Alex: Tracing the Source
|We are all students of life and Yoga puts us in contact with who we truly are - beyond our wildest imagination, expectations and fears - and hopefully instils an integration of something that is uncluttered by our conditioning, something that is real at all times. But we live in a world of ups and downs, time and space, name and form so any definition we give to Yoga will naturally be coloured by our environment, exposure and context. I feel grateful to Pure Yoga for the invitation to join their Teaching Faculty. But I'm first and foremost a student of Yoga who lives nine months of the year in Mysore, India where I study Sanskrit and Yoga, and where the legendary T. Krisnamacharya began to teach Pattabhi Jois, BKS Iyengar, Indra Devi etc. |
All of these blogs may be personal reflections, wild ramblings and fancy, but they will also give an account of interviews with other Yoga teachers, as well as common practitioners and seekers of Yoga. Yoga displays a great diversity all over the world, but hopefully in our shared efforts to articulate it, maybe we can all become a little wiser to what the great heritage of Yoga truly has to offer us?
For Alex's bio, please click here
|16.01.08 Hong Kong BALM|
| There's been a cool, fresh, healthy young vibrancy in the Centrum studio since the New Year. Particularly one young gentleman from Sweden left a light, easy flare in the room and charmed us with his moderate appreciation for the practice despite the fact that his body and mind often wanted to be else where. Although moderately interested in yoga, he believes that Yoga improves his Break-dancing and hence he likes to bust out a few stretches once in a while to improve his moves. He's also genuine young fellow that likes to support his father in whatever he's up to.|
I'm talking about Benjamin Alexander Lindh Medin who actually started yoga together with me about 13 years ago. He used to come with me three times a week to class and would later have a good laugh when he tried the various postures with his friends at kindergarten. But for good or for worse, yoga unfortunately became a source of annoyance, because he felt his father got too consumed by it. Particularly when his father moved to London a year later and left a promising career just to follow some whim about philosophy and stretching. Then to make it even worse, every holiday he would visit his father in London he would usually be dragged to some Yoga classes or have to hang out with some flimsy yoga people. If his father wasn't teaching he would normally come along on a yoga holiday or 'so called' retreat somewhere. By the time he was thirteen explosive inner tendencies had developed from just hearing yoga and he claimed he was happier being stiff rather than feeling miserable and loose. So he simply quit and in order to keep the peace of the house during vacations, his father stopped asking too.
Due to some miraculous reason, probably on the side of the elder, the young man decided to try it out again a year and a half back and although he only practices to improve the Boogaloo, a new bright light is shining on his face. But it doesn't necessarily have to do with yoga. It could equally be from the fact that his father stopped asking and rather gave him the credit and faith that in due course he will find out what works best for him.
So Benjamin, your presence is missed, not just in the yoga room, but rather in this precious life we live which I unfortunately often tend to take for granted.
And to all the parents out there, don't try too hard to educate your kids into doing what you want them to do. Let them find their own ways, because often the children come to teach us!
|09.01.08 Hong Kong Sadhana – The Lasting Resolution|
|It's fascinating to see with what vigor, regularity and determination so many people have found their way to the Mysore Style classes in January. Between 40-50 students every morning is either a sign that people are becoming genuinely dedicated to this style of Yoga or that people are diligently trying to do something about the very state of their lives. Ok Yogasana closed down as well and we certainly got some extra people from there, but whether people come out of curiosity, crazy, fancy or a lasting steady resolution to improve their perceptivity of yoga I don't really know. What is certain however is that I agree with Elonne when she says that 'the only long-term, lasting way to change is through Sadhana'!|
Now what is this thing called Sadhana? It comes from the root Saad, and Panini defines it as 'Saadri Saadhane' which basically means to make perfect or complete. But for anybody engaged in a dedicated Yoga practice knows very well how difficult it is to make something perfect or complete in a world that is in a constant decay, and the truth is we will never become perfect, however if we learn to find a different support from within instead of always identifying with the unruly senses or wild fluctuations of the mind there will be a different support in our being. This inner core or true support of our being does not need anything of itself, no space for improvement, neither will it change. It just is, and because it is the very support of our being we are the ones that become more complete and perfect when we are in harmony with that.
So all the various practices that we do is to fine tune our instruments and make us more receptive to that inner grace, explore the surface layers of our true being rather than being stuck in the periphery in a world of decay. The very fact that there is something that perceives the constant world of change must indicate that there is a center of perceptivity from within that is uncluttered and not in constant flux. As we become more receptive to that, our body/mind/sense-organs loose their constant fix and we enter a new realm that help us become more complete within ourselves and naturally engage with our external world in a more complete way.
