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An Introduction to Integral Yoga

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What is Integral Yoga and how is it unique?

Integral yoga is a based on a foundation of respect for all, inclusivity, and acceptance.  There are six classical branches of Integral Yoga: Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Japan Yoga, Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga—to support the blossoming of the potential of every aspect of the individual.

Integral Yoga Hatha Classes traditionally last an hour and a half. What are the different components of the class? 

The general flow of class begins chants and eye exercises. The bulk of the class is within the asana postures. It is not your average asana driven class however. The last bit includes breathing exercises and meditations.

Each class includes different postures. If you are running out to time as a teacher don’t cut out the deep relaxation moments to go inward and relax and lead into our peaceful 

What is the history of Integral Yoga and how many people have been trained as IY teachers? 

Integral Yoga is based on a guru lineage. The history goes so far back we don’t know exactly how long it has been around. Along with this, we don’t know exactly how many teachers have been trained in Integral Yoga. Avi approximates about 20,000 teachers. 

What is the Lotus Shrine? 

Image from Vincent Cannizzaro

See it here: https://lotus.org/

The lotus Shrine is a giant temple that is in the shape of a lotus coming out of a man made lake (not shown in picture). It is dedicated to all religions.  

Can you explain the Integral Yoga motto “truth is one, paths are many?” and also walk us through the Interfaith component of IY? 

The basis of Integral Yoga is Unity. We are all connected to something larger than ourselves. Honoring ourselves as unique and honoring our paths as unique. Integral yoga at its core is honoring the uniqueness, whatever your path may be.  

The Integral Yoga Teachers Association 200-hour training and the 300-hour advanced training certification. 

The 200 hr YTT is like your typical training. It is seen as a more holistic approach comparatively. They are now offering the trainings online due to the pandemic. Offering them online has been a difficult transition due to the requirements of a Integral yoga teacher training but it has opened access to people who may have had difficulty participating otherwise. 

Integral Yoga’s 300HR level trainings are quite unique. You can mix and match the trainings (about 20) and they all have a different level. You can cater it to your own interests. There is a small free application but most are granted acceptance as long as your 200HR TT is qualifying. You may choose a 100hr TT and a few months later complete another 100hr and so on and so forth. Some are offered online and some are not depending on which courses you sign up for.

For more information on either the 200Hr or 300Hr Yoga Teacher Training see here: http://iyta.org/events

How would you define what meditation is? 

Meditation has many different meanings to different people. For Avi, he describes meditation as a connection with the witness. So you are observing what is happening and taking that time to both observe and ultimately let go of the observer. without that deep connection or deep stillness of peace it is being the witness. It is important to seek the connection to the fluctuations that all of us experience. Connecting with the witness-taking time to observe and letting them go.

Even during meditation thoughts will come in. Accept them and don’t fight them. Let them release without force.

Also, a love for meditation is important. So often it is put in a box of something that we have to do but if we enjoy the process it becomes easier.

What is Karma Yoga? 

Karma yoga briefly described would be selfless service. The action in your life is to serve others and the interesting part of this is, at the end of the day when you have served others you feel really good, therefore it is quite self serving. Ultimately in Integral Yoga, there is a belief that we are all here to serve.

What is the Living Yoga Training Program at Yogaville?

This program is located in Yogaville, Virginia. Currently it is closed to the public due to the pandemic but in normal circumstances it is open to the public and people can come here to visit and practice yoga.

The LIGHT program, the Living Yoga Training Program, is really unique. It is for people who are not necessarily interested in becoming a teacher per say but is also for people who want to experience Integral Yoga at a deeper level.

Link to Living Yoga program: https://www.yogaville.org/residential-programs/lyt-program-living-yoga-training/

What’s been the most challenging thing for you on your path of becoming a yogi? 

For Avi, it is not being a hypocrite. Often we are studying scriptures and having deep spiritual conversations but he has noticed the ability for humans to compartmentalize. For example you can go into a class and be very peaceful and then afterwards you can be driving home and get angry at the driver passing and swerving. So the challenge is to incorporate what you are understanding at an intellectual level and begin to really feel it and connect with it.

What is a guru? 

Guru is defined by the teachings. The yoga teachings themselves are the guru. There are different aspects: the teachings, the guru; other human mirroring the teachings. The inner guru is the most important one. There is a guru that lives inside all of us, that knows what the right thing is, so listening to that.

What mental tracks would you like to release and feel don’t really serve but are still often present?

Judgment. Realizing more and more that judging people and how they are doing and what you think if them. This constant judging doesn’t really serve Avi or any of us well. It is about realizing your thoughts and opinions really do not matter.

How would you describe your own yoga philosophy?

Just simply, that it involves everything. Relaxing into what I am. Also choosing the kindness that stems from the idea of unity and that we are all connected to each other.

Audience Questions…

Can the integral 300 hour be built on a different (non-integral…for example, Ashaya) 200 hour, and still satisfy Yoga Alliance’s 500RYT?

Yes, as long as you are accepted into the Integral Yoga 300 Hr teacher training you can take different level trainings elsewhere to gather the correct amount of hours to satisfy the Yoga Alliance requirements

How is integral yoga different from ashtanga or other types of yoga?  Is it more of a synthesis?

It is hard to speak about how Integral Yoga compares to something else. Integral Yoga is a holistic approach and the emphasis on having a clean mind and connecting with our peaceful nature. Integral yoga wants to connect with that peaceful nature.

Integral yoga seems more spiritual. I am wondering if we can we teach it to our newer instructors without being seen as a guru? In this case, could you please give us some tips?

Avi believes we are all spiritual beings already. Even for a beginner someone who has not connected with their spiritual side for some period, the integral yoga level one class can be an easy and gentle introduction into that idea of being a spiritual being.

Please describe the typical Integral Yoga class. What comes first? How long is each segment? How is a class structured?

It begins with chanting and eye movements followed by some warm up moves and then into sun salutations. They move through some Asana posture sequences and that takes up the bulk of the class. There is a lot of emphasis on the spine as well. After the postures, there is a deep relaxation of the body called Yoga Nidra. Then the class will move into pranayama, breathing exercises and finally a meditation to conclude the class.

I’m starting the virtual Integral Yoga 200ryt next week, any tips?

Ask questions.

Can you talk a bit about your book? for whom was it written?  how did it transform you?

Avi loves the power of a story. I realized I had been criticizing our social systems and education systems for some time and realized he didnt want to criticize but more wanted to create something. Through the story a new type of school system is created and it also carries a realistic heroism.

You can find it at:  https://alightinthetunnel.com/

About the Author

Avi Gordon is the Director of the Integral Yoga Teachers Association at Yogaville Virginia and host of the Integral Yoga Podcast. He has taught and studied yoga extensively. He is a certified Integral Yoga teacher at the advanced level, has completed his 200 hour, advanced asana and meditation, and yoga nidra trainings at the Kripalu Center in Stockbridge Massachusetts.

He is also a certified aerial yoga instructor. Avi has been a school teacher in Taiwan, Israel, South Korea, and the United States, as well as authoring the inspirational novel, A Light in the Tunnel. See above for link.