ISHTA means ‘that which resonates with the individual spirit’, as well as an acronym for the Integrated Science of Hatha, Tantra, and Ayurveda.
Hatha: From ‘ha / tha’ or ‘solar energy / lunar energy’ in Sanskrit, originated in the Tantric period. Hatha Yoga is the physical practice of asana, or yoga postures. Hatha also refers to the science of strengthening the weaknesses in an individual and removing the stress blockages in our systems.
Tantra: From the root words ‘tanoti,’ ‘expansion,’ and ‘trayati,’ ‘liberation.’ Tantra is the belief that our essential nature is divine, perfect as it is, part of the universal consciousness, and filled with bliss. The practice of Tantra increases our awareness of this state of total liberation through acceptance of ourselves and everything around us. Tantra gives us many tools to achieve the understanding of our true selves. In the ISHTA practice, we focus on asana, pranayama (breath work), kriya techniques and visualization meditation, as our primary tools.
Ayurveda: From the words ‘ayur’ which means ‘life’ and ‘veda’ which means ‘science.’ This ancient Indian tradition teaches that we each have a constitution, or prakriti, that is unique like our fingerprints. According to ayurvedic thought, the ideal practice begins with understanding the individual’s unique prakriti and their needs based on the interplay of that constitution with their current situation. For example, stress, injuries, or changes in life or work all impact what practice is ideal for you at a given moment. Ayurveda in the ISHTA practice encourages self-exploration and an awareness of the impact our circumstances have on our physical, emotional, and energetic states. We seek to understand how to best create balance in our lives and accept who we are.
History of ISHTA Yoga
Kavi Yogi Swarananda Mani Finger and his son, Alan Finger, created ISHTA Yoga in the late 1960’s in South Africa. Mani was first initiated into Kriya Yoga by Paramhansa Yogananda in Los Angeles, and later as a Kavi yogi by Sivananda in India. Mani subsequently went back to South Africa where he transformed his home into an ashram.
Over many years, Mani and Alan hosted many gurus at their house including Swami Venkatesananda (friend of T. Krishnamacharya and Sivananda’s ‘jewel student’), Ramakrishna Mission, Swami Nishraisananda, and Tantric master Shuddhand Bharati, who initiated both Alan and Mani into Tantra. Seeking to integrate and celebrate the different teachings and lineages that passed through their ashram, Mani and Alan created ISHTA Yoga. ISHTA aims to give each student an understanding of how to incorporate aspects from various yoga styles and practices in a way that best suits their individual paths.
In 1975, after teaching in South Africa for thirteen years, Alan moved to the United States. He settled in Los Angeles and founded the Yoga Tantra Institute. Soon after, he co-founded Yoga Works. In 1993, Alan relocated to New York City and formed the Yoga Zone studios. Yoga Zone became Be Yoga and expanded Alan’s teachings into one of the most successful regional yoga teacher training programs in the country. Coming full circle, in 2004 Be Yoga rejoined the Yoga Works family of studios.
ISHTA’s world headquarters is found in New York City. ISHTA trainings are currently offered in New York and Washington, DC, and internationally from London to Stockholm to Berlin, Oslo to Tokyo, with ISHTA teachers in many cities around the globe.
Paramahansa Yogananda: Author of Autobiography of a Yogi. Yogananda was Mani Finger’s introduction into yoga, his foremost teacher and his initiator into kriya yoga.
Swami Venkatesananda: A friend of T. Krishnamacharya and a leading student of Sivananda’s. Venkatesananda wrote many books on yoga, and with co-author Kavi Yogiraj Mani Finger, wrote a book on Laya yoga. Venkatesananda, along with Mani, initiated Alan into Yogiraj. Venkates stayed with Mani and Alan for several weeks each year.
Swami Nishraisananda: A scientist/engineer turned yogi and disciple of the Ramakrishna Mission. Nishraisananda’s understanding of the links between spiritual yogic concepts and modern science is the foundation of ISHTA’s conviction that we are only now beginning to understand in a ‘scientific’ perspective the physical and energetic effects of yoga, which ancient yogis intuitively understood thousands of years ago.
Shuddhanand Bharati: A Tantric master. Bharati initiated both Alan and Mani into Tantra and was the driving force behind the systematization of ISHTA as a system of yoga.