The Pillars of Big Yoga

by | Big Yoga

What is it about Big Yoga® that makes it different from other yoga styles? How did I come up with the name? How long have I been teaching Big Yoga?

I thought you might be interested in these questions.

Big Yoga is a spin off of Integral Yoga®, a yoga school started by Sri Swami Satchidananda. He came to us during the 60’s from India, where he had studied Yoga with the great Ramana Maharshi, who was the first to “brand” his yoga INTEGRAL. Both of these great masters had the idea that Yoga goes beyond the physical postures. A classical Yoga practice INTEGRATES a variety of techniques and practices to bring the student into harmony with the True, Infinite Self– Pure Joyous Consciousness.

Nevertheless, the physical postures–asanas–are the calling card of Yoga today, so let’s give hatha yoga its due. Hatha Yoga– the kind you go to to get a work out–was originally created to limber the body up before meditation to allow the meditator to go deep into stillness without having to stretch out every 20 minutes. The poses I learned from Integral Yoga not only create flexibility in the body, but also strengthen muscles and tone the organs and glands, bringing the body into balance. A comfortable, easeful body is a good companion to meditation, one of the other pillars of Big Yoga.

In 1999, I got the name for my “brand” while meditating at the LOTUS, an all-faiths temple at heart of the Yogaville Ashram in central Virginia. I had been pondering the word INTEGRAL. Being a songwriter and wordsmith, I always felt there had to be a better word than INTEGRAL to express the wide ranging practices of Yoga. It’s hard to pronounce. It doesn’t trip off the tongue. Most people don’t even say INTEGRAL correctly.

As I settled into my meditation and the silence of the Temple, I heard a voice say “Big Yoga”. I almost giggled! I realized it was the answer to my prayer. It expressed the BIG-NESS of yoga, the expansiveness of the practices, and it also expressed something about me personally–my own body being “big.”

Knowing my Guru, Swami Satchidananda, was a lover of puns and double entendre, I felt it was he who was speaking to me at the Temple. And I’ve been working to refine Big Yoga ever since, making it a practice that is easy for anyone regardless of the challenges of the physical body.

The asanas strengthen the body and simultaneously open the body up for greater flexibility. The organs and muscles get squeezed and refreshed. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how long it’s been since you could touch your toes! In working with the body mindfully, we learn to make friends with it once again. We apply love to the parts that are uncomfortable. We practice self-acceptance as we observe our progress. We notice how the mind wants to judge and condemn when we’re having a bad day. All this is happening as we stretch out our legs, come into triangle or warrior poses, raise our heads in a slithery cobra pose, or place our legs up the wall.

In Big Yoga we practice some standard poses and lots of adaptations–our bodies are all so different! Some are static, poses we hold, and some are dynamic such as the Flex-Ability Series. When I’m teaching, I often feel it’s like paying jazz. I take the basic melody of the class, and then I improvise different poses and tips according to the needs of the students in the room. It’s groovy, baby!

Connecting with the body through the practice of Hatha Yoga is step one, the first pillar of what constitutes Big Yoga. It’s not too late to start. Don’t delay!! Go to my products page and order a book or DVD to get you started.




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