You cannot do yoga.
Yoga is your natural state. What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state.
- Sharon Gannon
Jivamukti Yoga is a path to enlightenment through compassion for all beings.
It is one of the nine internationally recognised yoga methods. Jivamukti Yoga is a relatively modern school, co-founded by New Yorkers David Life and Sharon Gannon in 1984. However, Jivamukti Yoga has deep roots in the rigorous classical Ashtanga Yoga method.
We recognise the radical teachings of Swami Nirmalananda, affectionately known as the “anarchist swarmi”, and Sanskrit Master Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati, both of whom David and Sharon received direct teachings from in the 1980's.
The name Jivamukti, where ‘jiva’ means individual soul and ‘mukti’ means liberation, means that we believe that through compassion for all beings one can be ‘liberated while living’.
There are five tenets of Jivamukti Yoga:
Ahimsa (non-violence) is the primary ethic/yama of yoga practice. The Jivamukti Yoga method promotes ethical veganism and animal rights, and social and climate activism, as these actions, practices and social movements are aligned with ahimsa.
Shastra (study) is the study of ancient scriptures such as the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. We also study the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit and the Focus of the Month (FOTM) essay, written by a senior Jivamukti Yoga teacher around the world on a particular teaching or topical issue.
Bhakti (devotion) is the acknowledgment of God/Self-realisation as the ultimate goal of all yoga practices. Devotion is an interfaith and interreligious phenomenon. Kirtan (devotional chanting) and the use of altars are common devotional elements of Jivamukti Yoga.
Nada (sound/music) is used in Jivamukti Yoga classes to refine hearing through listening to uplifting music during the asana practice as well as to the sound of silence.
Dhyana (meditation) is an essential part of every Jivamukti Yoga class. It is a practice of connection with our Self and our interconnectedness with all of life.
By having our foundation on these tenets, we soon learn to approach yoga practice as so much more than competitive stretching. We come to realise that the FOTM study (shastra), chanting (bhakti), enjoying the spoken word and music (nada), asana (postures), dhyana (meditation), chatting with others after class (satsang), the soy lattes and vegan sandwiches before attending the climate justice march (ahimsa) are actually all integrated elements of our yoga practice.
This approach to yoga practice unifies our goal — enlightenment through compassion for all beings.
To experience the magic of Jivamukti Yoga, see my teaching schedule here.