Why I love Viniyoga

I admit it. I’m a Viniyoga snob. I won’t practice any other style of yoga, and I certainly won’t teach any other style. But I didn’t start out that way. Like most people, when I took my first yoga class I didn’t even know different types of yoga existed. I thought all yoga was the same, and honestly, I thought all yoga was a little weird.

My first yoga class changed all that, even though it wasn’t Viniyoga; it was Iyengar-influenced Hatha yoga. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry. Neither do most of the people down-dogging next to you. Suffice it to say that Hatha is an umbrella term for the physical practice of yoga, and Iyengar is a specific style, focused on holding poses with exact alignment.

I liked my first yoga class. A lot. In fact, I liked it so much that I was afraid if my yoga teacher knew how much it was hurting me, she might not let me attend anymore. She knew of my injuries, but even though she was a well known and very experienced yoga teacher (she even co-authored a yoga book!) she didn’t know how to adapt yoga for my body. But that didn’t matter to me. All that mattered was the incredible peace of mind I received from practicing.

Then that teacher went on a month’s vacation.

Determined to keep up my practice, I went to a number of studios in the Seattle area and tried a variety of styles. Luckily for me, one of those styles was Viniyoga. I didn’t know why at the time, but for the first time, I left a yoga class feeling not only mentally, but also physically, better. Over time, I continued to experiment, but I kept coming back to Viniyoga. And then one day I knew: I was destined to teach this wonderful lineage.

Flash-forward 12 years, and I can now explain what makes this style so unique. My teacher calls it The Four Key Differentiators of Viniyoga:

  • Linkage of Breath and Movement: Viniyoga links movement with the breath, which makes each movement more powerful, mindful, and structurally integrated than non-breath-centered movement.
  • Use of Movement and Stay: Viniyoga students move in and out of poses before staying in them. Movement systematically prepares the body to hold a pose by warming the muscle groups that will be taxed in that pose. Movement also helps reprogram habitual movement patterns, so students move more functionally, even in non-yoga activities.
  • Adaptation: Viniyoga adapts poses to the practitioner, rather than assuming there is one “right” way to do a pose. The goal is to achieve the function of a pose, instead of its form.
  • Sequencing: Viniyoga teachers carefully design classes so that each pose prepares for or erases strain from the poses before and after it.

But I’ve found something even more powerful in Viniyoga—community. Viniyoga emphasizes the teacher-student relationship. With no “one size fits all” approach, a Viniyoga teacher must be present with her students, get to know her students, even care about her students to be effective. I came to love practicing Viniyoga for what it did for my mind and my body. I came to love teaching Viniyoga because it made me a more observant, caring part of my larger community.

More than anything else, that’s why I love Viniyoga.



Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle!

17 thoughts on “Why I love Viniyoga

  1. Stephani Sutherland

    Excellent piece Tracy! I’d love to connect and learn more about you! I’m in southern California and halfway through the Foundations program with AVI. This piece sums up so clearly why I LOVE Viniyoga too! thanks for this.

  2. Whole Life Yoga Post author

    So glad you liked it! My e-mail and studio web addess are under the tab titled “the studio.” I hope you love your AVI training!

  3. Stacey Urdang

    My first Yoga class was in 1989 and loved it/not so much, though kept learning about and seeking more Yoga. In 2004 a friend introduced me to her teacher, Gary Kraftsow whom she was traveling to Hawaii for; I thought she was nuts.
    We all met over burgers and beer in Lenox, Ma. Gary seemed like a regular guy.
    Next day, my first day @ Kripalu; once the workshop began I felt inspired, engaged and at peace. I knew I was in the company of my Master Teacher.
    For me, Viniyoga is to give~to teach every person something true and positive within themselves. Completed my (CYT) Certification as a Yoga Therapist 2009 as I continue on my own path.

    1. Whole Life Yoga Post author

      So glad you found your way to viniyoga! Who was your friend who studied in Maui in 2004? I wonder if she was in my class?

  4. Tammy

    I was very lucky to have landed in a Vinyoga class from the beginning (with Juris in Southern California). That was in 1999, and by 2002, I found myself flying to Maui to meet Gary and Mirka for a week long retreat. It changed my life.

    I am moving into expanding my teaching now (let’s call it my second career), and I am finding that teaching Viniyoga is itself becoming a deep part of my practice. It does open you to thinking about ways to better care for the people who come to you. It is a practice in evolving compassion. I love it.

    Tammy (AVI TT07)

    1. Whole Life Yoga Post author

      My story is similar to yours, just a few years earlier! Juris was one of the assistants in my teacher training with Gary. Thanks so much for reading my blog!

      1. Tammy

        I just came across you again thanks to the AVI Facebook shout out, and I had forgotten I commented! All still true. As I teach more, my teaching becomes more intimate and open. The teaching is becoming an extension of my personal practice on a much deeper level.

  5. Maria Tabler

    Exactly! I love Viniyoga! I trained in this tradition and how wonderful it is to teach. The possibilities are endless and the diversity is amazing. I was attracted to this tradition specifically to avoid the “one size fits all” approach. It’s like being a tailor….a tailor of programs to suit the individual, their needs and lifestyles. What a gift it was to receive and what a gift it is to pass on 🙂

    Thank you for your blog, it was lovely to read.

    1. Whole Life Yoga Post author

      So glad you liked it! The best part of this article has been hearing from other Viniyoga teachers out there in the world. 😉 I do blog on Viniyoga topics weekly, so please check back!

  6. Barbara Meyer

    Tracy has created a wonderful community of yoga teachers and students at Whole Life Yoga. I was so lucky to drop-in to the studio several years ago and to take her teacher training courses. I rarely teach a yoga class, but as a family doctor I sometimes teach patients a little bit of yoga to help them with specific issues. My favorite was a very anxious woman living in a nursing home who learned some chair yoga to use for panic attacks. It really helped her and every time I saw her she asked when I would come again to do some yoga with her. The adaptability of Viniyoga is so important for the people I see. Thanks, Tracy, for this nice article reminding us about the keys to Viniyoga.

  7. Guest

    Unfortunately, in the Northeast, it is virtually impossible to find a teacher (who’s actually teaching).

    1. Whole Life Yoga Post author

      Have you looked on Gary Kraftsow’s web site Viniyoga.com? He lists his graduates by state. But you are correct, the West Coast and Hawaii have the greatest numbers of Viniyoga trained teachers. In the New York area, Leslie Kaminoff does good work, and he may well have trained teachers in the Northeast.

  8. Kathy Jamison

    Dear Guest,
    I live and teach in the Northeast – in Connecticut. I’d be happy to work with you, or to put you in touch with other Viniyoga Teachers in this part of the country.

    1. Srinivas Somayajula

      I live in Stamford CT, and would very much appreciate more information on Viniyoga classes nearby or information about other practitioners nearby.


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