Jivamukti Yoga

The gurus and founders of the Jivamukti Yoga method are Sharon Gannon and David Life. They met in 1983 in New York City and in 1984 created Jivamukti Yoga.

As a path to enlightenment through compassion for all beings, Jivamukti Yoga is grounded in the original meaning of the Sanskrit word asana as “seat, connection” —relationship to the Earth. Earth implies all of life.

Citing Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, which states 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 and happiness (sukham).

This 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 to be exploited for our own selfish purposes.

So 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.

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The Five Tenets of Jivamukti Yoga

This core philosophy is expressed through five tenets which form the foundation of Jivamukti Yoga. Jivamukti teachers embody these tenets, so that they color all of his or her teachings, whether in Basic classes, Open classes, other classes, workshops, or even just interactions with others in the Jivamukti community.

In classes other than Open classes, the teacher does not necessarily teach the five tenets explicitly or even state them out loud. In an Open class, however, the five tenets have a special role, because it is part of the teacher’s job to give the students an experience of all five tenets in each Open class, though again not necessarily by teaching them explicitly or even stating them out loud, but by allowing them to inform the class plan and teaching style.

Each of the five tenets should be clearly identifiable in every Open class, even though the names of the tenets may not actually be spoken. By doing this, students learn not to see asana as separate from spiritual study or chanting or meditation, but rather to integrate all of the elements that make up Jivamukti Yoga into one unified practice. This provides for a well-rounded approach to our goal — enlightenment through compassion for all beings.

The five tenets, not presented in any particular order of importance, are:

Ahimsa: A nonviolent, compassionate lifestyle extending to other animals, the environment and all living beings, emphasizing ethical vegetarianism (veganism) and animal rights.

Bhakti: Acknowledgment that God/Self-realization is the goal of all yoga practices; can be expressed through chanting, the setting of a high intention for the practice or other devotional practices.

Dhyana: Meditation: connecting to that eternal unchanging reality within.

Nada: The development of a sound body and mind through deep listening; can be incorporated in a class using recorded music, spoken word, silence or even the teacher’s voice.

Shastra: Study of the ancient yogic teachings, including Sanskrit chanting, drawn from the Focus of the Month to the extent possible.

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Our Gurús

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (1914—2009)

Ahhhh Samadhi. Yoga is Samadhi. God is One. Yoga is One. Philosophy is One. That’s All.

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois studied yoga under his guru Sri Krishnamacharya and also attended the Sanskrit College of Mysore, where he became a professor of Sanskrit and Advaita Vedanta. He and Sri Krishnamacharya developed the Ashtanga Yoga vinyasa series based on the purifying practices described in the ancient texts, which they discovered.

In 1948, he founded the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore. In 1958, he wrote his classic book Yoga Mala, which outlines Ashtanga Yoga and explores yoga philosophy.

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois lived as a householder, meaning he had a wife and family. By means of his sadhana, he was able to live in the material, secular world while at the same time being free of the usual emotional ups and downs that plague ordinary people.

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois taught Sharon and David, among many important things, the power of hands-on assists in transmitting the nuances involved in the practice of asana, as well as the importance of developing and maintaining a high intention during the practice of yoga. In 1998, David was made a certified Ashtanga Yoga teacher by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.

(Taken from the official Jivamutki NY website: www.jivamuktiyoga.nyc).

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Shri Brahmananda Saraswati (—1993)

Nobody is a fool and nobody is wise. It is the space, which makes you foolish or wise. If you have space within your mind, then you become wise, and if you have no space in your mind, then you become “otherwise”.

Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati, originally from Uttar Pradesh, North India, had an extensive background in Eastern and Western medicine. He practiced medicine as Dr. Ramamurti Mishra for many years in India and the USA until he took sannyas (renunciation) and became Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati.

His guru was Bhagavad Das, whom he met in Bombay India. In 1958, he founded the Yoga Society of New York. Ananda Ashram, which he founded in 1964 in Monroe, New York, continues to be devoted to Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati’s teachings and message.

A Sanskrit scholar, his life was dedicated to the union of science and the spirit. He is the author of Fundamentals of Yoga, The Textbook of Yoga Psychology (the definitive translation of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra) and Self Analysis and Self Knowledge, along with many essays.

Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati’s perennial teaching, “You are not the body and mind, although you have a body and mind”, along with the importance of meditation, the study of Sanskrit, and the practice of nada yoga —tuning the mind so as to align with celestial, cosmic musical vibrations— has had a significant influence in the development of Jivamukti Yoga.

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Swami Nirmalananda (1924—1997)

Love not anyone, not even God! Our picking and choosing love brings misery. Instead, let God love you. Be Love itself.

Swami Nirmalananda believed in the potency of Self rule, and he called himself the “Anarchist Swami”. He was a naturalist, a vegan and a mauni —he practiced silence for 11 years. From his solitary ashram deep in the wild forest in south India where he lived with Bambi, his deer companion, Swami Nirmalananda spread his message about peace and non-violence through letters he wrote to world leaders and followers around the world.

Through his practice and his teachings, Sharon and David gained confirmation of what they had been discovering on their own—that political activism is an essential part of spiritual practice. For several years, David lived as a sannyas (renunciate) after having been initiated by Swami Nirmalananda in 1989 and given the name Swami Bodhananada.

Swami Nirmalananda taught Sharon and David the core mantra of Jivamukti Yoga: lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu, which Sharon interprets as: May all beings, everywhere, be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute to that happiness and to that freedom for all.

Taken from the official Jivamukti Yoga website: jivamuktiyoga.com/story/swami-nirmalananda

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