What is Jivamukti Yoga?
Updated: Jul 1, 2021
In the 21st century, there is a style of yoga to suit everyone. There are yoga classes for new moms who can flow while holding their babies. There’s yoga for animal lovers who can practice with horses, goats, and dogs. There are even yoga classes for those who are after balancing their zen with beer or wine.
With so many options and styles of yoga available to the world, it can be difficult to know which one is best for you. I give vinyasa teacher trainings but, having done a Jivamukti teacher training myself, there are a lot of fundamentals I carry over.
If you have never heard of Jivamukti Yoga before, or if you’re interested in learning more about Jivamukti, keep reading. This is a Jivamukti 101 post on what this style of yoga is, its history, and what you can expect in any of the classes you attend.
The name ‘Jivamukti’ comes from the Sanskrit words jiva and mukti. ‘Jiva’ means the individual living soul and ‘mukti’ means the freeing from the eternal cycle of death and rebirth. Therefore, ‘Jivamukti’ implies liberation while still living on Earth.
What is Jivamukti Yoga?
Jivamukti yoga is a modern hybrid style of yoga that was created and branded by Sharon Gannon and David Life. Jivamukti is a very physical and strong style of yoga that takes its basic asanas from traditional Hatha yoga.
The five basic principles of Jivamukti yoga are
Dhyana, or meditation, as taught in the Jivamukti method is the practice of being still and watching/witnessing your thoughts. This practice is intended to enable a person to release their attachment to their thoughts and realize that they are more than their thinking mind.
All Jivamukti Yoga classes include meditation practice. Meditation is done either at the beginning or the end of the class. It’s also encouraged to practice meditation throughout the class while you’re in the postures/asanas.
Nāda, from Sanskrit, means ‘sound’. Nāda yoga explores the use of sound in your yogic journey. It often centers around a deep inner listening, chanting, and elevated music. Within the nāda practice, its fundamental aspects are based on the idea that everything that exists consists of sound vibrations, called nāda.
Jivamukti teachers generally don’t do the asanas/postures while they teach a class, unlike many other schools of yoga. This encourages students to develop their ability to listen effectively as they flow through the class, rather than by watching.
Sharon Gannon summarizes the intention of this approach as follows: “Through listening, hearing arises, through hearing knowing, through knowing becoming, by becoming being is possible.”
Jivamukti yoga classes also often incorporate chanting and/or singing at the beginning of a class to further practice nāda yoga.
Ahimsa is a Sanskrit term meaning non-violence or non-harming. Ahimsa is defined in Patanjali's Yoga Sutra in the first of five Yamas within the ‘Eight Limbs of Yoga’. The Yamas serve as a guide to how we can best act towards ourselves, and the world around us.
Jivamukti yoga teaches its students that the practice of ahimsa extends past yourself and other human beings. It includes all animal life. Jivamukti advocates ethical vegetarianism both as a way of resolving human karma and as a crucial environmental action towards the future health of the planet.
The Sanskrit phrase, “Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu” is often chanted in a Jivamukti class. This phrase means “May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.”
Bhakti, meaning "devotion to God", is the practice of devotion and humility. Jivamukti teaches that the goal of the practice is to become enlightened and realize God.
In Jivamukti yoga, it doesn’t matter what form of God you direct your love and devotion to. What matters is that the devotion is directed to a higher power rather than your own self or ego.
Shastra, or scripture, is the study and exploration of ancient yogic teachings. It includes the study of the Sanskrit language in which they were written.
History of Jivamukti
Jivamukti Yoga was co-founded in New York in 1984 by dancer and musician Sharon Gannon and artist David Life. The duo met in Manhattan in 1983 and two years later went to India together and met their first guru, Swami Nirmalananda. Upon their return, they opened the first Jivamukti Yoga Society in the East Village of New York City.
On another trip to India, Gannon and Life met Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, who became another guru to the duo. And later, in upstate New York, they met their guru Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati (Yogi Mishra).
The duo continued to grow the Jivamukti name and center throughout the 90s. In 2003 the first Jivamukti Yoga Center outside of New York City was opened in Munich. The style of yoga has gained popularity, especially amongst celebrities, and you can now find Jivamukti studios all over the world.
Is Jivamukti Yoga For Me?
If you enjoy a strong practice, Jivamukti is for you. However, don’t be intimidated by it if you’re just starting your yoga journey. There are beginner classes you can join which are a great way to get to know this style of yoga in a relaxed environment and at a slower pace.
Contrary to some other styles of yoga, like Kundalini yoga, the focus of the practice is on the asanas/postures. But unlike other modern styles of yoga, there is a deep connection to the spiritual aspect of yoga rooted in ancient practices and teachings.
Yoga is wonderful for so many reasons. It aids in managing anxiety and everyday stress, it teaches you about yourself and the world and helps you become the best version of yourself. If you are new to yoga, it may take a while to find a style of yoga that really works for you.
So, try them all. Whether it be an online class, or dropping into a new studio. Soon you’ll find the perfect fit for you, and in the meantime, you’ll be learning new things and having new experiences.
Contact me about my upcoming trainings or for more information:
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