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Sivananda Yoga


Sivananda Yoga and The Five Principles Of Wellness

Sivananda Yoga is a form of hatha yoga which focuses health and wellness. Established in the 1960s, it follows the teachings of its founder, Swamin Sivananda. It was brought to the United States by Sivananda’s disciple, Swami Vishnu-devananda. Today, you can find many Sivananda yoga centers in major cities in the United States and Western Europe.

The Five Principles of Sivananda

Sivananda yoga involves a specific system that naturally cultivates the body in order to keep it healthy. It can be summarized in five points:

1)Asanas or proper exercise
2)Pranayama or proper breathing
3)Savasana or proper relaxation
4)Proper diet, preferably vegetarian
5)Vedanta and Dhyana or positive thinking and meditation.

While yoga classes focus mostly on poses and breathing, each these points are all essential to achieving overall wellness.

What To Expect From Sivananda Classes

Sivananda yoga classes last for 90 minutes and incorporate postures and breathing exercises. The poses are executed slowly, allowing students to fully explore each of them.

The class starts with sun salutation warm-ups, chanting and is then followed by a sequence of twelve postures. The sequence is specifically designed to stimulate the chakras. Each routine will then end with a relaxation session, which touches the physical, mental and spiritual realm.

The twelve poses are as follows:

-Sirhasana or headstand
-Sarvangasana or shoulderstand
-Halasana or plough
-Matsyasana or fish
-Paschimothasana or sitting forward
-Bhujangasana or cobra
-Shalabasana or locust
-Dhanurasana or bow
-Ardha Matsyendrasana or spinal twist
-Mayurasana or peacock
-Pada hasthasana or standing forward bend
-Trikonasana or triangle

Each and every class follows the same sequence of poses, which tone and strengthen the muscles of the body. Instructors may change postures or add variations, especially as students advance in skill level. Meditation skills are also introduced to students during classes.

The Sivananda Diet

Healthy yogic diet is recommended for students and practitioners. Food choices include pure, natural foods including water, cereal, grain, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and fresh milk. These foods are not only beneficial to the body but they also lead to clarity of the mind. The diet strongly discourages foods that are overly stimulating such as coffee, tea, alcohol, salt and chocolate. Meats, poultry, fish and eggs are also discouraged.

While this type of eating is not strictly enforced on everyone, so you really do not have to follow this diet strictly. However, practitioners are encouraged to modify their diets to fully achieve the goals of Sivananda.

Is Sivananda Yoga A Good Choice?

This type of yoga is recommended for beginners, because the 12-pose sequence allows them to familiarize themselves with each pose. Because the poses are done slowly, students can slowly take in everything while holding their poses.

Sivananda yoga teachers work closely with their students to check on the poses and proper breathing. Unlike other forms of hatha yoga, this practice is not so strict on poses. With that said, it does not put too much emphasis on alignment. Instead, it focuses more on the other aspects that help bring about overall health such as breath work, chanting, diet, relaxation, meditation and positive thinking.

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Contributed by: Sita Miriam Zernis       Date: March 1, 2010
New Suggested Wording: Sivananda Yoga was developed by Swami Vishnu-Devananda, who named it after his own teacher, Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh. The first Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center was founded in 1959 in Canada. There are now close to 80 locations worldwide, including several ashram retreats.
This style of yoga is based on five principles - classic asanas, pranayama, relaxation, vegetarian diet, positive thinking and meditation. Sivananda Yoga practice consists of twelve basic poses often with variations added to increase strength, flexibility, proper breathing, and ease in meditation. A typical yoga session also includes the practice of sun salutation and incorporates some mantra chanting, meditation, and deep relaxation. Sivananda Yoga is a balanced and grounded practice that can be done by people of all ages and sizes. It supports not just good exercise for the body but clear ways to make healthy lifestyle changes in general.
Contributors Background: I am a Sivananda Yoga Acharya(Master), Holistic Health Counselor and Kirtanist who travels around the NY/CT areas playing with my group Sita's Light.
Description of Changes and Refencces: Swami Vishnu came to the US in 1957...but the first center was established in Montreal Canada in 1959. I have been with the organization for about 14 years now so fairly well-versed on background. The back up/verification is to look for information at which has information about all the ashrams and centers around the world, as well as bio info on Swami Vishnu and Swami Sivananda. There is really so much more that can be said about this style of yoga which is never said on most websites. I added a bit of that into the description above.

Do you agree or disagree with the suggested changes to Sivananda Yoga? Please send an email to with your feedback.
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