The contemplative path of yoga refers to a cluster of experiential techniques of self-inquiry which arose on the Indian subcontinent approximately 4000-5000 years ago. Although different, and at times even contradictory in their existential philosophies, all yogic methodology arising at this time share one common purpose, that of spiritual liberation through empirical wisdom and resulting in the cessation of suffering.
Classical Yoga Philosophy
Whit teaches the philosophy of Classical or Raja-Yoga as passed down through the teachings or Patanjali's Yoga-Sutras. The path of Classical Yoga is a meditative trek designed to unearth and extract the true nature of Self from the myriad experiences with which we readily identify.
Yoga expounds that we create our own suffering as a result of the misidentification (avidya) of ourselves with mind states and the body. By slowing down and stilling the body and mind through meditative techniques, we can begin to observe that which we are not, in turn revealing over time that which we truly are, pure awareness. And once we have returned home to and remain abiding in the seat of witness-consciousness, we no longer misidentify or become affected by the vicissitudes of life. This is the liberation of the Self and the cessation of suffering.
The essence of vinyasa yoga, colloquially referred to as 'flow' yoga in the West, is the integration of movement, conscious breath and mindfulness. The most fundamental aspect of this approach to posture practice is the breath. It is the breath which animates the movements of the body and without the breath there is no yoga. The term yoga is most commonly defined as union and in vinyasa yoga it is the breath which yokes the mind and body into a state of spatiotemporal unification. So by definition, without consciously controlled rhythmic breathing, there can be no union between mind and body and in turn no yoga.
A 'vinyasa' is a planned course of action and is not necessarily solely an aspect of our yoga practice. However, upon the mat, a vinyasa is a deliberately planned course of action to transition from and link together the various postures (asanas). Simply put, a vinyasa is the transitional movement that takes us from point A to point B. Vinyasa yoga thus unites the postures throughout the practice, giving rise to a steady stream of mindfulness and deep levels of meditative absorption.
Vinyasa Krama is a traditional form of vinyasa yoga taught by the father of modern yoga, Sri T. Krishnamacharya (1888-1989) and passed down to Whit's primary asana teacher, Srivatsa Ramaswami (1939 - ). Krama means to put or place in a particular order and thus Vinyasa Krama is the intelligently sequenced application of the vinyasa approach.
Vinyasa Krama is a very slow moving, mindful and powerful practice. Considered the most comprehensive representation (over 900 postures) of Krishnamacharya's teaching on yogasana, vinyasa krama is gaining rapid popularity owing to the ever increasing pace of life and the imperative to slow down and honour our embodied well-being.
The practice of yin yoga is a relatively young and recent addition to our modern yoga culture. Initially devised as a result of the study of the meridian system of Chinese medicine and its intention to stimulate the health of the subtle energy body, yin yoga is a passive and transformative practice targeting the connective tissue of the body and the health of the joints.
It is theorized that within the connective tissue of the body (fascia, ligaments, tendons, bones etc) are housed the pathways within which the body transmits energy (chi, prana). As the body ages and gradually dries out, its connective tissue contracts and becomes brittle, impeding the body's innate ability to move the vital life force. Yin yoga's intention is to target and release the connective tissue gradually, reawakening this innately vital process of the body, bringing healing to all aspects of human experience.
Owing to the passive stillness of this practice, yin yoga provides a rich opportunity for the arising of wisdom through contemplation of mind and body. Whit's approach to the practice of yin yoga incorporates the methodology of Buddhist mindfulness practice, the foundation for the practice of vipassana (insight) meditation and is a wonderful, complimentary practice for formal meditation.