Sivananda yoga is a non-proprietary form of yoga that distills the wisdom of yoga into five key principles: proper exercise (asanas), proper breathing (pranayama), proper relaxation (savasana), proper diet (vegetarian) and positive thinking/meditation. Following five key principles, Sivananda yoga aims to retrain the body by increasing vitality and decreasing disease.
Sivananda yoga focuses on the practitioner’s health and wellness. Unlike more athletic practices, such as ashtanga or vinyasa, sivanda yoga incorporates poses with an emphasis on relaxation and proper breathing techniques, along with positive thinking and meditation. This is a non-competitive practice with an emphasis on spiritual well being and physical health.
Class typically begins with practitioners resting in savasana. Next, practitioners will practice breathing techniques, followed by sun salutations and the 12 basic asanas. The 12 basic asanas are headstand, shoulderstand, plough, fish, sitting forward bend, cobra, locust, bow, spinal twist, crow or peacock, standing forward bend and triangle. Asanas are practiced in a specific order to allow systematic movement through the body. Practice sessions typically last 90 minutes, although instructors can adjust the practice for variation.
Sivananda yoga teaches practitioners to use their full lung capacity and to control their breathing through deep, slow and rhythmical breaths. Using full lung capacity eliminates shallow breathing and helps to expand the shoulders, reducing tension in the upper part of the back and neck. Proper breathing moves energy through the body. The two most important forms of breathing techniques for Sivananda yoga are Kapalabhati and Anuloma Viloma.
Sivananda yoga exercise is dedicated to promoting spinal health through strength and flexibility. The spinal column is home to the body’s central nervous system; when the spine is out of alignment, this affects the brain’s ability to properly send and receive messages. Daily yoga exercise supports proper spinal alignment, maintaining the spine’s flexibility and strength. Daily practice also improves circulation, ensuring that the nerves receive a steady supply of nutrients and oxygen.
Positive thinking and mediation are the most important parts of Sivananda yoga. We become what we think; when we cultivate positive, creative thoughts we create a joyful, peaceful mind. Learning and practicing the teachings of the philosophy of Vedanta can develop a positive outlook. The regular practice of meditation brings the mind under perfect control, allowing practitioners to focus the mind on their true self. Daily meditation helps practitioners face life with peace and spiritual strength, opening the door to intuitive knowledge.