Svaroopa Yoga

Last Updated: April 23, 2020

Definition - What does Svaroopa Yoga mean?

Svaroopa yoga is a type of Hatha yoga developed and trademarked by Swami Nirmanalanda Saraswati (also known as Rama Berch). It is a consciousness and healing-oriented style of yoga that focuses on opening the spine. Svaroopa yoga is designed to trigger the body’s natural healing capabilities, using spinal decompression techniques to release stress from the back, neck and shoulders. By releasing and relaxing the back muscles, the practice helps to open up a flow of energy along the spine.

Although Svaroopa yoga only gained mainstream recognition in 1996, Swami Nirmanalanda Saraswati has been teaching this style since the 1970’s. The practice takes a subtle, gentle approach, using props, such as blankets and blocks, to assist with the poses. Svaroopa yoga tends to involve a lot of hands-on adjustments by the yoga instructor, and is available to any practitioner, regardless of age, physical fitness or flexibility.

Yogapedia explains Svaroopa Yoga

The term, svaroopa, comes from the Sanskrit sva, meaning “the self,” and roopa, meaning “form.” Roughly translated to “the bliss of your own being,” Svaroopa yoga uses the physical body as a vehicle to provide a deeper experience of the self. The practice uses precise alignments within asana poses in order to decompress the spine, release deep tension and allow energy to flow along it. In doing so, Svaroopa yoga is designed to develop practitioners on a spiritual as well as a physical level, guiding them towards inner transformation. Incorporation of other spiritual practices, such as meditation, chanting, puja (devotional ceremonies) and vichara (guided self-inquiry) lead Svaroopa to be considered as "full spectrum yoga."

One of the basic tenets of Svaroopa yoga is that supporting the pose with props allows muscles to release. Without some type of support, the muscles will work and strain to maintain the pose instead of releasing tension. It is this release which allows the muscles to gain flexibility and strength. Props also allow the practitioner to adjust the asana to meet the individual needs of their body and address any limitations they may have.

Svaroopa yoga classes tend to be between 60 and 90 minutes long, starting in savasana (Corpse Pose) before engaging ujjayi pranayama and moving on to other asana. The style consists of more than 100 poses, most of which are variations of traditional Hatha postures. However, its foundation consists of the "Magic Four" postures:

  1. Slow Motion Dive – From a seated position in a chair, the torso leans forward, sinking as far as possible or until the arms slide between the knees.
  2. Crook’d Leg Pose – The ankle of one leg is placed on the knee of the opposite leg. The lifted leg slides toward the hip as the chin lowers to the chest. If possible, the torso folds forward and the arms hang down.
  3. Lunge – A variation of a regular lunge that is performed from a kneeling position, with yoga blocks under the hands for support.
  4. Reclining Spinal Twist – From a face-up reclining position, the knees are bent 90 degrees, and the legs and hips roll to the side.

Certified Svaroopa yoga teachers have more than 500 hours of training in yoga philosophy, asana and anatomy through the Svaroopa Vidya Ashram, based in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.

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