Jivamukti yoga is a modern form of yoga that came about in the mid 1980s. David Life and Sharon Gannon, founders of one of New York City’s most popular yoga studios, came up with this form of yoga. The term “jivamukti” is derived from two Sanskrit words: “jiva” meaning the physical existence and “mukti,” which means salvation. Together the two words mean reaching salvation and a union with God even while we are still alive.
Life and Gannon took their knowledge of ashtanga yoga and combined it with spiritual teachings, putting extra emphasis on how to take the philosophy of yoga and use it in everyday life. They like the way the word jivamukti serves as a reminder that the most important goal of a yoga student is to be spiritually enlightened and have a relationship with a supreme being.
With this in mind, Jivamukti yoga focuses on the Sanskrit Scriptures and chanting of Sanskrit couplets. People who practice Jivamukti yoga are also supposed to have devotion to God (called bhakti), and to see God as omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. Living non-violently (called ahimsa), is also very important, being compassionate towards others, being aware of important social issues like animal abuse are all part of Jivamukti yoga.
Nada yoga, a theme of Jivamukti yoga, is centered on the importance of chanting and listening to and being aware of the sacred sounds of yoga. And it also stresses the importance of meditation, which again may or may not help get us in touch with the supreme being. A thorough Jivamukti class will include weight bearing exercises, cardiovascular exercises, and how to do exercises that will help with flexibility. A Jivamukti teacher will really focus on proper breathing and breath control, meditation and chanting. Overall, the class may be pretty intense physically, and they often have a theme for each one, which is explored through the chanting, poses, meditation, and/or music.
So if you’re walking past a yoga studio and you can hear the strains of “ohmmmm…..” coming from the building, the students are probably doing a Jivamukti yoga class.