The irony of Sadhana is that it is an active pursuit of making perfect what is already perfect from within. Usually we are too blind, troubled and conditioned in our fixed patterns of how we approach life rather than seeking the true support of it. Sadhana therefore helps us to align ourselves with our core, peel away the many layers of distractions that clouds our pure-view and help us experience a new sense of being from within that is being revealed to us according to proper practice and our willingness to release some of our fixed ideas of who we think we are and rather strive for harmony with what is.
So may 2008 be a year for greater Sadhana, means to make perfect, for us all. Not necessarily in our own limited way of seeing, but rather what is best for the whole which we are all a part of. So let us tune in to the greater harmony all around, and then it will certainly be a Happy New Year for us all.
There is no need to worry; we may find it in our work, family, relationship and practice. It is there in all aspects of our lives. It is all pervading and nowhere not to be found. All we really need to do is pay more attention to what we are actually doing. The restrictions that keep us in a fix, switch off our autopilots and experience where our supports truly lies rather than being driven and ruled by patterns of desire, anger, delusion, jealousy, etc. So relax, all we really need to do is to fine tune our listening, pay more attention to what we are actually doing and hopefully let our fixed patterns be integrated into greater harmony rather than causing stagnation, disturbance and decay all around. If our inner world becomes a better place, you can be certain that the external world will equally soon appear as a better place to be. It's all up to the inhabitant(s).
|31.12.07 Krabi A Yoga Holiday?|
|Sometimes it is good to take a little break from the asana practice and integrate the various aspects of yoga in other areas of our lives. If our main goal in life was only to make an asana of ourselves life would be pretty miserable after some time.|
We're on holiday at the moment in Krabi, Railay to be precise, staying in a villa in Tonsai Bay and although we've neglected our asana practice for the last few days we feel equally as connected as ever. Every morning after sunrise we explore a rock wall in the area. Trying to find ones way up the limestone cliffs may be as challenging as awakening, particularly when you're hanging on to the wall with one hand trying to fasten a carabine, hips pressed against wall and feet gripping the mountain to suspend the pull of gravity. There are plenty of thoughts rushing through your brain; fear and anxiety, fatigue and distress, not to mention the "how did I ever get myself into a place like this to begin with"! But when you can let go of all those wild fluctuations of the mind and keep your focus on what needs to be done, stay calm and centered, a beautiful presence of one-pointedness reveals itself. It is hard to describe, but all the chitter, chatter that flows through our brain suddenly loose their grip, as if dissolved from the tremendous focus from staying present with he climbing. Now when this focus becomes more integrated into the body and the movements are no longer tense, anxious and jerky, a beautiful flow presents itself and great harmony abides. Naturally you may be a bit shaky at times, but when you can fully accept even that, it normally dissolves after some time and the purity of climbing remains. As you become absorbed in that, gone is the separation of me and the mountain and greater unity prevails, where the sense of separation is gone and a greater presence of being becomes immanent as one more fully embrace the given circumstances.
Usually during lunch are fingers are pretty numb, if we could order a spoon-fed lunch we would definitely opt for it, because we clasp onto our cutlery with swollen hands and shovel our food down until content. Then we normally find a place in the shade and fall a sleep with a book in our hand, or often crashing down on our face.
In the afternoons we suspend our breath further, not with the normal pranayama exercises, but rather with surrendering to the beauty of free-diving. When you go down deep without oxygen, certain limitations flashes in the forefront of your awareness, like: "oh my god, I'm never going to make this, I need some air immediately," but when your hundred feet down, lungs compressed from all the pressure, ears ringing, but no air left to equalize, the sensations of the mind are magnified a tenfold and you can hear the sound of your own veins, there is no place for panic. It doesn't help gasping for breath under these circumstances, so the only way out is surrender. A total acceptance of what is, to become one with the sea, feel all the sensations without being caught up in them, and whenever this persons called I is able to, a beautiful presence prevails, a total harmony of what is - as long as I can only surrender all my limitations and shortcomings and for a few moments in time experience the simplicity of pure being.
|21.12.07 Mysore Back at the source|
| I've had five days of rest in Mysore after the journey in the north. Traveling in India can be equally amusing and challenging, but after every journey there is nothing like coming home.|
Benjamin my son has also arrived for his xmas holiday so we're just chilling out at home enjoying the lazy life. Today Erik Sand, a dear old friend from Norway also arrived; check out his ashtangashop for some of his products or if you want to know how we met. He has come with his wife and two children to spend Xmas with us.
