The Origins of Integral Yoga

This article is an overview of the origins and history of the ‘Integral Yoga’ that is derives from the linage of Swami Sivananda Saraswati and Swami Satyananda Saraswati.

Historically, there were two distinct types of Yoga. Yoga styles that derived from the south of India and Yoga from the North.  The more physical styles of Hatha Yoga such as Ashtanga and Iyengar. And the popular Vinyasa and Power Yoga styles of Yoga that are the drivers of the modern postural Yoga we see a lot of today originate from south India.

In the yoga schools that derive from northern India, there is less emphasis on the physical aspects of Hatha Yoga. The practices have their origins in the more meditative and mindfulness yoga styles due to the closer proximity to Tibet. The emphasis is placed on the management of the mind. With practices based on the Sutras of Patanjali.

Integration of Ancient Traditions

In the 1940’s, the great Yogi, Swami Sivananda (1887 – 1963) of Rishikesh, instructed his disciples to integrate the practical aspects of yoga as they were found in the ancient scriptures. Bringing together the concepts from the north and southern Indian schools of yoga.

The “Integral Yoga” Ram and I teach has its roots in this system of yoga that was instigated by Swami Sivananda. Integral Yoga is an integration of practices derived from the Tantra and Vedanta philosophies of yoga.

One of Swami Sivananda’s direct disciples, Sri Swami Satyananda Saraswati (1923-2009) was given the mandate of taking this Integral Yoga ‘from door to door and from shore to shore.’.

The evolution of Bihar Yoga / Satyananda Yoga

Sri Swami Satyananda was a pioneer in bringing the ancient yogic practices and making them more accessible for the modern-day student. He simplified and systemised the practices of Yoga so that they could benefit everyone.

In 1963 he founded the Bihar School of Yoga. The Bihar Yoga system also know as Satyananda Yoga continued to develop this integrated, or Integral Yoga to develop the faculty of “Head, Heart and Hands.

Satyananda Yoga brings together the main branches of Yoga. Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Karma Yoga. But also including, Mantra Yoga, Nada Yoga, Kriya and Kundalini Yoga.

It is this Bihar / Satyananda Yoga that Ram and I undertook our two year teacher training.

In the book Asana, Pranayama, Mudra, Bandha, which continues to be used as key text book across many Yoga schools around the world.  Sri Swami Satyananda grouped the practices in accordance to position and sequence. He also introduced the Pawnmuktasana series of practices. These series of asana makes yoga asana accessible for every body, no matter their age, ability or level of experience.

The deep relaxation practice of Yoga Nidra provides major relief from stress as well as a means of personality transformation.

Pranayama was also revealed for the first time as a complete system.

“Bihar Yoga / Satyananda Yoga has evolved into a complete and integrated system of yoga with its practices and philosophy gathered from the Vedic and tantric traditions in conjunction with the contemporary physical and health sciences.

The Bihar Yoga system is a complete science of harmonious living, suitable for everyone, regardless of age, gender, nationality, religion, mental condition or level of fitness. It is a holistic system which addresses all aspects of human life in the spheres of physical health, mental well-being, emotional behaviour and work environment.

Awareness is emphasised and practitioners are encouraged to learn about all aspects of their personality through yoga. Adjustment in stages is emphasised, not a total change in one’s lifestyle and environment.”

Source: The Bihar Yoga Tradition. 


The Second Chapter

Swami Niranjanananda, the successor of Sri Swami Satyananda, is a pioneer of Yoga in his own right. In his book Dharana Darshan, he brought together a series of Dharana (concentration) practices from the ancient texts of Tantra and the Upanishads.  Using a systematic and progressive approach he made these practices accessible to the yoga practitioner.

Swami Niranjanananda also introduced Yoga Capsules. Yoga Capsules are a set of practices designed to address the needs of the modern-day yoga practitioner. The capsules are simple to practice and take 10-20minutes to complete. They are designed to benefit the health and wellbeing of the student.

Yoga Chakra

It is one thing to develop your knowledge of yoga through information received from books, satsangs and videos. It is another to experience the practices for oneself. Yoga Vidya is to experience the depth of yoga and apply it in every moment of life. Through the teachings of Yoga Chakra.

The six spokes of this wheel or Chakra are Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, Kriya yoga, Karma yoga, Bhakti yoga and Jnana yoga. These are the aspects of yoga that are said to fulfil the needs of each individual on a spiritual, mental and social level.

What to expect in a Yoga Class?

Traditionally in this system of Yoga a 75-minute class will comprise of approximately 50 minutes of asana (postures), 10 minutes of  Pranayama (breathwork) and 15 minutes of meditation relaxation.

What defines this style of yoga is that the teacher rarely will demonstrate or practice with the student. There is no physical contact or adjustment to postures during class. Instructions are given verbally, demonstrations are generally only used when the practice is new. Or if the verbal queues are not working.

The reason for this is to assist students in keeping their focus internalised. To avoid moving into comparisons or judgements the student may cast between themselves and the way the teacher may be doing a pose.  It is also important for the teacher to observe the students during the class.

The main focus in our classes is on the cultivation of awareness or mindfulness. For example when practising the physical postures you are encouraged to practise with your eyes closed. This allows you to really feel into your own body. To listen to the information your body is giving you.

Yoga is not about achieving a particular physical outcome or aesthetic. We discourage any competition and for you to push yourselves beyond your own capabilities.

Specialise in any areas:

All Yoga classes include pranayama (breathwork) and meditation / Yoga Nidra. It is these components and the way we practise asana makes this system of yoga ideal for managing the symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Because the emphasis of our classes is on the cultivation of awareness the practices become very adaptable. We are able to adjust to cater for your needs. Welcoming students of all different ages and capabilities. Including those who are recovering from illness.