Vijnana = Internal Knowledge
The human body is a complex and delicate instrument. It takes careful awareness and attention to make it resonate with true strength and balance. Tracy combines the dynamic fluidity of ashtanga, the precise alignment of iyengar and the powerful body-mapping of vijnana Yoga into one intelligent and accessible approach.A detailed understanding of anatomy and the special needs of a “western” body-type (something ignored by most yoga systems) allows this style of yoga to be both very challenging for experienced students and appropriate for beginners. When it comes to your body and your yoga practice: “Knowledge is Power”.
For years now, many of us have attempted to deal creatively with the question: “What kind of yoga do you do? “Yoga is yoga, period. However, the need for a name and clear definition is genuine.Vijnana yoga’s roots are from the Iyengar tradition. Mr. Iyengar taught Dona Holleman one on one transmission of a daily practice back in the 60’s which was then passed on to Orit Sen-Gupta. These two women practiced together & collaborated well over a decade to create an incredible yoga book called “Dancing the body of light.” Orit went further with this information and created a comprehensive practice manual. In saying all this, it is important to understand that the Vijnana practice has taken on a form clearly different from what is today termed ‘Iyengar Yoga’. There are three fundamental elements that are necessary to point out so as to clearly define the path of our practice.
The first element is the importance of ‘just sitting’ as part of practice. The great emphasis that we place on the quality of consciousness during the practice of āsana (postures) and prāņāyāma (breathing exercises) requires us to sit in meditation. This approach stems from the living tradition of yoga, which views meditation as the central tool for developing the consciousness, as well as from the classic texts wherein meditation is described as fundamental in all the systems of yoga.
The second element is the 7 essential principles, which teach us to listen to the sensations of our bodies and enable movement from that place.At the start we simply stand upon the mat and concentrate inward. Movement begins with bringing the hands down from namaste. The consciousness searches out the touch of the feet with the ground and the true alignment of the skeleton. Each part of the skeleton is in harmony with all the other parts and we stand as a single whole between heaven and earth. As the hands begin to move upwards, the muscles of the body are soft but not slack. The consciousness is attentive and aware of the body and the space surrounding it, while at the same time calm and collected. As the hands continue to move up and down we concentrate on the delicate movements created within the body while remaining attuned to the skeleton as one integrated whole, even as the range of movement increases. Keeping our mind focused, we direct our movements so that the muscles remain true to the alignment of the skeleton, reminding ourselves to be attentive without being reprimanding. Movement will continue now for an extended time and we strive to move from within the essential principles as one unit, body and mind.
The third element is the emphasis on study. In order to deepen our practice and understanding of yoga, it is necessary to study the written tradition, if only in part. Therefore, when students experience a desire to deepen their yoga and begin attending workshops, retreats or long classes, they are gradually and continuously exposed to the yogic literature.These three elements together – ‘just sitting’, the principles and the study of texts – have become our way of practice.(insights from Orit-Sen Gupta, founder of Vijnana Yoga)
The Taittirīya Upaniśad, a 2,700 year-old text, describes the human being and the cosmos as having five kośas, or layers: the physical, the energetic, the mental, the ‘vijñānic’ and the joyous.What is vijñāna?According to the great Vedantist philosopher Śankara, vijñāna is a deep understanding or knowing that cannot come about merely through outer knowledge that we receive through a teacher or a spiritual textual tradition. Rather it is an inner clarity that is revealed through personal experience.Ramakrishna continues thus: “The awareness and conviction that fire exists in wood is jñāna (knowledge). But to cook rice on that fire, eat the rice and get nourishment from it is vijñāna.
The 7 essential principles – relaxing the body, quieting the mind, focusing through intent, rooting, connecting, awareness of breath and expanding – all these allow us to go deep within and from that place to see, feel, understand and act skillfully.Calling our way of practicing Vijñāna Yoga is but giving recognition to something that has always been there, something that is at the core of our discipline: practicing, feeling, understanding – from inside.
Vijñāna, – the act of distinguishing or discerning, understanding, recognizing, intelligence, knowledge, skill, art, science (Monier Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary, p. 961)”Verily, different from and within the sheath consisting of mind (manas) is the atma consisting of vijñāna (understanding). This has the form of a person…Faith (śraddhā) is its head,Order (rta) is its right side.Truth (satya) is its left side.Yoga is its body.The Great Intelligence (mahat) is its lower part, the foundation.”(Taittrīya Upanishad II.41)”At the stage of mind (manas), we accept authority which is external.At the stage of vijñāna, internal growth is affected. We develop faith, order, truthfulness and union with the supreme.”(from S. Radhakrishnan’s commentary on the Taittrīya Upanishad)”As directly as the physical vision sees and grasps the appearance of objects, so and far more directly does the gnosis (vijñāna) sees and grasps the truth of things.”(Śri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, page 463)