The streets of Gokulam are very quiet now. Since the shala is closed there are hardly any yoga students around. Most of them have traveled up to Goa to practice with Rolf or headed south to Kerala to be with Lino. Still other people are on route to Goa to be with Sharath for the two weeks he's there.
But in the shala the 93 year old legend just smiles and is easily approachable every day for simple conversations. It's been terribly cold here lately, ok everything is relative, but for somebody that normally wears just a dhoti and a shirt, he's been ordered to put on the woolen gear by Saraswati.
Although Pattabhi Jois has not really been teaching since for the last eight month due to some illness in March, his spirit is just as strong as ever. He chuckles to himself about the state of yoga in the world and welcomes all the diversity that is there. There are indeed many crazy traditions, but repeatedly he says: 'Yoga is universal. Although it appears as different, Yoga is one.' And then he adds 'This Ashtanga method is very good and everybody who practices it will come to know that it is real.'
For his 92 year old birthday this year Peter and Daniela performed this song for him together with a Clarinet soloist. Everybody that was there was deeply touched by their commitment and devotion. It's a shame you could not here the music, but here is the lyrics that pretty much sums up Guruji's life:
Guruji's Birthday Song:
A twelve-year old boy at the yogi's door
Inspired by something he'd never seen before
Nobody knew what the Master saw
Our journey begins when he opened the door
Three years of study and duty calls
Learns feeds the hunger in the dark college halls
The scholar once more in the yogi's hands
Teaching and traveling all over land
Here we now sit at the lotus feet
Honour, pay tribute to the master who brings
Ways to know self and brig happiness
Doctor who heels suffering
A young woman watching says this one is mine
Two lives in love marriage ever entwined
Scholar and yogi and mother of three
A pillar and bridge, beloved is she
From palace to shala young woman and men
Coming to seek out a master again
A handful, a trickle, so slowly it grows
Love opens the way, a river now flows
Here we now sit at the lotus feet
Honour, pay tribute to the master who brings
Ways to know self and brig happiness
Doctor who heels suffering
The fierce fire of love still burns in your eyes
The practice you've nurtured will now never die
The lesson we learn from the life you've lived
Is focus and practice, through service to give
Here we now sit at the lotus feet
Honour, pay tribute to the master who brings
Ways to know self and brig happiness
Doctor who heels suffering
Words and Music by Peter and Daniela, Mysore July 2007
So although there is no official practice here in Mysore at present, being close to the source is always a delight and we celebrate in the simplicity of being.
|16.12.07 Then it was Pune and now it is Mysore BKS Iyengar, 89 Completed!|
The old lion of Pune had is 89th birthday on the 14th of December. You would expect he'd slow down a little at this age, but the energy of this 'young' man has no comparison. Everyday while I was in Pune I saw him practice in the mornings, then he was busy in the library in the afternoons from 3 - 6 answering questions to his students or writing letters, articles, books on yoga related matters.
|The Smiling Lion|
From a poor background in health and education, being neglected and despised by his Guru, ridiculed by his colleagues, he struggled immensely just to keep alive for the first twenty years he came to Pune. He was mocked by most people as a yoga lunatic and could barely make a living for his family in the various rooms he would rent, for the cheapest price he could find, in other peoples houses. But gradually in 1952 when he met Yehuid Menuin, things started to change, he was exposed to a new clientele and ten years later when he published his first book 'Light on Yoga' things started to live up in his favor. But it was not more than thirty years ago since he managed to scramble together some funds, build his own house and the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI) in memory of his deceased wife.
Now Iyengar Yoga has made it to the Oxford dictionary, his books are translated in numerous languages and Iyengar Yoga is practices by millions of people all over the world. So naturally when a person of this stature has his birthday people come to celebrate him from all corners of India as well as various parts of the world.
Yesterday evening he sat down cross legged on the platform in his overcrowded yogashala and after excusing himself for not being worthy of all this attention addressed us with the opening remarks: "I've spoken on yoga to you all on various occasion for many years and now my brain is exhausted from presenting you with the little I know on this subject of Yoga whish is very difficult to understand. But as a Sadhaka, the only difference between you and me is that you are raw beginners and I have a little experience hence I can guide".
