Sivananda Yoga is a style of yoga popularized by Sri Swami Sivananda. This is a traditional style of Hatha Yoga. Sri Swami Sivananda adapted the eight limbs of yoga to establish five tenants of yoga practice: proper breathing, proper exercise, proper thought, proper meditation, and proper relaxation. Typically, during a Sivananda style yoga class, students will be wearing yoga shirts and yoga pants that are loose-fitting. It is important for the student to be able to move freely and comfortably, and that the materials are not synthetic, so something like cotton yoga shorts would also work well.
Sivananda Yoga is characterized by its specific sequence of preparatory poses and pranayama, followed by 12 different asanas performed in a particular order aimed to stimulate the seven major chakra centers in the body. First, a Sivananda class begins with Savasana. During this asana, the teacher will guide the students through tensing and releasing their body parts, beginning with the feet and working up until the head. This process begins to stimulate and move prana throughout the body, beginning to stimulate all chakras and energy pathways or nadis, throughout the body. Following a final release and relaxation in Savasana, the student practices pranayama to balance and move the energy within the body.
Following this balance and relaxation, asana practice begins with sun salutations (Surya Namaskar) in preparation for the chakra-balancing sequence. This practice consists of 12 different postures that are said to help balance and stimulate the body. It warms up the tissues and the ligaments and tones and strengthens the organs and the muscles. If practiced at a higher speed, it can increase the heart rate and strengthen the heart and the lungs. This series also helps the body and the internal focus onto the breath. Following four to six repetitions of this practice, the sequence of 12 asanas taught by Sri Swami Sivananda begins.
• Headstand (Sirshasana)
This pose is referred to as the “king of all asanas”. It affects the head of the body, and therefore, stimulates the Sahasrara (crown) chakra, as well as the Ajna (brow or third eye) chakra.
• Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana)
• Plough (Halasana)
Each of these poses includes a throat lock, bringing intentional awareness and constriction to the throat. This stimulates the thyroid gland which relates to the Vishudha (throat) chakra.
• Fish (Matsyasana)
This asana opens the chest, shoulders, and heart. The pose affects the thymus gland which relates to the chest and stimulates the Anahata (heart) chakra.
• Sitting forward bend (Paschimothanasana)
This pose requires the cultivation of strength from the core or the navel. This affects the Manipura (solar plexus) chakra.
• Cobra (Bhujangasana)
• Locust (Shalabhasana)
• Bow (Dhanurasana)
• Spinal twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
These poses affect the kidneys, suprarenal glands, and reproductive glands, especially in women. This stimulates the Swadhishatana (sacral) chakra.
• Crow (Kakasana)
• Standing forward bend (Pada Hasthasana)
• Triangle (Trikonasana)
These three postures are followed by Savasana and a final seated asana like the lotus (padmasana) or the half lotus. These balancing and rooting postures stimulate the Muladhara (root) chakra.