Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Conference #5

My favorite conference to date!! So many things were clarified today. It was super loud as Sharath walked into the shala. Immediately silence fell and all eyes were on him. We began w a mantra as we always do to set the tone. He spoke of the Bhagadvad Gita, how Sri Krishna tells Arjuna that he must become a yogi and that the yogi is supreme. He quoted a line from the text that explains the difference between a “tapaswi” a man who lives a disciplined life, and a yogi, who is more than disciplined, who does not get distracted by life, who doesn’t expect anything for his actions. A yogi seeks “jnana” or knowledge. But it’s not just knowledge from books – anyone can read and get knowledge that way. It’s about knowledge from books and from practice. About applying what we read and practicing. We are seekers on this path. We are all seekers on the path of yoga. But be careful! Don’t go looking for yoga! It’s within you! Don’t chase it – you will never catch it. On this path you must practice “dhira” you must be brave. We must realize our inner beauty, our soul. Our daily practice is internal, not external. Yoga is union. It is about joining the individual soul with the supreme soul, joining jivatma with Bramha. “Chitta vritti nirodaha” refers to the state of mind not the body. The idea of yoga today is all external exercise. For your practice to be Yoga you must have dedication and devotion. Why am I practicing? You must know this.

We moved on to questions pretty quickly as he was tired and was supposed to leave early for a family function. He ended up staying for the full hour. I am so happy he did!! Read on to find out why….

Q: Why, in your opinion, has yoga (in its physical form) spread so quickly around the world?
A: It’s attractive. It has been turned into a business that “makes you more beautiful”. But it’s also the platform for spiritual practice. The experience of yoga is unique to each individual. Even though we all practice the same asana’s in Ashtanga Yoga, our experience of the practice, is different.

Q: How do you approach the practice to make it more spiritual?
A: "Don’t focus on the asana’s. Focus on the yama’s and niyama’s to make it more spiritual."
Sharath then asked us to answer the question “ What is spirituality?” The first answer he said was too shallow. The next person quoted the Yoga Sutra’s….”Don’t quote the Yoga Sutra’s to me! I can quote many of the texts. I want to know what you believe spirituality to be.” He was reiterating the point that we are seekers on “jnana”. To really understand not just quote books, to speak from experience and personal understanding. “Spirituality is about changing oneself, to go deeper into our experience. Once we correct ourselves we always then go out to change the world and make them act like us. If we change ourselves inside, if we follow the yama’s and niyama’s, our world will change without force. Once we develop the Y’s and N’s in ourselves, then we become spiritual beings."

Q: Can you demonstrate the difference between Ujayii pranayama and “breathe freely with sound”?
A: "No. I just had my breakfast. LOL! Ujayii pranayama is not the breath used during practice. We just use breath with sound. That was something that got confused years ago when Guruji was asked. His English wasn’t that good and sometime he just said yes." (It’s funny because I was there for that conference when Guruji was asked about the diff between Ujayii pranayama and Ujayii breath. To me it was clear that there was a diff between the two. And I just had a conversation poolside with Annie Grover Pace who spoke to Guruji extensively about the diff between the two….)

The next question was asked starting with “In Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga…” Sharath stopped the student and said, “Don’t call it Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. It’s just Ashtanga Yoga. When you call it Vinyasa you make it less than it is, only focusing on one limb. Is there vinyasa in Yama’s? Is there vinyasa in Niyama’s? No. So it is just Ashtanga Yoga.” Again, while speaking with Annie she said that it should be about clarification. There are those out there that practice yoga with Baba Hari Das and call it Ashtanga Yoga. So people are just trying to be clear.

Q: Emotional release during practice?
A: You have a long way to go! Emotion will come. If the breath is not correct, if the asana is uncomfortable, if the mind is not focused. Let it out! It’s good. If you keep it in you will have “Chanchara” monkey mind.

Q: Can you be more specific about bhakti/karma/jnana yoga all happening within Ashtanga yoga?
A: Karma – your actions will change, you will do things without expectation.
Bhakti – you have to have dedication and devotion.
Jnana - Daily practice will teach you about YOU. You will learn about YOU.

Q: What about when you have children? Do you devote less time to your practice?
A: Always devote time to your children. They are our teachers. We think we are teaching them but they are really teaching us. They are like God. They are pure, innocent. If you can become childlike you will become a yogi. But no, don’t devote less time to your practice. Give the child to your husband/wife and take 2hrs to practice!

Until next time!!

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