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June/July 2003
The Disciplines of Yoga


At the beginning of the 20th century, a number of inspired and influential yoga teachers emerged in India. They adapted the ancient asanas or postures to the Western world utilizing combinations of postures and breathing techniques, and emphasizing different aspects of the tradition. In the process, they transformed yoga from the domain of an elite few in India, to a practical regimen practiced by millions around the world. The process continues today as teachers and their students develop new combinations of the classic elements of yoga. The following describes some (but not all!) of the major yoga disciplines.

Ashtanga Yoga: Ashtanga yoga was originated in the 1940s by K. Pattabhi Jois at his school in Mysore, India. Also known as “power yoga,” Ashtanga links challenging postures together in a flowing set of sequences, synchronized with breathing techniques. Each series of poses must be mastered before embarking on the next. Ashtanga is a strength-oriented practice, with intense stretching in most of the poses. It produces internal heat and external sweating that detoxifies the body, improves circulation, flexibility and stamina.

Bikram Yoga:
Bikram Choudhury, the founder of Bikram yoga, worked for five years with Western doctors to develop his own system of 26 classic postures. They are always practiced in the same order in a room heated to 95 to 105 degrees. The heat promotes flexibility, detoxification and realignment of the body. Bikram yoga is rigorous, but each posture is designed to safely stretch and open the body in preparation for the next posture in the sequence. When he came to the U.S. in 1972, the common belief was that Western society wouldn’t (and couldn’t) do yoga; however, Bikram believed that the U.S.—laden with chronic disease and stress—was the perfect place for yoga to flourish. In 1974, Bikram founded the Yoga College of India in Beverly Hills, California. His vision has proved correct as there are now over 500 affiliated Bikram yoga schools (visit

There are a number of Bikram yoga studios in New York. See or call (212) 245-2525 for information and locations.

Integral Yoga: Brought to the U.S. in 1969 by Swami Satchidananda, Integral yoga, as the name suggests, aims to integrate the various aspects of the body and mind through a combination of postures, breathing techniques, deep relaxation, and meditation. Function is given preeminence over form. Integral yoga is taught at Integral Yoga International, headquartered in Buckingham, Virginia, and over 40 branches worldwide.

The Integral Yoga Institute of New York is located in a townhouse in the West Village. Open yoga classes (for beginners and advanced students) are scheduled throughout the day, with fees hovering around $13. Opportunities for advanced instruction are offered, but not just for yoga. Choose from a host of courses and workshops, ranging in category from mind and body health to cooking and nutrition, peaceful practices to specialized yoga instruction. A sampling of what’s available: a four-week course on Restorative Yoga ($65), workshops and courses on meditation and pranayama (yogic breathing), even a three-hour Introduction to Live Foods workshop ($65). Join the free group meditations in the afternoon (12:15-12:50) and late evening (8:30-9). For those on a tight budget, there’s the free “Happy Hour,” a 45-minute-long guided deep relaxation class every Friday, 5:30-6:15 p.m. For a schedule and course descriptions, visit the Integral Yoga Institute at 227 W. 13th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues), see, or call (212) 929-0586.

Iyengar Yoga: Founded by B.K.S. Iyengar of Pune, India, this is probably the most widely practiced system of yoga today. Iyengar created his own method of yoga grounded in precision of body alignment and coordinated breathing. The postures are slowly moved into and held longer than in most other styles of yoga. Iyengar is also unique for its use of cushions, straps, blankets and blocks to assist in doing the postures correctly, enabling the less flexible, elderly and disabled to participate. Unlike other practitioners, Iyengar believes that form must be perfected before practicing breathing techniques and meditation (See

The Iyengar Yoga Institute of New York offers more than 50 classes each week. A free introductory class is offered each month for those new to Iyengar yoga or the institute (pre-registration required); next ones are July 6th and August 3rd. Class fees range from $15 to $19. The Institute is located at 27 W. 24th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues), Suite 800. For information, call (212) 691-9642 or visit

Jivamukti Yoga: Developed in 1984 by Sharon Gannon and David Life in New York City, Jivamukti yoga integrates chanting, asanas, music, meditation and practices of devotion into a vigorous physical practice with a foundation in the ancient mystic philosophies of the East. Jivamukti means “liberation while living,” which is the universal goal of the practice. It is a blueprint for incorporating the physical and spiritual aspects of yoga into our modern lives and awakens in the practitioner ahimsa or nonviolence, a reverence for the environment, the earth, and all the animals and plants that share it with us. Gannon and Life promote an awareness of animal rights and environmentalism in their students and encourage practitioners to adopt a vegetarian diet.

