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Updated: 2016-11-03T21:23Z

Viniyoga is a Sanskrit word that has multiple meanings. In non-Hindu or Western context, viniyoga typically refers to the therapeutic style of hatha yoga as taught by T. K. V. Desikachar. Literal meanings include "separation", "detachment", and "leaving", but the common meanings include "employment", "use", and "application".[1] The root viniyuj means "to use", "to employ", "to do", among other senses.[2]

When used as a technical term in Hindu religious literature it refers to a short introductory section that gives standard details about the work, such as the sage (ṛṣi) who is said to have originated the work, the meter in which it is to be chanted, the deity (devatā) considered to preside over it, and other technical details of its use.[3]

The word appears in the Yoga Sutras of Patañjali, where sutra 3.6 says that the application of the practice of saṁyama takes place in stages.[4]

Viniyoga as a style of Hatha Yoga

Indian yoga teacher Tirumalai Krishnamacharya developed this individualized yoga style, which came to be known as Viniyoga.[5][6] The term viniyoga had been used by T. K. V. Desikachar (son of Krishnamacharya) to describe his approach to utilizing the tools of yoga, in particular his conviction that yoga practice should be adapted to fit the individuality and particular situation of each practitioner.[7] Desikachar later distanced himself from the term.[8]

Viniyoga yoga was just as effective as conventional stretching exercise, and more effective than a self-care book for improving function and pain in patients with chronic low back pain.[9] A 2011 study published online by the Archives of Internal Medicine found that viniyoga was more effective in reducing back pain than using a self-care book. However, viniyoga was no more effective in reducing back pain than stretching classes.[10]

American Gary Kraftsow studied with Desikachar and founded the American Viniyoga Institute. The American Viniyoga Institute has this explanation of the term viniyoga: Viniyoga ™ is a comprehensive and authentic transmission of the teachings of yoga including asana, pranayama, bandha, sound, chanting, meditation, personal ritual and study of texts. Viniyoga ™ (prefixes vi and ni plus yoga) is an ancient Sanskrit term that implies differentiation, adaptation, and appropriate application.


  1. ^ See Apte 1956, p. 860 for definitions of विनियोग (viniyoga) as: 1. Separation, parting, detachment; 2. Leaving, giving up, abandoning; 3. Employment, use, application, disposal.
  2. ^ For a definition of the root viniyuj, see Apte 1956, p. 860.
  3. ^ For use as a technical term in stotra literature, see Joshi 1998, p. 2.
  4. ^ For text of sutra 3.6 as "tasya bhūmiṣu viniyogaḥ", translation of this sutra as "Its (of Saṁyama) use by stages", and definition of viniyoga as "application, employment", see Taimni 1961, p. 287.
  5. ^ Ruiz, Fernando Pagés. "Krishnamacharya's Legacy." and Yoga Journal, May/June 2001.
  6. ^ Mohan, A. G. (2010). Krishnamacharya: His Life and Teachings. Boston: Shambhala. ISBN 978-1-59030-800-4. 
  7. ^ For a discussion of the meaning of viniyoga in this context, see Desikachar 2001, p. 8.
  8. ^ What is the viniyoga of Yoga?
  9. ^ Sherman, KJ; Cherkin, DC; Erro, J; Miglioretti, DL; Deyo, RA (2005), "Comparing yoga, exercise, and a self-care book for chronic low back pain: a randomized, controlled trial", Annals of Internal Medicine, 143 (12): 849–56, PMID 16365466, doi:10.7326/0003-4819-143-12-200512200-00003. 
  10. ^ "Yoga no better than stretching for bad backs". London: The Telegraph. 25 October 2011. Retrieved 11 November 2011. 


  • Apte, Vaman Shivram (1965), The Practical Sanskrit Dictionary (Fourth revised and enlarged ed.), Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, ISBN 81-208-0567-4 
  • Joshi, L. M. (1998), Lalitā Sahasranāma, New Delhi: D. K. Printworld (P) Ltd., ISBN 81-246-0073-2 
  • Taimni, I. K. (1961), The Science of Yoga (Eighth Reprint, 1993 ed.), Adyar, India: The Theosophical Publishing House, ISBN 81-7059-212-7 
  • Desikachar, T.K.V. with Kausthub Desikachar and Frans Moors (1994), The Viniyoga of Yoga: Applying Yoga for Healthy Living (Second Reprint, 2001 ed.), Chennai, India: Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, ISBN 81-87847-11-5 

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