The Ancient Teachings of Yoga in a Modern Context

  • Bringing the ancient teachings of yoga into a modern context without “dumbing them down.” This is done by exploring the original yogic scriptures, written primarily in Sanskrit and finding their relevance to the world today.
  • Redefining the concept of asana to align closer to the original meaning of the Sanskrit term, "seat". Expanding the notion of seat to mean “connection or relationship to the Earth,” with Earth implying all of life, all beings. Citing from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, which says that asana should be sthira and sukham, Jivamukti Yoga maintains that one’s relationship to others (asana) should be mutually beneficial and come from a consistent (sthira) place of joy or happiness (sukham). That is a radical idea that, when put into practice, can dismantle our present culture, which is based on the notion that the Earth and all other animals exist for our benefit and should be exploited for our own selfish purposes. So the practice of asana becomes much 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.
  • Emphasizing that enlightenment is the goal of all yoga practices. The yogic enlightened realization is the oneness of being, where all otherness disappears. According to Jivamukti Yoga, to achieve this it is essential to dissolve otherness through non-harming, kindness and compassion, which helps one to realize that everyone and everything one sees “out there” is in fact coming from inside of them. Through compassion one can dissolve others back into the emptiness of their own heart.
  • Extending the practice of non-violence (ahimsa), kindness (maitri) and compassion (karuna) to include other animals and the natural environment. Non-violence, kindness and compassion are certainly not new concepts to religion or spirituality, but extending those practices to include non-human animals and the natural world is new.
  • Bringing the concept of emptiness (shunyata) into the study and practice of yoga, with evidence drawn specifically from the ancient yogic texts, primarily Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, so that students can understand that this concept is not only found in Buddhism but is essential to yoga as well.
  • Introducing a highly structured understanding of alignment, not only according to the human skeletal and muscular systems, but also to the energetic body, including the subtle anatomy of nadis and chakras.
  • Introducing a revolutionary approach to understanding the chakra system that incorporates connections between each chakra and its corresponding asanas as well as between each chakra and its corresponding relationships with others. This is an extremely powerful tool for resolving karmas and repairing relationships with others.
  • Presenting an integrated form of yoga, incorporating the four major margas or paths of yoga (jñana, bhakti, karma and raja) into an asana practice taught in a group classroom setting.
  • Emphasizing the importance of keeping a spiritual intention in one’s mind while practicing in order to achieve yoga as the desired result. According to Patanjali, whatever is in your mind while you are performing an action will determine the result of that action.
  • Introducing a highly sophisticated understanding of the practice of vinyasa according to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, in which conscious breath and intention result in bringing about equanimity of mind and the ability to redirect one’s destiny toward yoga—unity with all.
  • Creating many new asanas and asana sequences, such as Blossoming Lotus, Hippy Twist and Seat of Isis, all of which are described and illustrated in Jivamukti Yoga: Practices for Liberating Body and Soul, by Sharon Gannon and David Life.
  • Teaching that yoga should be and can’t help but to be political because of its goal—the realization of the oneness of being. Jivamukti Yoga maintains that if we are essentially all connected then it is necessary for yogis to do all they can to relieve the suffering of others and not live in an isolated “yoga bubble”—a skin-encapsulated ego. Step off the mat and into the world.
  • Reintroducing hatha yoga to the West as a rigorous demanding practice. Prior to Jivamukti Yoga, when the term hatha yoga was used in relation to yoga it meant easy or flaky. Jivamukti Yoga changed that and proved that hatha yoga practices are extremely demanding and not for the faint of heart or the dilettante. Jivamukti Yoga sees hatha yoga practices as practices that can lead to enlightenment and not merely preliminary practices to get one ready for the more “spiritual” or serious practices. Jivamukti Yoga reminds the world that meditation is a hatha yoga practice.
  • Emphasizing the importance of HariNam: chanting the names of God as a yoga practice, which instigated the development of the modern kirtan movement world-wide.
  • Creating the art form of asana dance, in which yoga asanas are integrated into choreographic performances. Prior to Jivamukti Yoga, there existed a long-standing tradition in India where asanas were demonstrated as public performances, but this was frowned upon in the West.
  • Creating the In-Class-Private or “ICP” where a teacher gives hands-on assists to a student working one-on-one in a class-room setting.
  • Staunchly adhering to only using and supporting cruelty- and animal-free, eco-friendly products and selling only organic, sustainable, recycled items in their boutiques. This has instigated many manufacturers to create such products.
  • Raising the bar for yoga teacher training standards. The Jivamukti Yoga 300-hour and 800-hour trainings are the most highly regarded and thorough yoga teacher training courses in the world today.
  • Making the practice of yoga “cool and hip,” according to Vanity Fair magazine.