“Viveka”- What Does That Mean?

During many of my classes, you may have heard me use the term “viveka”, a Sanskrit word translated as “discernment” and an important concept in the study of yoga. So what is viveka and what does it mean to your practice?


Viveka, or discernment, refers to our ability to comprehend details that are not easily evident, or things that we cannot see. For example, when you are on the yoga mat, how can you tell if your feet are aligned properly if your eyes are closed? Or, for students who are practicing in headstands or backbends, how can you establish correct alignment in body parts you cannot see? (And remember – we live a lifetime without ever seeing them all!).


In order to “discern” these things, we must learn to turn our focus inward, concentrate on the details, and develop an ability to detect with senses other than the eyes.  When you are doing that on the yoga mat, it’s called Viveka.


Discernment can be a tall order for the beginner student, but as we grow in our practice and develop our body awareness and our ability to turn our focus inward, the challenge becomes easier. And learning how to sort through the invisible details when you are on the mat, by honing your skills at discernment, will not only improve the quality of your yoga experience, it will also improve the quality of your experiences off the mat.