Asana as Activism: An Introduction to Jivamukti Yoga | Omega

Curious about Jivamukti Yoga®? Here's a guide to the essentials of this creative, multidisciplinary style of practice. 

What It Is
Jivamukti Yoga® features a vigorous, Ashtanga-influenced style of vinyasa designed to sculpt your body while nourishing your soul with spiritual teachings. Cofounders David Life and Sharon Gannon translate the Americanized Sanskrit word “jivamukti” as “living liberated.” Sharon describes Jivamukti Yoga as “a creative approach to living” and “a path to enlightenment.” 

What To Expect
Expect vinyasa-style sequences set to eclectic music (from Mozart to hip-hop to Krishna Das), including twists, arm balances, and backbends that will tone your core, arms, and legs. Your teacher will focus on alignment and hands-on adjustments. Classes often include intention-setting, chanting, spiritual teachings, and meditation. Teachers often explore the connections between yoga and veganism, environmentalism, and political activism. 

Types of Students
Jivamukti Yoga appeals to people “with imagination, a sense of adventure, and the courage to change,” says David. Artists, activists, athletes, and spiritual seekers are often drawn to this method.

About the Founders
Artist-activists David and Sharon founded Jivamukti Yoga in New York City’s East Village in 1984. They studied with Swami Nirmalananda, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, and Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati.

Core Philosophy
According to the Jivamukti Yoga website, in this method, “The practice of asana becomes more than mere physical exercise to keep one’s body fit or to increase strength or flexibility; it becomes a way to improve one’s relationship to all others and thus lead to enlightenment—the dissolution of the sense of separateness, the realization of the oneness of being, the discovery of lasting happiness.” The five tenets of Jivamukti Yoga are ahimsa (nonviolence), bhakti (devotion), dhyana (meditation), nada (sound; explored, in this case, via music), and shastra (the study of Sanskrit scriptures).  

What Makes Jivamukti Yoga Unique?
Classical yoga teachings mixed with intense physical practice; emphasis on a vegan diet, animal rights, and political activism; the Magic Ten warm-up series; options for an In-Class Private™ (see below). David sums up his and Sharon's multidisciplinary approach to teaching here:

 

Tips for Beginners
Jivamukti teachers recommend that beginners start with a four-week Basic Class, which teaches proper alignment in key poses, often with the aid of props. Then students may progress to a Beginner Vinyasa Class, where they’ll learn (and later memorize) the movements of a slow-paced vinyasa. When they feel ready, they can try an Open Class, which features a faster vinyasa flow, peppered with chanting and the teacher’s dharma talks, centered around a monthly theme.

Tips for Intermediate & Advanced Students
Students on tighter schedules gravitate to the Spiritual Warrior Class—a fast-paced, one-hour vinyasa flow, sans spiritual teachings. Those who are craving a longer practice and a dose of spiritual wisdom with their vinyasa may prefer an Open Class. And students who want to hone their practice may be advised to re-take a Beginner Vinyasa.

Options for Everyone
In addition to the Open Class, here are a few classes and courses that are open to all levels:

  1. Meditation: This class features chanting, meditation instruction, and a 20-minute mantra practice (plus a Q&A and closing prayers).
     
  2. In-Class Private: When students want to refine their skills, they can take a private yoga teacher to a public Jivamukti class. The teacher will guide the student through every move with verbal instructions and hands-on assists, help them refine your breathing and chanting skills, and give them a massage when they’re relaxing in shavasana.
     
  3. Jivamukti Immersion™: Offered in the form of weekend and 5-day programs, the Jivamukti Immersion is a deep dive into the Jivamukti Yoga method and philosophy. Be prepared for lots of chanting, community-building, daily asana and meditation practice, scripture study, and discussions about yoga and veganism.

Join cofounders, Sharon Gannon and David Life, for a monthlong teacher training in Jivamukti Yoga at Omega.

© 2014 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies

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