What is Sivananda Yoga?

Sivananda yoga is a traditional yoga style based on the teachings of Swami Sivananda. With solid roots in the traditional practices of yoga, Sivananda yoga can guide every sincere yoga practitioner into the depths of yoga and into a profound connection with their inner self.

Unlike many modern yoga styles, Sivananda yoga greatly emphasizes philosophical teachings, selfless service, spiritual practices, and the physical practice of yoga, providing a truly comprehensive exploration of yoga.

Whether you are a serious long-term yoga student or a complete beginner, Sivananda yoga can offer immense knowledge and wisdom.

Definition of Sivananda Yoga

Swami Sivananda began to spread the teachings of yoga in 1932 with the establishment of his ashram in Rishikesh, India. He had a unique approach to traditional yoga by synthesizing the four main paths of yoga: karma yoga, bhakti yoga, raja yoga, and gyana yoga. Swami Sivananda summarized his teachings in the following phrase “Serve. Love. Give. Purify. Meditate. Realize.”

Sivananda yoga was based on Swami Vivekananda’s teachings emphasizing Vedanta philosophy but had a more open perspective on different philosophical views and traditions. Sivananda yoga is much more than just exercise; it incorporates many profound philosophical teachings along with practical techniques for moving further on the path toward awakening.

There are five main principles of Sivananda yoga:

  1. Proper Exercise (asana)
  2. Proper Breathing (pranayama)
  3. Proper Relaxation (pranayama)
  4. Proper Diet (sattvic vegetarian)
  5. Positive Thinking and Meditation (Vedanta and dhyana)

Sivananda yoga was primarily spread worldwide by Swami Vishnudevananda in 1959. It is also important to note that there has been controversy around Swami Vishnudevananda, and allegations of sexual impropriety have been made against him. These allegations are undoubtedly essential to acknowledge, but the original teachings of Sivananda yoga truly have their roots in Swami Sivananda, and there is an ethics committee investigating things further, so many argue these teachings still have much to offer despite this guru’s actions.

Benefits of Sivananda Yoga

Due to the synthesis in Sivananda yoga between poses, breathing techniques, meditation, and philosophy, Sivananda yoga provides unique benefits to the body, mind, and soul all at the same time.

The primary benefits of Sivananda yoga may include:

  • Improves strength and flexibility
  • Calms the mind
  • Relieves stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Enhances cardiovascular and respiratory health
  • Promotes introspection and self-awareness
  • Increases focus and concentration
  • Improves overall wellbeing

The core purpose of Sivananda yoga is to encourage the mind to settle down so that you can begin the more profound practices of meditation and self-study. Depending on the speed of how you practice, you can emphasize different aspects such as strength building, relaxation, or introspection.

The Sivananda Companion to Yoga

The Sivananda Companion to Yoga

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The Top 5 Sivananda Yoga Poses

One of the reasons Sivananda yoga is so popular is due to its systematic approach to yoga practice. Every Sivananda yoga class follows a typical sequence and often includes 12 foundation poses practiced in a set order. Variations are also offered for beginners to make these practices more accessible. Some of the most popular Sivananda yoga poses include:

  1. Shoulderstand Pose (Sarvangasana)
  2. Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
  3. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
  4. Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
  5. Crow Pose (Kakasana)

As you explore Sivananda yoga, make sure that you also consider exploring the powerful breathing techniques and philosophical depths of this beautiful practice in addition to the poses.

The Sivananda Companion to Yoga

The Sivananda Companion to Yoga

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How to Practice Sivananda Yoga

Sivananda yoga follows a set sequence of 12 poses that can be expanded with greater variations and breathing techniques or shortened into a maintenance 30-minute sequence. Due to the systematic nature of Sivananda yoga, this makes the practices easier to learn the foundations and do on your own.

Every Sivananda yoga class begins with savasana or Corpse Pose, followed by rhythmic breathing and the chanting of the dhyana slokas. After more pranayama or breathing techniques, you flow through sun salutations and the foundational 12 poses and then end with another practice of savasana, closing meditation, and chanting. Typically, it would be best if you tried to have three full breaths in each pose, but you can also extend these breathing times for a calmer practice.

An excellent way to begin practicing Sivananda yoga on your own is to print out the list of the 12 poses and place the images near your mat to remind you as you flow through the sequence.

Of course, it is always helpful to have a teacher guide you deeper. The critical thing to remember is that Sivananda yoga is primarily about meditation and the breath, so pay attention to where your mind is shifting during your practice and see if you can gradually begin to center it onto a singular point of focus.

Start Sivananda Yoga at Home

Due to the systematic nature of Sivananda yoga, it is an excellent practice to do on your own at home. So, if you cannot make it to a Sivananda yoga studio in person or want to try Sivananda yoga at home, check out these follow-along videos.

Sivananda Yoga Basic Class – 60 min | Sivananda Open Class

30 minutes practice of Sivananda Yoga for beginners to intermediates

Sivananda Yoga 30 Minutes

Sivananda Yoga Class – 60 min session | Intermediate variations

Use these videos as a guide, but for more assistance, it is always best to seek out a qualified Sivananda yoga teacher for more in-depth instructions and adjustments as you go deeper into your yoga practice.

The Sivananda Companion to Yoga

The Sivananda Companion to Yoga

Price:
Buy Now on Amazon

Clicking this link to make a purchase may earn us a commission at no additional cost to you.

Sivananda Yoga FAQs

What are the 5 Principles of Yoga by Sivananda?

Swami Sivananda emphasized five main principles of yoga that every practitioner should engage in regularly. Those five principles of Sivananda yoga are proper exercise (asana), proper breathing (pranayama), proper relaxation (savasana), proper diet (vegetarian), and positive thinking and meditation (Vedanta and dhyana). These five principles are often woven into the daily life of a regular Sivananda yoga practitioner.

Is Sivananda Yoga Good for Beginners?

Sivananda yoga is an excellent practice for beginners because it really emphasizes the fundamentals of yoga practice. Additionally, the systematic nature of Sivananda yoga makes it easier for beginners to learn the poses and techniques through repetition. Sivananda yoga truly synthesizes the primary transformative practices of yoga into a complete method for harmonizing the body, mind, and soul.

What Type of Yoga is Sivananda Yoga?

Sivananda yoga is based on the teachings of Swami Sivananda and draws upon the teachings of Vedanta and yoga as the foundations of each practice. Sivananda yoga is similar to hatha yoga, and it often has a slower pace of practice. Still, you can get an excellent workout for your body and mind in this engaging yoga practice incorporating traditional teachings and modern relaxation.

Important: Check with your doctor before trying Sivananda yoga for the first time if you have any injury, illness, pain, or are pregnant.

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