Jivamukti Yoga combines the physical aspects of Vinyasa Yoga with the ethical and spiritual aspects of the ancient yogic scriptures. Founders, Shannon Gannon and David life, developed the discipline in order to place the original yogic teachings in a contemporary context “without dumbing them down.”[i]
There are five fundamental tenets on which the foundation of Jivamukti Yoga rests:
- Ahimsa—signifies nonviolence and the philosophy that hurting another being is equivalent to hurting oneself; followers practice veganism or vegetarianism.
- Bhakti—refers to religious piety, viewing yoga as the path of systemized devotion that leads to self-realization.
- Dhyana—translates to meditation, and is one of the eight limbs of yoga, according to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra.
- Nada—concentrates on deep listening and chanting during yoga, approaching sound as a potential medium for spiritual enlightenment.
- Shastra—refers to scripture, centering on the study of ancient yogic texts[ii]
Jivamukti teachers believe that practicing the asana does more than merely improve the practitioner’s fitness; they believe it improves the practitioner’s relationship to all other beings, thereby leading to unity and enlightenment. The Jivamukti Yoga method is comprised of six different classes: Open Class, Basic Class, Spiritual Warrior, Beginner Vinyasa, Mediation and In-Class Private. Many of them utilize one uniform warm-up sequence, known as the Magic Ten.[iii]
Sharon Gannon and her partner, David Life, founded the Jivamukti Yoga method in 1984, only a year after their own meeting. They proceeded to travel to India and practice yoga under the legendary gurus, Swami Nirmalananda, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati. Gannon and Life, then, returned to New York to open the first Jivamukti Yoga Society.[iv]
The emphasis on extending nonviolence to all beings, including animals, is an element unique to the Jivamukti method. Gannon and Life accentuated the importance of this tenet in 1999, when they founded the Animal Mukti Free Spay & Neuter Clinic, the first free animal clinic in New York City. They further manifested their compassion for animals by establishing the Wild Woodstock Jivamukti Forest Sanctuary, in an effort to shelter flora and fauna in upstate New York.[v]
Among their many accomplishments, Gannon and Life are also the well-known authors of Jivamukti Yoga, Practices for Liberating Body & Soul, The Art of Yoga, and their latest book, Yoga Assists.
The physical benefits of practicing Jivamukti Yoga are similar to other vigorous styles of yoga: improved circulation, strength, posture, flexibility, etc. More important, however, are the benefits resulting from the lifestyle changes associated with the discipline. People who practice the Jivamukti method are essentially practicing compassion and devotion; and as they strengthen the connection between their mind and body, they may also strengthen their connection to the earth. These lifestyle changes promote general happiness and wellbeing, and can thereby stimulate numerous health benefits.
In order to attain the certification necessary to teach Jivamukti Yoga, instructors must complete one of the two extensive training programs:
- 300-Hour Teacher Training—month-long, residential training program taught by senior instructors; the curriculum covers the history and philosophy of yoga, the Sanskrit language and anatomy, along with practice teaching and a variety of exams.
- 800-Hour Mentorship—a continuation of the 300-hour certification, this program consists of 500 hours of combined apprenticeship and self-study.
- “The Ancient Teachings of Yoga in a Modern Context.” Jivamukti Yoga. www.jivamuktiyoga.com/about/innovations. Accessed Sept. 20, 2013.
- “Core Philosophy.” Jivamukti Yoga.
- “What is a Jivamukti class?” Jivamukti Yoga.
- “Sharon Gannon & David Life.” Jivamukti Yoga.
- “Activism.” Jivamukti Yoga.