The Jivamukti Yoga Center is located at 404 Lafayette Street (between Astor Place and E. 4th Street), 3rd floor, and there’s one uptown at 853 Lexington Avenue. Single classes are $17; pre-paid “cards” are less. Pre-registration for classes is recommended. For beginners, there’s a free introductory class. For information, call (212) 353-0214 or see

Kripalu Yoga: Developed by Kripalvananda and his disciple Yogi Amrit Desai, Kripalu is a gentle, introspective practice that urges practitioners to hold poses in order to explore and release emotional and spiritual conflicts. Kripalu yoga has three stages. In the first stage, postural alignment and coordination of breath and movement are emphasized, and the postures are held for a short duration only. In the second, meditation is introduced into the practice, and postures are held for prolonged periods. In the final stage, the practice of postures becomes a spontaneous “meditation in motion.” The Kripalu Center in Lenox, Massachusetts, hosts almost 12,000 students and attendees each year (see p. 12).

Kundalini Yoga: Kundalini yoga was brought to the U.S. by Sikh master Yogi Bhajan in 1969. Before that, it was a secret, sacred teaching passed down only to a chosen elite in India. The word “kundalini” means awareness, and its purpose is to awaken the life force which resides at the base of the spine and allow the energy to flow through the body. Kundalini yoga combines classic postures with breathing, chanting and meditation, and is characterized by movement rather than form. Kundalini is known for its use of “Breath of Fire,” a rapid inhalation and exhalation, without pausing, through the nose, pumping the abdomen as a bellows. Yogi Bhajan believes that the body has a natural euphoric state that can be reached through yoga and meditation—without the use of any drugs.

“3HO” is a nonprofit organization that promotes the teaching of Kundalini yoga. Yogi Bhajan himself offers instruction and meditations at events held at Ram Das Puri, a 170-acre yoga campsite in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico. The annual “Summer Solstice” brings together teachers and students from around the world for a week of yoga and celebration in late June. For information, see, call (888) 346-2420 or (505) 753-4988, or email In New York, you can learn more and attend open classes ($15) at Kundalini Yoga East at 873 Broadway (between 18th and 19th Streets), Suite 614; see, or call (212) 982-5959.

Sivananda Yoga: Sivananda yoga is the creation of the late Swami Vishnudevananda, who established his first Western center in Montreal in 1959. In the Sivananda centers, Hatha yoga is taught in its traditional form as it has been practiced for centuries in the Himalayas. This includes a series of 12 postures, breathing, diet, chanting, scriptural study and meditation. Sivananda has trained over 6,000 teachers, and there are numerous Sivananda centers around the world (see

The New York Sivananda Yoga Center welcomes beginners with a free monthly open house with an introductory lecture, two beginner classes and a vegetarian lunch (next: July 5th and August 2nd). They also offer drop-in “open” classes (first class is free) for a donation ranging from $8 to $12 (student and senior discounts also available). For information and a schedule, visit 243 W. 24th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues), or, call (212) 255-4560, or email Sivananda also has an ashram in the Catskills of upstate New York, offering two yoga classes and two veggie meals per day. Overnight rates range from $55 (weekday) to $60 (weekend). Cheaper rates for those who bring tents; and daily rates also available.

Viniyoga: Viniyoga describes the yoga taught by T. Krishnamacharya, which adapts yoga practices to individual characteristics and needs. As the teacher of yoga masters B.K.S. Iyengar, K. Pattabhi Jois, and Indra Devi, Krishnamacharya can be viewed as the father of the yoga renaissance in modern times. A descendant of the 9th century Yogi Nathamuni, viniyoga is firmly rooted in Krishnamacharya’s lifetime scholarship of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Viniyoga works with what is called sequential process and teaches that the breath should actually lead the body into and out of each posture. The emphasis is not on achieving an external ideal form, but on practicing a posture according to one’s individual needs and capacity. Krishnamacharya’s development of yoga therapy came from his knowledge of India’s ancient school of medicine, Ayurveda, which he integrated with yoga practice. The American Viniyoga Institute is located in Hawaii: visit or call (808) 572-1414.

Compiled by Catherine Clyne. Primary source material courtesy of the Yoga Expo’s website:

Joining the Animals: A Yoga Zoo for Kids

Does just-for-kids yoga sound like a futile concept? Shakta Kaur Khalsa is the pioneer of a movement that is sharing yoga with children on their own terms. Khalsa decided to translate the positions and movements of yoga into language kids can more easily, and eagerly, understand—animals. The Radiant Child Yoga Program simplifies yoga without undermining it, so that kids can reap its benefits without thinking they’re being forced into something “boring,” and it’s likely they’ll have an easier time incorporating it into their lives later on. Plus, recess takes on a new meaning!