And guided us he did, for two hours he spoke uninterruptedly. He was tired of the many adults who don't question any more due to their own complexities and continue their further inquiry into the practice so he decided to address the youth instead with a number of questions he had received. What follows will be a summary of his major points:
"First of all", he said, "Yoga is a step by step practice, like a mason lies brick by brick on top of each other with proper measure and without deviation, so the practice of Yoga needs consistency and effort to realign the structure of the body into an integrated whole" For this purpose Iyengar's main focus is to first align the external body so the attention can flow inwards to the subtleties from within and eventually the practice of Yoga can become a mean to discover the Self from within. His approach begins with cultivating a greater receptivity and awareness in the outer layers of the skin of the body together with the oranges of actions. So as one moves one's muscles and joints and become more receptive to what happens in the body the core of intelligence may awaken from within. Mr. Iyengar believes that each asana leaves a certain vibration in the body, as we learn to measure that in the outer layers of the skin with our awareness, we have the potential to soften and free up the layers of tension, pain and restriction we may feel. Hence the layers of the skin acts as sense perceptions to increase the awareness of our mind and as this is guided by the movement of muscles, which he calls the organs of action, the body and mind work in unison for this greater integration called Yoga.
Now, much was said about the breath and the recent hype of Pranayama practice all over India. What BKS Iyengar terms Pranayama is of a much more subtle level than just doing some Kapalabhatis, some Nadhishodana or puff some Bastrikas. He says we must have a firm grounding in the asanas first before we can truly benefit from it. He quotes a passage from the HYP (Hatha Yoga Pradipika) where he author mentions the importance of learning to restrain the breath slowly in order not to harm the aspirant. But first and foremost he urges us to explore the breath in each posture. Where does it touch, how is it perceived from within and how can we make ourselves more receptive to it. Each asana challenges the breath in a peculiar way, this inner restriction need to be expanded so one can breathe more freely and create more space from within. The journey of discovery he articulates as first beginning with learning to manipulating the muscles and joints, then drawing the senses in and until they become more absorbed in the mind. The fluctuations of the mind are then to be checked by the luminosity of the intellect and finally surrendered into a greater receptivity of self.
He states further that Yoga is an emotional subject that feeds the heart of intelligence. The essence of our soul he says is seated within our hearts, this is our fundamental being, but our brain want to be in charge through the subtle layers of the citta that drives us (Mind, Ego, Intelligence). First one naturally has to start by trying to get the postures right and flexing and stretching in various ways to a greater awareness comes. But this is only the first step, the next step is to use the awareness of the breath to learn to discover what is rather than just keep on projecting our own patterns. He therefore urges us to find a deeper integration and absorption from within so the mind can become more centered and stilled in what is rather than being caught up in performance based exercises. For this we need to bring our awareness to the totality of body/mind field and feel our emotions in order to eventually come to experience that there is something of a deeper nature that perceives it all. This he claims is done by our natural inner intelligence that perceives the fluctuations of the mind and eventually learns to create greater stillness from within. A journey through the various koshas (subtle layers) of the body/mind thus begins until one becomes more absorbed in the all pervading self. Then finally, as we learn to trace our inner receptivity through our senses, mind, intellect, our consciousness will expand and Prana, the life force will no longer deviate in our system.
He further refers to Patanjali's final sutra on asanas YS 2.48: 'tato dvandvaa anibhighaatah' (then all sense of duality is annihilated) and goes as far as to say that the dvandvaa, duality Patanjali refers to is not merely the duality of the senses, but rather the duality of Prakrti and Purusha. A broad statement to make indeed, but for Iyengar who's main sadhana has been his asanas and claims all the postures he's done has been all his prayers, certainly talk with a certain authority when it comes to personal experience. Whether one can actually reach the peak of discrimination between Prakrti and Purusha from mere asana practice I'll leave for a different discussion, but Mr. Iyengar main argument is that when there is a steadiness from within and the body/mind/nervous system is purified through an asana practice, then Pranayama can be practiced easily because the disturbances from Prakrti is less.
