Thursday, March 8, 2012

Conference #6 - Yoga is a Mystery

I made it back to Mysore just in time for conference on Sunday. I had spent a relaxing weekend at a beautiful homestay called Palace Estates in Coorg – coffee country!! I’ve always wanted to go so this trip I made sure I did. And it was worth the 4hr drive over super bad roads! The plantation itself was gorgeous. The hosts were lovely. And the general atmosphere was so relaxed. I spent most of the weekend sleeping! LOL! I did venture out to see the waterfall on the property and the palace down the hill from the coffee plants. That was enough of an adventure for me! On the way back we took the nice road (why did we not take this road on the way?) and made it home in 2.5hrs, stopping to buy Coorg coffee on the way, of course! Anyway, conference…

Sharath was super tired. Looked like he was going to fall asleep in his chair when he sat down. So he asked us what we wanted to know. As usual the room was silent, all eyes on him or downcast. LOL! Everyone always has something to say (myself included) until put on the spot. The lovely Elyse from Canada took charge and started us off by asking the following….

Q: Can you speak to us about each of the series and how they affect the body? The subtle body?
A: There are 2,3,5,600 asana’s divided into 3 parts: Primary, Intermediate, and Advanced series. The first is called Yoga Chikitsa or Chikitsa Vibhaga, contains 30-32 asana's in a sequence designed to cure disease's and build strength. Whatever we do we must follow shastra. Yoga is a science and must be followed in a certain way. Asana is the foundation. It's not about external strength, otherwise weight training would suffice. We need internal strength. When we start asana practice we should start slowly, not like instant dosa! Proper dosa takes 2 days to make. Now you can make in 20mins! Like students going to their first class and expecting to do handstand!
The body controls the mind. The mind controls the breath. Once we understand the breath we can control the mind. Once Primary is perfected we move on to Intermediate series or Nadi Shodana. But don't be in such a rush! Primary is beautiful! It is a healer. I practiced only Primary for 3yrs when I hurt my back teaching too much. Don't let your ego get in your way.
Intermediate series purifies the Nervous system. (It also has some good poses for healing.) The Chakras that run through the central line of the body are like branches connecting the 72000 nadis." From my experience (Emma) intermediate can be a tough one. Not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. It can do a number on you! Especially when you get into the deeper backbends. Damn!! My suggestion is to lock yourself in your room and let the tears, anger, and frustration come up! Journal, journal, journal. We all go through it and it can be really tough, especially on those around you. Sometimes you don't even know you are experiencing it. But this is the job of this series. It finds all our old hurts, our old trauma's and brings them to the surface where we can finally let them go. Just like Primary finds all our old physical injuries and asks us to experience the pain again so that we can fully heal. Knowing is half the battle :)
Advance series or Sthira Bhaga builds more strength and flexibilty. (I remember Guruji saying, "Primary most important. That is why it's first. Intermediate is cleansing. Advanced just for demonstration.") Doing advanced series brings much body pain. Each new asana brings a new pain LOL! Doing any of this too fast will cause injury. Injury is hard to come back from fully. Students want more poses so will go and find a teacher who gives out poses freely. This is not correct. Yoga is not just about the body or physical strength. It is about mental strength.

Q: Can you speak of Shankaracharya and his connection to Ashtanga yoga? (Asked by Clayton Horton)
A: He was a Guru of the Advaita Vedanta tradition. He was not directly linked to Ashtanga. It's that yoga is misunderstood. Most people only follow the Yoga Sutra's but the Upanishads and the Vedas are very important too. The YS only has 3-4 lines about asana. It does not tell you HOW to practice. It's also a very confusing book so you need a good translation. You need to learn about Sandhana, about doing the asana's in a proper way. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika talks about Sthira, to be stable. How can you experience yoga if you are not stable? That is why Drishti is so important. When we use Drishti our mind is more focused. Practice Trataka to help you develop your focus. It's also great for your eye sight!

Q: Is Kriya part of Ashtanga yoga?
A: Kriya is part of the Yama's and Niyama's (the do's and don't of yoga). In the West and in Asia Ashtanga is seen only as a physical practice. All 8 Pilars of the practice need to be strong, not just asana. This will lead you to Samadhi. Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi...When Dhyana grows stronger you can experience Samadhi. Some of you will come back from your experience. Some of you will not. You will come back if you have a desire that is unfulfilled - like wanting a gulab jamun!

Yoga is a mystery. It cannot be properly explained, only experienced within you. The first 4 limbs of yoga (Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranyama) are external exercises. The last 4 limbs (Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi) are internal exercises. All of these need to be practiced for the house of yoga to be strong. If only one pilar is strong the house will fall. We know so little - we only know about 10%. Yoga has become a commodity. Our only aim should be to reach higher levels in our practice (NOT JUST MORE ASANA!!) Detachment comes slowly. We are like children still. If you give one child a chocolate another child will cry that they didn't get one. That is what I see when I give one student an asana or authorization. The other student cries that they did not get it. The same with teachers. "How many students do you have?" Who cares!! I would rather have 10 good students than 5000 bad ones.

You all should be practicing Japa mala. Sit quietly every day for 15 minutes and do Japa. Pick a deity, pick a mantra, pick an image (I chant to Ganesha and Green Tara). Doing Japa will help you to reduce your ego. If you can reduce your ego, many good things will happen. That is why I get so angry with all of you when I hear you talking outside before practice. You lose focus and prana! SHHHHHH!

The final question of conference Sharath asked us...
Q: How many of you drink coffee?
My hand went up proudly!! But only about 40 others put up their hands. He shock his head and said...."Not many of you. Not enough. Mysore has very famous coffee! You should all drink before conference (everyone was tired). LOL! These are words Guruji gave to me. I will give to you....

No fear, no fun.
No chapti, no strength.
No pain, no gain.
No coffee, no prana!