultivation of practice based upon individual ability and purpose using the many classical tools of Yoga. By extension, public classes are taught in different ways, for different purposes, for different groups of students and for different stages of our lives.
The asana practice can be characterized by the conscious integration of breath and movement of the spine. Practice brings a strong, flexible and resilient back coupled with a long and steady, smooth and subtle breath. Function is stressed over form. Repetition, adaptation and careful attention to sequencing and breathwork are other key elements.
There are no set practices for Viniyoga, but there are core principles of breath and movement. One fundamental principle is respecting the individuality of each student.
Personal practices may also include pranayama, meditation, and other classic elements. Personal practices are taught privately. Given the scope of practice, the heritage of the lineage and the many therapeutic applications, the training requirements for Viniyoga teachers are extensive.
Viniyoga is the Yoga of T. Krishnamacharya and continued by his son, T.K. Desikachar. It's a long and influential Yoga tradition well known for a broad, deep and individual approach to practice. Thru his many famous students, Krishnamacharya is sometimes said to "have launched the Hatha Yoga renaissance in modern times, which is still sweeping the world." Mohan and Kraftsow are world teachers in this lineage in their own right.
The classic goal of Yoga is a calm, clear, focused mind to help us understand ourselves better. Sound practice should also help us observe clearly, act wisely and accept our responsibilities while being less affected by events beyond our control. Yoga is a perennial wisdom with echoes in all the worldıs wisdom traditions. One of my favorite personal perspectives is that progress in practice is reflected by improvements in relationships.
While Yoga is a formal Indian philosophy, it is best known in the West for its tools of practice. Among these are the asanas (postures), pranayama (breath extension) and meditation. Other elements include bandhas, sound, self-reflection, personal ritual, and even prayer. Sometimes not so well known are the classical foundations of practice; social and personal ethics.
In the West, most new students start Yoga with group classes of asana practice for physical fitness, stress reduction and perhaps something a little deeper. As they continue their practice, they may discover conscious movement, breath and time for stillness can implicitly provide a means of spiritual support, however personally and privately this may be defined.
The tools and practices of Yoga can be developed in many traditional, evolving and innovative ways. To sort this all out, it is useful to think of different orientations for practice. Practice, however, can have more than one orientation and the same tools can be used for different purposes.
Siksana For development of the body, the breath and the mind. To extend capabilities. Physical fitness.
Raksana To maintain health and promote physical and mental stability. For most of us with jobs, children and many responsibilities.
Cikitsa For common aches and pains, chronic disease and emotional health. To remove sources of pain and suffering. Therapeutic applications.
Adhyatmika To deepen self-understanding and to progressively align action with intention. Spiritual support.