Mr. Iyengar wants to educate us further and takes support of the HYP 2.2: 'As long as the breath fluctuates the mind fluctuates, if the breath is restrained the mind will be restraind'. The main reasons for mental fluctuations he therefore attributes to imbalances in the physiological body and when this is first stabilized there is hope to finally get a better support to restrain the fluctuations of the mind. But he stresses again and again the subtly of a Pranayama practice and that it is not to be rushed and should never be forced nor agitated. Once again he conveniently quotes the HYP 2.16 and says how when Pranayma is practiced properly all diseases are eradicated, but when not, all diseases flare up. "So be careful", he concludes and refers to Patanjali's final verse on Pranayama YS 2.52: 'tatah pratyak kshiiate prakaashaavaranam' (Then the veils that cover the inner light are annihilated). "The practice of Pranayama should build that illumination within us, first then will it become real and serve the purpose Patanjali articulate to us".
|Iyengar teaching Manuso Manos|
Finally he speaks about the Ahamakara, the Ego, which he calls the most subtle aspect of Prakrti most difficult to come to terms with. The subtle operations of the mind we identify with and get entangled up in rather than observe its fluctuating nature. "We are always in some sort of delusion about our real nature he says do therefore not for a second think that you have really understood what yoga is about". But let it never be forgotten", he finally concludes after many more elaborations, "that the real purpose of yoga is to reveal the svaruupa, the inmost identity of the self. Once that starts to happen Yoga reveals itself to us rather than us struggling to find Yoga".
Once he was finished he brought his hands together and said: "May God bless you all". Some people certainly had great difficulty in getting up from the floor, but Mr. Iyengar jumped up from his seat without a sign of fatigue in his legs and thanked everybody for coming. Afterwards everybody went downstairs and were served a scrumptious meal outside his house. He sat back in his chair and enjoyed the stream of three hundred people bowing down to his feet in gratitude for a life work dedicated to Yoga.
|Ramdevji, BKS, Prashant & Gita Iyengar|
Next day it was back to normal, classes continued as normal and Mr. Iyengar was back in the Shala for his early morning practice, but just as he was about to enter RamDevji came to greet him. Ramdevji always travel with an entourage of many people so it was quite a spectacle. He was keen to hand over his latest book on Yoga and Medicinal Benefits. Mr. Iyengar sat down, received him politely and had a jovial conversation with him. In Exchange Mr. Iyengar pulled out ten of his own publications, handed it over to Ramdevji and said: "Here, please read my interpretations on this matter and let us discuss more next time when we meet".
BKS Iyengar always has a cheekiness in his eyes, smile and tone of voice, he might come across as really arrogant to those that don't know him, but for those that do, it is very apparent he strives for clarity of the subject and refinement and development if possible. For anybody who wants to discuss it with him they may certainly encounter some heated discussions with him. However it is always done with a smile and although he's called the 'Lion of Pune', rarely does he scratch anybody, but rather lifts them up and helps them realize for themselves how Yoga may awaken more thoroughly from within.
Personally I love the man and although I've been bruised at times due to my own folly, I always enjoy every minute I get to spend with him, because he is certainly one of a kind and a genuine Sadhaka that lives his Yoga and embodies it fully according to the way he understands it.
|12.12.07 Pune Prashantji|
|There is a peculiar man living within the compound of the Iyengar Yoga institute here in Pune. He refuses to travel anywhere apart from an annual visit to the temple of Tirupati. There are plenty of institutions and organizations around the world and within India that have requested his participation in various Yoga conferences and events, but his answer is always the same: "No I do not want those burdens; I'm way too sensitive to deal with such publicity, I'm just a common man and like to preserve my peace of mind". So he keeps to himself, supposedly engages in his own study of Yoga for 8-10 hours a day and comes out of his room for two hours a day five times a week to teach his classes.|
In his afternoon session yesterday from 6-8pm we only did about three postures, but meanwhile why he kept us sitting in the twisted postures he spoke on the following theme:
"So you want to know Yoga-asanas, but where is the element of Yoga in everything that you are doing? If there is no understanding of Yoga Philosophy, Culture and Religion what we are doing is not Yoga-asana, but merely physical stretches that will leave you with a certain buzz and make you feel good when you finally stop. Yoga is an inquiry into the essence of our mind, how it operates, and the subtle layers that dictates its operational being, and finally how we can find a more genuine support from within different to all of that".
"Look at all of you", he said suddenly with a roar, "many of you have been coming for years, but what are you actually eager to learn? With ears on alert, eyes hungry to see, waiting for a peculiar input in each and every asana so you may learn to 'perform' them better? Well you got it all wrong! Let me tell you there is an obsession in the Iyengar clan about how to do each asana in the 'right' way. People have become infatuated with alignment, how to stretch, how to lengthen, how to reach and elongate the pose. You wait for the teacher's input and information, plug yourself into the Iyengar hub, download as much as you can while you are here and then go on repeating it all to your students. But have you actually understood anything about Yoga? For you to have an experience of yoga there must be a greater understanding of Yoga philosophy, culture and religion, without that context you are just busy doing physical stretches. But since Patanjali included asana into his limbs of Yoga we can be certain that elements of Yoga may be found within it. Most of you are just busy doing, going on repeating endlessly without any introspection what-so-ever to what is actually going on in the pose. You are so busy doing, but who is actually doing what and what is there to be achieved?
