Oh I LOVE the sound of this form of yoga – it’s history, it’s execution, it’s purpose…
Originally the main training for warriors, Vyayam was prohibited from being practiced or taught for many years. You know something’s got power when the powers-that-be don’t want you doing it!
Now Kiwis are super-fortunate to have Yogitaratna Chaitanya back in the country after she’s spent five years of studying at the Traditional Vyayam School in the Moorish city of Granada, Spain. Yogita’s got a workshop coming up on September 11th, plus teaches regular classes on Vyayam yoga around Auckland.
The Yoga Lunchbox interviewed Yogita to find out all about this lesser-known form of yoga. See the end of the interview for details of the workshop in Auckand. In case you can’t make the workshop, there’s also details of her regular weekly classes.
1. What is Vyayam Yoga?
The literal translation of Vyayama is “to tame or master the inner breath”.
It is a Sanskrit word made up of two words ayama, which means, “to tame” and vyu, which means, “to stimulate or incite the internal and external air”.
Therefore it is a discipline that teaches us to tame the energy that comes from the air we breathe.
Having breath control means acquiring the capacity to control our vital processes and discover the key to conserving our energy. By learning to control our breathing we learn how to control the movement of our mind, and as we learn in Yoga, there is an intimate connection between body, mind and energy.
Vyayam originated in India, more specifically from the southern zones of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and as a discipline it was practiced in Vedic culture long before the Buddhist age. Vyayam was the main training for warriors for whom a noble spirit and inner knowledge were of great value. A great emphasis was placed on practices that provided physical preparation of muscular strength and knowledge about the projection of energy to each and every part of the body.
In the 5th century, the Hindu monk Boddhidharma introduced Vyayam into China with the purpose of helping the religious people in the Shaolin Temples strengthen their bodies which were weakened due to their monastic lifestyle and also to help defend themselves against bandit attacks.
From there the Chinese system of energetic gymnastics and traditional Chinese martial arts was born, which was followed by the Japanese disciplines and Martial Arts in the rest of the world. This is the reason why Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Kung Fu, Sorinji Kempo and Aikido are all inspired in Vyayam techniques. Vyayam Yoga can be learned today as martial arts training, as a preparation for dramatic art and dance or as a health therapy.
Vyayam has always been pursued throughout history, first by the Muslims and afterwards by the English in the colonization age. Its practice was prohibited by law and since then has only been practiced in a clandestine way. In spite of this, and thanks to the secret transmission of some Masters it was able to survive. For this reason there are barely any written documents in existence.
2. How did you discover and learn Vyayam Yoga?
Vyayam was introduced to Europe by Shrî Swami Shankaratilakananda who founded the Traditional Vyayam School located in the Moorish city of Granada in the South of Spain, and which I had the great fortune to attend for the last 5 years while living there.
I intensively studied the art of Vyayam Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Ayurveda and Vedic Culture under the guidance of the venerable master Shrî Swami Shankaratilakânanda who bought the practice of Vyayam to Spain from India inspired by the teachings of his guru, Swami Tilak. This Hindu master inspired his disciples in a unique and exceptional way and established a wonderful synthesis of Yoga and Martial Arts, converting this ancient martial art in an excellent Dynamic Yoga.
3. What do you love about it?
Without a doubt this technique is unique and stunning in its execution, and the reason why I am so passionate about it is because of the incredible benefits one can obtain through an assiduous practice.
Vyayam gives the practitioner muscle and tendon strength, it liberates the spinal column and gives elasticity to the whole back, it eliminates pain and muscular tension, it decongests joints preventing diseases like degenerative osteoarthritis and has a special effect on the bones helping to maintain them strong and healthy as our whole skeleton is nourished and regenerated.
It makes the body compact and strong and by increasing our vital capacity it balances our mind and gives us health, vigour and wellbeing. In a word, it balances the body, mind and spirit, which in my humble opinion is the objective of Yoga, achieving an equanimous mental and physical state in any circumstance or situation in life no matter how difficult that situation may be.
I do believe however that the most rewarding part about teaching Vyayam, and why I love it so much, is seeing just how much people benefit from its practice. To be able to help others improve their general health and mindfulness through this thousand year old technique is an honour and something that I am very grateful to be able to share.
4. How is it different from other Yoga styles people are more familiar with?
The most obvious difference when practicing Vyayam is that it is a more dynamic practice, meaning that instead of the static âsanas that you will practice in a classical yoga class, these postures are fluid, graceful and constantly in movement and the vyangas (postures) are executed for the majority of time standing rather than sitting.
It is like meditation in movement accompanied by lively Indian style music.
5. What can people expect from a Vyayam class? How will they feel afterward?
People can expect to move a lot, create energy and as a consequence feel the heat within their bodies rise. They can expect a new and creative way of movement that is energising and graceful, powerful and strong. They will learn more about the art of breathing and on how many different levels correct breathing can greatly affect our general health and as a consequence our lives. It is a technique apt for all ages, body shapes and sizes, beginners and more advanced Yoga practitioners.
Initially at the end of a class reactions can vary and can range from huge energetic lifts where people claim to feel boundless energy or perhaps the complete opposite can happen and sometimes a feeling of fatigue can enter as the type of breathing executed during the practice can often shift emotional and energetic blockages within our bodies.
But most of all they can expect to have fun, release tension and enjoy a new and exciting technique with wonderful benefits for body, mind and soul.
Vyayam Workshop Details: The Art of Dynamic Breathing
When: Saturday September 11th 9am – 11am
Cost: $40 – LIMITED PLACES
Bookings & more info: Call Yogita at The Yoga Ground (136 Ponsonby Rd, Auckland) to reserve your place, 022-685-1189. Email her on email@example.com
Yogita’s regular Vyayam Yoga classes:
- Wednesdays 7.15-8.15pm @ Ashram Yoga, 27 Cheshire Street, Parnell, Auckland
- Sundays 10.30-11.30am @ Lifesport, Eastridge Shopping Complex, Kepa Road, Mission Bay, Auckland
Yogita’s regular Hatha Yoga Classes:
- Sundays 4-5.30pm @ Ashram Yoga, 27 Cheshire Street, Parnell, Auckland
- Mondays 9.30-10.30am & Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays 7.15-8.15pm @ Lifesport, Eastridge Shopping Complex, Kepa Road, Mission Bay, Auckland
About Yogitaratna Chaitanya:
Ondine Savage (Yogitaratna Chaitanya) has recently arrived back in New Zealand after spending more than ten years overseas.
For the last 5 years she has been living between Spain and India intensively studying the art of Hatha Yoga, Vyayam Yoga and Vedic Culture in the traditional and Orthodox eastern style with her master Shri Swami Shankaratilakananda.
She feels privileged to be able to bring Vyayam Yoga to New Zealand for the first time to share its amazing benefits with all those who have a passion for health and well being.
If anyone would like to host Yogita in their town for a Vyayam workshop, get in touch with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.