Everyone can take something from the program, if nothing other than an opportunity to absorb the power of the imagination as you see traditional yoga poses honored with rather untraditional instructions but with the same outcome. To give you a feel for the regimen: after “Jogging Through the Jungle”—which involves deep breathing and knee lifting—the teacher instructs, “Stop! What is that animal high up in the tree? It’s a cobra snake! Come into Cobra pose. Lie on your stomach. Put your hands on the floor under your shoulders. Stretch your upper body up high, with your arms straight and your stomach resting on the ground. Stretch your head as far back as you can and hiss! You are a very fierce cobra snake! Keep stretching and hissing on the exhale for a minute. Then breathe in and lift your tail up. Try to bring your head and tail close together. Can they touch each other?” Then comes the elephant: “Stand up. Bend forward with your arms hanging down. Clasp your hands together, with fingers interlocked. Now walk around the room, bent over, and swinging your trunk. After a minute, stretch your trunk high up in to the air, lean back and let out a big elephant sound like a horn!”

I witnessed Khalsa’s ideas in action one Tuesday afternoon at Manhattan’s Universal Force Yoga Center. Here, a healthy and growing following of five to seven year-olds attends a weekly class—possibly more religiously than do their busier, adult counterparts. (Other age groups are available; this class is currently their most popular.) Some particular favorites among the little ones were the doggie pose (hands and toes on the ground with the body in a triangular position)—and the doggie ‘peeing’ (one leg outstretched)—and the leap-frog movement. To read up on the program or see a more thorough sampler of the animal yoga positions, see or look for Shakta Kaur Khalsa’s book Fly Like a Butterfly: Yoga for Children. To find out about the Universal Force Yoga Center’s offerings—kids’ yoga classes and beyond—visit them at 7 W. 24th Street (just west of 5th Avenue),, or call (917) 606-1730. —R.C.


Free Classes in NYC Parks!

Free yoga classes for all levels at Manhattan’s Bryant Park (enter at 6th Avenue and 41st Street), Thursdays at 5:30-7 p.m., through July 31st. (Yoga mats are provided.) This is a step toward the realization of teacher Kristina Marchitto’s “Yoga Project NYC,” which aims to bring yoga to New Yorkers outdoors (other locations are planned). Contact Kristina at (917) 407-8897 for information. Yoga is taught in the early morning at the Community Garden at 6th Street and Avenue B, Mondays 7-8 a.m. through June 27th. Call (212) 982-5673 for information. June is “Lighten up Brooklyn Month,” courtesy of Borough President Marty Markowitz. Dozens of free exercise classes are offered during weekends in parks throughout Brooklyn, including yoga, pilates, tai-chi, “boot camp” fitness, and running. For locations and information, see or call (718) 802-3700. Although indoors, the East Village vegetarian restaurant Caravan of Dreams offers free yoga classes, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at noon. Visit 405 E. 6th Street (between 1st Avenue and Avenue B) or call (212) 254-1613 for details.—C.C.


All in One!

Where can you find yoga classes, massage therapy, dance parties, nutrition counseling, aura readings, meditation instruction, and raw foods preparation workshops all in one space? Atmananda Yoga and Ayurvedic Beauty Holistic Center provides a sacred space for the balancing of the body, mind and spirit. The center offers services ranging from lymphatic drainage massage to yoga-teacher training, from holistic health counseling to facials. Various discounts are available. Call for details. For yoga class schedules, special workshops, and to learn more, visit the Atmananda Yoga and Ayurvedic Center at 552 Broadway, 3rd Floor (between Prince and Spring Streets in SoHo), call (212) 625-1511, email, or visit To book Ayurveda and massage appointments, call (212) 625-8559. —C.C.

Stress Relief in the City: Opal Center

The deepest, soundest night’s sleep I ever had was after I indulged in my first full-body Swedish massage. At the Opal Center for Massage and Allied Therapies in Brooklyn, NY, the skilled therapist’s smooth strokes and the ambient background music transported me to an oblivion that stayed with me well into the following day. In addition to enjoying the sheer luxury of surrendering myself into someone else’s hands, I was impressed with the expert attention paid to the little knots in my tight shoulders…Yes, a weight was truly lifted! I was also treated to some warm stone therapy: Large smooth pebbles are heated and placed at key points on the body, bringing comfort to congested muscles that surrender under their gentle weight and soft warmth. Other (free) additions may include flower essences, custom blended essential oils, or cold compresses. As well as classic Swedish Massage, you can also choose from Deep Tissue, Sports, Medical, Lymphatic Drainage, General Relaxation, Reiki, and Pre- or Post-natal using special ‘tummy down’ adjustable supports.

Opal is a really cute space, lovingly and elegantly decorated by owner-operators Sarah and Sherry with Feng Shui and Indian influences, and a complement of both inspiring and soothing colors. The stresses of the outside world won’t get a foothold in this candle-lit haven. Opal is located at 158 5th Avenue, Park Slope. Their rates are $70 for a 70-minute massage and $90 for 90-minutes; discounts are offered for a series of two or more visits. For appointments call (718) 857-6138, or visit for more details. —A.S.

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