Most of us he had lost by now, some kept smiling or bowed their head as to confirm the profoundness of his message, but from the facial expressions in the room it was apparent that most people just smiled and tried to put on a brave face in order to cover up the feeling of a lost sheep.
Then he continued: "Most of you want to learn tricks. How to do this or that pose or how to cure this and that disease, but what if I told you there are no tricks. There are no quick fixes to yoga. There is not a cure that works for everybody. Yoga is not a miracle cure, but rather a path of gradual introspection. This cannot be rushed and forced with too much intense doing, that is only the first step, the primary level, but if you want to explore a greater sense of Yoga you have to experience the un-doing of the patterns that hold your body, mind and nervous system in a grid rather than just keep reinforcing their fixed behaviors. This takes introspection, stillness, centering, that is Sthira Sukham Asanam, to explore 'what is' rather than be busy doing. You can go on doing this postures for endless number of years, but unless you stop trying so hard to do the asana and rather allow the asana to reveal something about your mental state of mine, not much yoga is going to happen!"
The class continued and he asked us to explore the end of the exhalation, empty out completely until there were noting left and then explore with what mindset we were receiving the inhalation. What was the state of our mind, what was the operation patterns, what sensations did we have in the throat, palate, back of the mouth? Then he continued: "Let yoga come to you gradually. Let it reveal itself like the priceless gift that it is; don't be busy grasping for the wrappings on the surface.
Then right before the class was ending he gave us some more food for thought: "Most of you here are teachers, many of you are even the teacher of teachers, but what yoga are you actually going to teach them if there is no understanding of the philosophical, culture and religious aspects of Yoga? No wonder the world of Yoga is a funny place?"
Then in his normal humble manner he asked for our forgiveness for having taken up so much of our time, "I don't really know either" he concluded, "but I'm not afraid to call it as it is and since you have put me here on the platform I will speak what comes forth from within according to my understanding. Please forgive me if I've wasted your time!"
According to the way I see it, Prashant never wastes anybodies time, but he's certainly a healing antidote to the many quick fix mentalities and recent hypes surrounding yoga these days. Ok it's a slow process and may we all get a little clearer step by step according to our capability to see it and embrace it.
|10.12.07 Pune Reflections|
|Life here in Pune is quite different to the way things run in Mysore, but then again although Pattabhi Jois and BKS Iyengar had the same teacher, T. Krishnamacharya, their style of teaching is radically different. Pattabhi Jois don't like employing too many words when it comes to the practice and has boiled it down to the simple phrase: "You Do!" However if you press him for some further explanation he will say it takes a long time to explore the inner subtleties of yoga and if you want to become wiser in the world of Yoga, practice more and talk less! Now, I would argue there is definitely a danger that one may practice oneself into further mental rigidity, become too stuck in ones personal obsessions, refuse to see a different angle and a lack of appreciation for the numerous path leading to the center of Yoga. Unless there is a development of greater receptivity from within it is easy to become too stale and rigid in ones fixed patterns. According to the Classical Yoga tradition we are suppose to transcend our patterns, see through the many fixed operations of the mind and eventually come to experience a deeper sense of connectivity with spirit from within. Less stained and tainted by our own conditioned programming.|
Here in Pune meticulous emphasis are given to the details. As Iyengar once put it, 'If you want to know God, but don't even know your little toe how can you ever bring about that integrated wholesome experience?' Ok, ideally I guess non of us are really fragmented beings, but the meticulous focus on hair-splitting details may very well lead the mind astray from its core and loose itself in a periphery of fluctuating factors. However the beauty of an Iyengar practice is that you might not engage in a lot of physical motion, but afterwards you may feel mentally refreshed if you've been able to take on the guidance from a teacher and work through your stale, fixed patterns with a new awareness, supported by the instructions given by the teacher.
Personally I feel very refreshed being here with Prashant. He does indeed talk a whole lot and often I can only process a small portion of it, but his intentions seems to be to awaken us into a greater awareness of being where we can transcend our fixed patterns and embrace a greater receptivity to being in the present moment. For this we need a steady asana practice and if it is supported by an attentive mind, the discriminative awareness to what works and do not work, will reveal itself and then a greater integration to Yoga equally shines forth.
