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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

16.07.08 Pune Learning
So I'm back for some encounters with the lion of Pune. It's always a peculiar feeling coming here. Supposedly they are not really my teachers here, because I've been told it's better to follow one method properly than jump between various schools. But the truth is that every time I'm here, there are always so many gems and insights to be collected that I cannot but help to pick up a few treasures here and there while I'm observing, flirting and practicing a little Iyengar Yoga.

During the class with Prashant yesterday we only did about 4-5 postures over the duration of two hours and from a physical point of view it was pretty lame. The greatness of Prashant however is that although the postures are rarely challenging, he has a way of awakening a new receptivity from within with his great eloquent speech and sophisticated philosophy. It is never really about the postures, they are always secondary: "You always keep on doing the body mechanics of the āsanas" he says, "but where is the element of Yoga in the midst of everything you are doing? For an element of yoga to come forth you need to develop your pensive reflective nature so greater mindfulness may come about, then perhaps you can experience a little yoga".

In all honesty although I sometimes ask myself, "what the heck is going on here" as I look around the room and must acknowledge that the majority of the people look seriously out of shape and have great difficulty in doing any posture properly unless they have a belt, bolster, blanket, block, rope or some other support mechanism to help them in the posture. "Can any improved health come from all of this?" I seriously ask myself, as I normally think a healthy vibrant body is the first requirement to perceive the greater debts of yoga. But as I continue to look around and see the many people of different ages, shapes, body types and various personalities they've all come for the same purpose as I, to do some yoga and what would make my intention any different than theirs just because I can stretch a little further in the posture?

Prashant continues his salient speech while he has us in the pose : "You all come here and just want to be doing, but are you ready for learning? Are you able to develop the efficacy of learning and expand your body, breath and mind until some yoga settles in the midst of it? You go on repeating the same body mechanics again and again and you try so hard to 'improve' your various postures, but where is the unification in the midst of what you are doing?"

Some people really make an effort to get it right and they frown their eyebrows, clinch their jaw and make a weird looking seat of themselves. A few others seem more relaxed and seem to understand a little better when he's saying: "I'm not teaching you what you are doing, but what you should be doing!"

Prashant wants us to evolve the matter of the body, breath and mind. Instead of treating them as separate identities the āsana is a locus where we can experience the unification of them all. Thus by learning to be more absorbed in the mindfulness of breath the body and mind will be sanctified and be able to transform its limited patterns into a greater unified whole.

For this very purpose we practice and Prashant wants us to evolve our matter and eventually transform it rather than keep on being stuck in our patterns and projections and just go on repeating the various āsanas with a performance based attitude hoping that something will improve one day, rather than using it as the marvelous tool of introspection that it is. So whenever I'm here in Prashant's class, there is not necessarily a lot of stretching going on, but there is great expansion of the mind, integration of breath and a sanctified space that is being created to better perceive yoga. That is not necessarily so easy to find these days, but with Prashant you can be certain that something will drop, surrender and transform if we can only get a better perspective of what we are actually learning rather than so busy doing.
Link Comments (4) diggdigg


Hi Alex:

Well, in my experience you can never judge from people's appearance.

Usually it follows that a person who looks completely out of shape would not be able to hold postures for very long or have much stamina. Interestingly enough, however, they are often the people who are better focused on what is happening internally as opposed to the more elite ones. Those who have paid more attention to the externals (re: stronger muscles, toning, etc)....which comes from a hard-core or regular asana practice sometimes are the very same people who have lost touch with the subtle aspects of the pose.

I recall a Swami at the Sivananda ashram stating that people who are more into yoga are sometimes more body conscious. As a result they are also trapped by it as compared to people who do no physical yoga. He was basically making the point that the asanas can easily become a trap and an attachment....and taking you further away from the internal essence of the asana.

So, one must learn to let go....and let go...a continual process.....the more you become agile, flexible and strong...the more you have to let go of all of that as if you were nothing at all....and could barely touch your toes.

From this approach you stay in touch with the Zen mind..the beginner's mind....fresh, alive and open...Often the more experienced the practitioner the more fixed their minds become....

But of course, a regular practice shows us all where we are uptight and holding. I actually love to see the child in the adult...re: when they goof up...or when things don't go as they are planned...

It all looks good....and we can have a laugh or two at ourselves.

Iyengar speaks about the joy in students. And he makes the remark that seldom do you see the joy in people's faces when they practice....But as teachers we need to remind students of this....it is a very simple but important element....

We have to be serious, yes, but not so much so that we are driven to the ground...Or worst of all that we lose our sense of humour!


Posted by: Heather | 2008-07-17 09:13:42

Hey Alex,

You gotta love what you're doing if it's karandavasana or siddhasana.

So we practice the ashtanga yoga as guruji taught us. We do the tapasya, burn the rajasic karmas until we practice the real ashtanga.

The meditation and stillness within the constant movement of body and breath. The expression of the 8 limbs within one vehicle.

love to you brother

Posted by: magnolia | 2008-07-17 15:50:25

Hi Heather and Magnolia,

Well to quote the great Prashant on this matter: "Fitness exercises and the illusion of improvement is the great Māyā of Yoga", and as he said another day. "Yoga is always done 'by' the body, breath and mind for greater sanctification of the self". Never 'for' the body, breath and mind. When we understand the difference our practice will awaken to a whole different dimension.

Posted by: Alex | 2008-07-18 10:45:03

I love the fact that you went, did and felt Alex.
Only when we actually have an experience for ourselves can we share and know. Very cool.

The whole thing reminds me of what Sri O.P. Tiwariji says:
Don't be serious, be sincere. There's a great deal of truth and yoga in that :)


Posted by: Tiana | 2008-07-20 12:06:05


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