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June 26, 2017
By Yogalife

Jivamukti Yoga: enlightenment through compassion

Incorporating incantation, meditation, pranayama, philosophy and soothing music into an energetic flowing vinayasa practice, Jivamukti is a physically and intellectually stimulating method, says DinaGhandour.

It’s New York City in the mid-‘80s. The bohemian epicenter of the world has become home to every kind of mind, from artists and creatives to healers and spiritual seekers. It’s in this vibrant merger of people, events and ideas that Sharon Gannon and David Life – founders of Jivamukti Yoga – meet in 1983.

These like-minded individuals stumbled upon yoga through friends, not knowing they would go on to create one of the most powerful and popular methods in modern day. Much like today, a typical class at the time would have embodied a sweaty workout to get toned and flexible. But they wanted more, and so took it upon themselves to seek a greater understanding of this ancient practice.

In the late ‘80s, Sharon and David traveled to India and met their first guru, Swami Nirmalananda. On subsequent trips, they met their guru Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, and later in upstate New York, they met their guru Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati. Each of their gurus guided them further on their individual spiritual paths, and what they learned helped shape the development of Jivamukti Yoga. Sharon and David studied with their gurus for many years and received their blessings to incorporate their teachings into the Jivamukti Yoga method.

Stemming from the Sanskrit words Jiva – meaning individual soul – and Mukta – meaning liberation, Sharon and David created a community of ‘liberated souls’ who believe happiness and freedom is available and accessible in this life. Right here and now in our modern, everyday lives, if practiced alongside compassion. Students can expect fun yet challenging classes that are both grounding and yet uplifting in equal measure. And the magic that happens is all due to the unique fabric of the method.

The five tenets of Jivamukti Yoga

Ahimsa “non-violence”

Non-violence and, more specifically, compassion is the absolute focal point of the Jivamukti Yoga method, and is encouraged to be practiced both on and off the mat.

Bhakti “devotion”

Serving as a reminder that the practice of yoga is not just physical, but a practice of devotion, intentions are towards self-realisation, union with the divine or any higher purpose that speaks to you. Prepare to sing and chant at the start of a Jivamukti Yoga class to the sounds of a harmonium.

Dyana “meditation”

Here we see a link to the eight-limbed Asthana Yoga system which allows the practice of mediation to take place in a classroom setting, guided by a teacher. Meditation may seem a like an abstract concept for many new to yoga, and by including it at the end of class – even if just a five-minute session – it becomes instantly accessible.

Nada “deep listening”

A Jivamukti Class aids in the development of a sound body and mind through deep listening, with the idea that by honing your outer listening skills you’ll be better equipped to listen deeply to that which is within you. Your next class may include spoken word, music or silence.

Shastra “self study”

In order to stay connected to tradition, Jivamukti Yoga classes include study of ancient yogic texts as well as Sanskrit chanting. Every month a new focus is published on the main website, with a correlating sutra or verse to explore through asana, story, music and more.

Going vegan

Of all these tenets, Ahimsa plays the most pivotal role. The method speaks volumes about compassion and the founders believe that if we truly want to achieve lasting happiness, then there must be no suffering. This goes for all beings, no exceptions. That’s why most Jivamukti Yoga teachers and students practice a vegan or vegetarian diet.

“What you eat shouldn’t only be good for you, it should also contribute to your happiness – it should make you a happier person.” – Sharon Gannon


Dina is a 300-hour Jivamukti Yoga certified teacher. Her classes are available at 136.1 Yoga Studio in Dubai Marina three times a week. For more information, visit www.jivamuktiwithdina.com.


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