Now i also belive both schools equally work and possibly even better if one were to take the best from each one and leave all the jibberish. But for this to occur it takes ruthless honesty in wanting to understand and penetrate the deeper aspects of yoga. More than what you have defined it to be at certainly more than what your teacher articulate it to be. Perhaps what we're left with is Faith. Faith in existence and faith in the practice and most of all faith in that everything will reveal itself according to our capability to embrace it. If we keep our mind fresh, heart open and senses under control a new intelligence will hopefully awaken.
|07.12.07 Pune Ah finally Pune|
|Finally arrived Pune last night and went straight to the Iyengar Yoga Institute this morning. BKS Iyengar was already in the room practicing and while he was holding the various poses he was barking out instructions to some of his senior students. I could barely find a place to lie down my mat, people from all over the world have gathered for the occasion of his 89th birthday on the 14th of December, but once the hoard of people around him dispersed a little I approached the old lion and prostrated before him. 'Why are you late?' he said, while gazing down upon me with his towering personality. 'I got held back in Haridwar' I said, he just groaned and got on with his practice. And so did I, hanged on the ropes for a little while, did some funky stuff over a chair and then did some head stand variations before I thought it was high time to go back to the hotel and settle in properly and catch up on neglected matters.|
After spending the weekend in Bangkok for the Thai Yoga Journal Conference I landed in Delhi Monday night. Traffic in India can be quite a challenge so decided to head straight for Haridwar. Arrived there in the early morning hours and took my bath in the Ganga at the auspicious place of Har-ki-Pauri, then climbed up the hill to a temple for the five am darshan of Manasa Devi. When I arrived back down to the banks of the Ganges, the sun was just rising and it was time for the morning Ganga Arti. It is a sight to behold, pilgrims from all over India flock to this spot for communal bathing, among priests, con-men and the general Sadhu, that all try to capitalize a little on the many pilgrims coming for greater purity, removal of sins, solemn vows to the gods or the mere longing for improved communication with the divine.
At one point this town as well as Rishikesh 25 km upstream was a place for genuine seekers of truth that renounced the pleasures of worldly life in longing for a greater integration to spirit. Both towns are crowded with Ashrams side-by-side and the sight of people in orange robes are as common a sight as seeing people dressed up in suits in Hong Kong. There may very well be some great sages and realized souls in these places, but the people who throng the banks of the Ganges seems to be more into the business of luring some money off the pilgrims or asking the many western tourists to smoke a chillum with them. 'Jai Ram, Jai Ram', they shout with their smiley eyes, while seated in the same spot all day long, watching the world go by and somehow ignorant to the healing waters of the Ganga floating by in nourishment of a nation.
But if you know where to go there are certainly many places of a more uplifting nature. This time I choose to visit the Shivananda ashram in Rishikesh, simply to pay my tribute at the Samadhih shrine of the great scholar Swami Shivananda Maharaj who started a quiet revolution for greater awakening to Yoga and Vedanta. He left his body in 1963, but in his ashram there are genuine Sadhakas who keep up his tradition and inspires millions of people around the world with their clear teachings of Divine Life and greater service of Humanity.
Then of course I went to seek out Swami Dayananda Saraswati, who came to Evolution Yoga Conference last year, unfortunately he was not there but enjoyed his ashram. Then in the afternoon I went for the beautiful Ganga Arti at Paramarth Niketan and watched the young Bramacharies sing praises of the Ganga and the many pilgrims lighting their candles in a floater set off with prayers down the Ganga. Walking back home to the hotel I could not help to feel a little elated, while watching the bright stars glowing steady from above, far removed from the city lights and the general noise that normally distract our minds.
But with no hot water bottle to hug, and definitely not any girlfriend, the nights here at the foothills of the Himalayas can indeed be a little cold to endure. But after wrapping myself in two blankets I had a reasonable good sleep and woke stiff as a board the following day. When you are shivering from the night a bath in the icy waters of the Ganga certainly wakes you up and when you are finally well out of the waters, ahh if you can but release the layers of tension in your muscles protecting your inner organs, a beautiful glow is released from within.
Most of Wednesday morning was spent at the Patanjali Yoga Peetha and the famous Divya Yog Mandir headed by Swami RamDevji and Acharya Balakrishanji. The later one gave me a tour of the place and showed me their many facilities. The two young men, while being in their late twenties, after finishing their Sanskrit studies and roaming the Himalayas for a few years in search of their own calling, established the Divya Yoga Mandir trust in 1995. They started to propagate the many healing benefits of Asana and Pranayama together with greater consciousness about the many healing benefits of Ayur Veda. Their message has spread like wild fire in India particularly over the last five years. Balakrishanji claims that more than 15 million people have benefited from their healing camps on Yoga, Pranayama and Ayur Veda.
