Swami Sivananda is one of greatest sages of modern India. After a successful career as a doctor, he renounced the world, practiced intense meditation and attained self-realization. As a prodigious author, he published more than 200 books and pamphlets, thus spreading all aspects of Yoga and philosophy in simple yet profound words. In his ashram, the Divine Life Society in Rishikesh, Himalayas he trained many outstanding disciples. In 1957 he sent one such disciple, Swami Vishnudevananda, to teach Yoga in the West.
Swami Vishnudevananda lived with his master Swami Sivananda for 12 years. In 1957 he traveled to America, and in the early 70´s came to Europe, founding international Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres in many cities. He was a dynamic Hatha and Raja Yoga master bringing the classical teachings of Yoga and Vedanta (Yoga philosophy) in its purest form to the West. He was also a tireless campaigner for world peace bringing the message of peace to many troubled spots all over the world. Thousands of students have been personally trained by Swami Vishnudevananda as yoga teachers and much more have been inspired by his books “The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga”, “Meditation and Mantras” and “Sivananda Companion to Yoga”.
The physical yogic exercises are called āsanas, a term which means steady pose. This is because the yoga āsana (or posture) is meant to be held for some time. As Yoga regards the body as a vehicle for the soul on its journey towards total alignment, āsanas are designed to develop not only the body but to also broaden the mental and spiritual capacities.
Our body is meant to move and exercise. If our lifestyle does not provide natural motion of muscles and joints, then disease and discomfort have all the more opportunity to arise. Perhaps a bit contrary to what we have been taught in the West for years (“no pain, no gain”), Yoga is a philosophy that teaches the principles of going with life – including how we exercise. According to Swami Vishnudevananda, proper exercise is actually of the idea: “no pain, no pain”. By practising the yoga postures not as mere calisthenics, but with an awareness of the muscles used, of the breathing, of the relaxation – the mind learns to become detached from the senses little by little and the body strengthens in balance.
The body is as young as it is flexible. Yoga exercises focus on the health of the spine, its strength and flexibility. The yoga system of exercise can be compared to no other in its complete overhaul of the entire being. Performed slowly and consciously, the asanas go far beyond mere physical benefits, becoming mental exercises in concentration and meditation.
Swami Vishnudevananda, the founder of Sivananda Yoga, recommended daily practice of the 12 Basic Āsanas for optimal health. Traditionally our practice begins with Sūrya Namaskār, the sun salutation, and leg raises before the āsana practice, and includes proper relaxation, or Śavāsana, throughout and at to complete the class so that we assimilate the benefits we receive during our practice.
5. SITTING FORWARD BEND
9. HALF SPINAL TWIST
11. STANDING FORWARD BEND