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what is adi yoga?

written by Giuseppe Intelligenza – Nilakantha

This article offers a short and limited overview on adi yoga.

Bear in mind that this is merely a simplified image of a very structured, multi-faced subject.

Some of the words used here are not appropriate, this is because, in our languages, we do not have
the necessary words required to describe the deeper ‘yoga dimensions’.

Adì yoga is, in a simple sense, a gentle, intense, relaxing and invigorating practice, that aims to
ensure the complete well-being of the practitioner.

 What are the main features of adi yoga?

 How does it differ from the more commonly taught varieties of yoga?

Adi yoga is not an altogether different school of yoga or stems from a defined lineage of masters,
but it instead is a distinct way of practicing yoga.

Adi yoga repeats the principles of classical strains of yoga but adapts them to the structure of
contemporary man and spreads the original techniques of the millenarian practice, some of which
have become altered, misunderstood, incomplete or absent over time.

This is something which can clearly be seen in many forms of contemporary yoga or what we might
also call mainstream yoga.

Adi yoga is the original yoga – or, we might say, one of the original forms – and it has come to be
in its present iteration mostly through oral transmission, with some additional support in the form
of ancient writings and through the “inner vision” (antardrishti) – an uninterrupted guide to adi yoga
from master to disciple (parampara).

This teaching is free from religious elements or folkloristic frills. It is a scientific practice and its
benefits and effectiveness are continually confirmed by medical studies and research.
Adi Yoga is characterized, among other things, by the presence of these elements:

 poses (asanas) gentle and intense, adaptable to most of the body structures, without seeking
spectacularization or contortion
 the use of specific breathing modalities according to the type of postural phase and student
 precise pranayama routines applied with the appropriate bandhas -body locks- gradually,
accurately and consistently taught
 mudras
 relaxation techniques
 techniques of concentration and visualization, leading to a state of meditation and the
development of awareness.

Everything takes place gradually and in full compliance with the limitations, needs and features of
the individual.

There are no struggles or hazards if you follow the teacher’s instructions.

We might say that the practice adapts to the individual and not the other way around.

In adì yoga we know that the vast benefits of the asana practice are given not only by assuming the
correct poses but also by performing them in the right order (or sequence), adopting the right
breathing modality and with the right mental attitude and the proper use of our attention and
widespread awareness.

In adì yoga the asanas practice becomes a meditation session, no less important or effective than
the formal sitting meditation

Nowadays, the style of yoga that is taught worldwide, in gyms and studios, what we might term to be
‘mainstream yoga’, is often made up of poses (asanas) with many variants to appeal the students
via offering “something new”.

Teachers, often, have no effective knowledge of the breathing processes and purposes when applied
to the asanas and when used for pranayama.

These teachers, thinking that a 500hrs TTC yoga certificate is a suitable mark of their
understanding, often have only a scarce knowledge of the bandhas and their proper application.

Most of these instructors, because of the poor, limited and standardized training that they
undertook, do not in fact have an appropriate knowledge of the pranayamas and bandhas and –in
particular- of their physiological and ‘pranic’ impact and purposes.

Sometimes, elements such as certain folk traits of Indian cultures are added, things that have been
associated over the course of time with yoga, but that are not fundamentally essential or actually form
part of the original discipline.
No indoctrination but experimentation.

There are no dogmas in adì yoga: it is not a religion.

Instead, each individual develops his own free idea through experimentation and throughout the
practice, the necessary knowledge will begin to reveal itself and insights into the nature of Reality
will gradually be revealed to the practitioners.

For example: there is no need to explicitly teach ahimsa (do not harm – the principle of nonviolence)
to the practitioners of adi yoga, because this principle will eventually simply appear to students as
an obvious behavior through the course of practicing adi yoga, an outcome of the state of
consciousness reached.

The same is true for the other yamas and niyamas, which will simply be spontaneously expressed
and realized through the course of practicing adi yoga.

Indeed, the yamas and niyamas are not commandments but spontaneous and mature ways of acting,
and this manner of understanding them does not deny the reality that studying and trying to apply
them to one’s life would actually serve to benefit the beginners.

Ego … ego gurus

In adi yoga, Gurus tend to remain anonymous and teachings are simply handed over from teacher to
student. There is no need to know the name of any of these great rishis, many of them are fully
realized beings, to use a clichéd phrase.

So you will not find any adi yoga masters among today’s ‘big names’ of the yoga world who so often
promote, like professional managers, their yoga brand and school.

The masters hand over their deeper knowledge when they recognize, in their students, a burning
passion for it.

Use and abuse of yoga

The yoga of the origins is radically different from the schools of fake yoga, such as postural yoga,
and those ridiculous hybrids like Piloga, Yogalates, and so on.

The original yoga is a holistic discipline, it does not require the use of other disciplines. Yoga is a
complete practice by itself, tested for millennia without any commercial reasons behind it or
compromised by the ignorance which is so often behind the merging of yoga with other disciplines.

If you have studied yoga for teaching and practiced it properly, you should know that merging it with
other disciplines is not only superfluous but also counterproductive and detrimental to practitioners.
Those hybrid disciplines have not been tested in the long run and their effectiveness and benefits are
However, the market calls out for new disciplines because “new is better” regardless of validity or
novelty, and so new disciplines are invented and sold in the fitness industry.

Asanas are not just for fitness.

In adì yoga, we use 3 tools: the body, the breath and the mind to “real-ize the self”

All three are precious tools and we generally highly regard the asanas.

In adì yoga, the practice of poses (asanas), with the right instructions, after a while, becomes a
practice of meditation.

Adì yoga is for lay people too, and the kind of meditation developed during adì yoga asanas practice
could sometimes be even more useful in a student’s mundane life than formal sitting meditation
would be.

We take yoga from the mat to a person’s everyday’s life.

what is adi yoga – written by Giuseppe Intelligenza – Nilakantha