Jivamukti Yoga

It began in New York in the early 1980s: David Life was punk, painted and led the Life Café, at that time a well-known artist event in the East Village. Sharon Gannon danced, sang, and especially noticed through her new wave styling. Soon, however, her passionate way of life was to take a completely different direction: after intensive years of Yogastudium, she developed her own yogastyle, which is now a major part of the world.

When Sharon and David met, Sharon was trying to cure a stubborn back injury with yoga. Almost 30 years ago this was a rather exotic idea. But yoga helped her and since Sharon was much more than her back, the two began a year-long intensive study of the Yogatradition. They went to India and lived in Mysore with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, the founder of Ashtanga Yoga, from whom they learned the flowing Vinyasa style. Guruji gave them his blessing to create their own style. Swami Nirmalananda, an anarchist hermit in South India, who practiced Mauna (silence) for a decade, and embodied ahimsa (non-violence) in her work, encouraged her to understand yoga through her social power and responsibility for the world and all creatures. And Shri Brahmananda Saraswati, an Indian physician and psychotherapist who opened the “Ananda Ashram” near New York in 1964, made Sharon and David aware of the importance of the ancient scriptures – with him they dived deep into Sanskrit and the sound of mantras on. About these three Param gurus, the teachers of the teachers, an unbroken line of tradition runs back to the origin of yoga – from it, Jivamukti developed yoga.

Basics of Jivamukti Yoga

The reference to this teaching tradition is very important for the understanding of Jivamukti Yoga. The five pillars on which this yogastyle is based are the five pillars, the study of scriptures, devotion, non-violence, meditation, and sound – Shastra, Bhakti, Ahimsa, Dhyana and Nada Yoga. This combination was not only uncommon in the small yogas scene in America in 1986, but basically a provocation: in the first Jivamukti studio, no air conditioning was used to loud music, the old writings were read, and ethical vegetarianism was an indispensable part of nonviolence and loving devotion Propagated. Sharon and David quickly developed into resolute activists for animal rights – for many, they invented the idea of spiritual activism. It is hard to imagine, but on the first Yogakonferenzen in the 90er years there was no vegetarian food. Sharon and David had to fight for their ideas in the scene and were smiled for it. But the success was striking, the studio grew and the method established itself worldwide.

✤ Frequently, the lessons begin with a sung mantra that reminds students of compassion and respect for all living creatures:


May all beings be happy and free everywhere, and may all my thoughts, words, and deeds contribute in their own way to this happiness and liberty. ✤

Jivamukti in the world

Among the pupils of the first lesson was Patrick Broome. I met him just before he moved to New York for a year to go to Jivamukti. As a native Croatian, I had just escaped to Munich because of the civil war from Bosnia and plunged into my studies at the university and the nightlife. But a real task for my life was through yoga. Today I can say that as a Jivamukti yog teacher, I have found the best platform and the most effective tool to make my Dharma meaningful. When I was doing yoga, I was really happy for the first time: I had discovered that life is about more than just success, ambition and selfish pleasure.Gradually, I learned what loving devotion (Bhakti), compassion (Karuna), or primal trust (Shraddha) have to do with my life. I realized that it makes a big difference to what you eat, where you buy, and how you use the energy gained by yogapraxis. Soon Patrick and I opened a studio together. Sharon and David became my spiritual parent and to Yoga I developed a deep, creative and passionate relationship.Meanwhile, there is a second generation of Jivamukti studios in Berlin and Munich and a lot has happened in the German Yogalandschaft. In the beginning we were regarded as the young savages of the scene and felt so too. But we meant it seriously and honestly – what was too hip, too American, too cool, too radical, and perhaps too noisy, was our attempt to make the world a more hearty and loving place.For us, therefore, also a nude photo of all our wasteacher for a PETA campaign no contradiction. After all, Mukti is called “liberation” and Jiva “individual soul”. A Jivanmukta is thus a liberated soul. Today, there are Jivamukti schools and affiliate studios in cities like Chicago, Sydney, London, Moscow, Berne and Johannesburg, but also in Charleston, an American city in South Carolina, and in Stavanger, Norway. In the meantime there are more than 500 certified Jivamukti teachers on all continents. Sharon and David have a license for their schools, but no fees are charged. The teachers’ community is organized through an international website and communicates through a monthly changing theme, the “Focus of the Month”, a spiritual inspiration for teachers and students. Once a year, a “Jivamukti Tribe Gathering” takes place in New York and a “Summer Camp” in Woodstock, the home of Sharon and David.There they practice together with the two. The yogic idea behind this is a “Global Satsang” – a large international yogafamily, which is held together by a common understanding of yoga and an extremely differentiated method.

The practice

Jivamukti Yoga is divided into “Open” -hours for advanced and “Basic” -hours for beginners. The beginners move through a standing posture, preventive, back-bending and reversing postures in a four-week rhythm. Intermediate students practice freely according to a 14-point program, which includes all body movements, meditation and mantras. In German studios, an intermediate stage, the “medium” hour, has also been developed. It is intended to make it easier for beginners to transition to “open” hours. The most important thing at every hour is to balance the breath, the movement and the intention of the practitioner. This is the principle of the so-called Vinyasa Krama (from Sanskrit: “vi” for intelligent, “nyasa” for and “krama” for sequence or step). On the one hand it is about flowing and breath-taking sequences, on the other hand about the exact alignment and juxtaposition in the asanas.Sharon and David have developed a variety of special sequences to connect different asanas, for example, “Flying Eagle”, “Rishi Twist”, “Cobblers Table” or “Blossoming Lotus”. The art of practicing the intersecting sequences fluently and teaching them in the exact sequence of breaths has become the feature of the method. As part of the Asana sequences, Jivamukti students learn the Ujjayi breath in the beginners’ hours. This makes the hours “hot” and challenging – without sweating, passion and alert mind does not work. The goal: to harmoniously combine the physical, psychological and spiritual aspects of yoga.

The goal: the integration of the whole human being – the unity of body, mind, feelings, thoughts, breath and soul – through the practice practice. Another special feature is the intensive physical work of the teacher: during the hours he touches and corrects his pupils throughout. This “approach” to the pupils was not always self-evident; in the meantime, it is stylistic. Anyone who wants to experience this exclusively should take an in-class private lesson (ICP) – during the lesson is a second teacher with a single student and accompanies each asana with his hands, his weight and help. Even for someone who practices every day, it can be a surprise how this new approach opens up new possibilities for one’s own practice and intensifies this. At the end or before the beginning of each Jivamukti lesson is meditated in three steps: the students find a seat, quiet and focus their concentration. The focus on a mantra is to clarify and calm the thoughts. Sharon and David are convinced that even small meditation exercises convey an experience of silence, space and timelessness, which, as a calmness and serenity, translates into everyday life after a short time. Moreover, “Samadhi is yoga. Samadhi means enlightenment. What the enlightened mind realizes is truth, self or God, “says Sharon. (Samadhi – depression, deep meditation)

Many “novelties” from the early years of Jivamukti Yoga have become generally accepted today or are accepted as equal rights. Practicing music, dealing with the delivered scriptures and singing mantras no longer disturbs anyone. On the other hand, the demand of Sharon and David, a yogi to live vegetarian, is a harder chunk and still polarizes. However, the idea that serious yoga by its very nature must be associated with social commitment and personal responsibility is becoming more and more up-to-date and urgent – it can be understood as a groundbreaking one.

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