The Origins and History of Viniyoga

Tracy and her teacher, Gary Kraftsow

People often think that all yoga is the same.  In other words, if they take a yoga class, it is representative of all yoga classes at other venues and with other teachers.   I’m always a little saddened and surprised when people say “I tried yoga once.  It’s not for me.”

You may not realize it, but there are a myriad of yoga styles popular in the United States, and they can be dramatically different from one another.  So your experience in one class is likely to be completely different than if you try yoga in another studio or style.  So if at first you don’t find what you love, keep trying!

Although not 100% true, most yoga styles in the United States fall under the umbrella of “Hatha” yoga.  In the West, this term basically refers to the physical practice of yoga.  There are a wide variety of yoga types that fall under that umbrella.  From stronger, more athletic styles like Bikram, Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga, to form-focused styles like Iyengar, to more therapeutic and individualized styles like Viniyoga.

Some of these styles have been passed down from generation to generation for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.  Others are more contemporary and have been “invented” or “reinvented” by Westerners.   Teachers also often combine lineages to create something uniquely their own.

Whole Life Yoga is a studio dedicated completely to the Viniyoga lineage, therefore every class you take with us will follow the Viniyoga principles.  I have great confidence in Viniyoga, and not just because of the transformations I’ve seen in myself and my students.   I also have faith because it is a lineage has been passed down through the centuries.  In other words, Viniyoga’s principles have withstood the test of time.

In our lifetimes, this lineage has been passed down through a man by the name of  Sri T. Krishnamacharya, who passed away in 1989 at over 100 years of age.  He himself studied yoga with several teachers and in many venues, including seven and a half years in the caves of Tibet with a teacher named Brahmachari.   Krishnamacharya trained several famous students, including BKS Iyengar (who later developed Iyengar Yoga) and Pattabhi Jois (who later developed Ashtanga yoga).

Krishnamacharya passed the full breadth of his teachings, however, to his son TKV Desikachar.  Desikachar passed them on to many, including Margaret Pierce of The Pierce Yoga Program and Gary Kraftsow of the American Viniyoga Institute.  Gary and Margaret have both been my teachers.    I’m continuing the tradition by passing this lineage on to my students and the teachers in my yoga teacher training program.

My hope is to continue to honor the principles of this lineage by transmitting them as clearly and purely as possible, thus helping ensure that it continues to serve future generations.

If you’d like to learn more about Krishnamacharya and the history of Viniyoga, I recommend the book Krishnamacharya: His Life and Teachings by A.G. Mohan.

But regardless of whether or not you’re interested in the history, rest assured that when you take a Viniyoga class you have the knowledge of many generations of teachers supporting you and your practice!


Tracy Weber

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle!

2 thoughts on “The Origins and History of Viniyoga

  1. Anne Hoff

    Thanks for writing this, Tracy. It’s so important for people to understand that there are many different physical yogas, suited to different body types and goals. One reason why Ashtanga is so vigorous is that Pattabhi Jois learned this form when he was 14 years old. Krishnamacharya was asked to teach teenage boys at a boarding school, and he decided it was the best form for that age demographic to keep them occupied. So it’s obviously not going to work for many American 40-somethings unless they are flexible and in great shape. As a bodyworker who works with many people with injuries and body challenges, I personally believe Viniyoga is the best form for most people, and I wrote about this at my blog here:

    Keep up the good work at Whole Life Yoga!


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