They are broadcasted live five Indian TV Channels every day with 20 million regular viewers. In 2005 they inaugurated the new premises for their center called Patanjali Yog Peeth where they also established an Ayurvedic hospital (Ayurved Chikisalya) where they give free consultations to roughly 3000 people every day and give treatment for minimal fees. 51 doctors are working there and nearly 700 Karmayogins (volunteers) are serving various social service projects of the Trust. It has the latest state of the art technology and proudly boosts separate buildings for a Surgical Clinic, Pancha Karma Centre, Dental Clinic, Pathology, Ophthalmology and a Radiology Lab. Their Dining Shala as well as Yoga Shala can hold one thousand people at the time and whenever RamDevji is not traveling the Indian continent holding a six-day yoga camp for masses of 50,000 people upwards, people flock to Haridwar like never before. Not necessarily to take a bath in the Ganges but simply catch a glimpse of these two young men that has revolutionized Yoga like no others here in India. These two young Brahmacharies are now ready to spread their mission to the world. Their main incentives are as follows:
|Swami Ramdevji Maharaj|
• To make a disease free world through a scientific approach to Yoga and Ayurveda.
• To establish a New World Health Organization and fulfill the resolution of making a new world order free from disease and medicine through research on the knowledge base of the great sages, Patanjali, Charaka and Sushruti.
• To establish with a scientific approach, Prana (breath) as medicine for treatment of all curable and incurable diseases by greater extensive research of the effects/benefits of Pranayama and Yoga.
• To propagate Pranayama as "free" medicine for treatment of diseases across the globe.
• To make the world a peaceful and tranquil place by using Yogic techniques by to eradicate fatal effects of medicines and weapons.
• To study and research the subjects of Yajna (sacrifice), organic farming, cow-urine, harmonious nature and environment in addition to the study of Yoga and Ayurveda at their institution.
• To provide absolutely free lodging, boarding and medical treatment for the economically weaker section of society.
RamDevji and Balakrishanji have both received awards from the President of India, but they have equally been subject to plenty of criticism and blame from certain people calling them too simplistic and misleading the masses. But after meeting them it is clear that they both have a strong presence about them that will not budge the sarcasm from many of their critics. Balakrishan just smiles and says: "If we were ever to dwell upon all the criticism we receive we would simply not get anything done. We do our best to act in harmony with the highest ideals we believe in, we offer up our work and services as good as we can. The rest we leave to God". And then he adds with a smile "Look at what we have created, if we've been the normal con-men, Karma would have probably caught up with us by now, but we are not afraid of anybody, only ourselves, if we were ever to loose the essence of Yoga we would have nothing to offer people, but we continue on this path and God is there to guide us so why should we worry?".
During the long bumpy ride back to Delhi I tried to read up a little on some of their publications that he gave me. It may be simplistic, but all of their works are taken straight out of the classical texts presented with a no nonsense approach. These two traditionalists have taken upon them the task to reawaken India to the great knowledge of the former Seers and Sages. Time will tell how they continue to develop and grow, but so far we can only conclude; they've done a remarkable job.
|Don't do it kids!|
In Delhi I met up with the head of the ISCON movement a strong proponent of Vaishnava Bhakti Yoga. His only message is: "If we can but only create more space for God in our hearts, melt our proud Egos and rigid minds, all our miseries will but lose their grip on us and we will experience the beauty of the world as it truly is".
In the late hours of the night I met up with a famous Industrial family who had their Silver Jubilee. 300 people were gathered for the most lavish extravagant party I'd ever participated in. So I danced the night away with the societe of Delhi, rubbed shoulders with some movie stars from Bollywood, watched a huge number of servants, cooks, security guards, musicians and entertainers running around trying to make everybody happy. And in the midst of it I simply thought to myself: 'ah it's quite nice to be a Bhogi, for a limited time only. Went to bed at the time I normally wake up, it was certainly great fun, but ai, everything comes with a price. Better stick to Yoga, it creates much more real wealth in the long run!
Oups better run now, time to catch the Old Lion for his afternoon session in the library.
1 ... 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 ... 23
Previous | Next
The views expressed in this weblog are those of the author and do not
necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Pure International.