Yesterday it was time for Sharath’s Sunday conference again. Last weekend the conference was cancelled due to the moon day falling on the Sunday. After a 2 week break our ears were fresh and eager to listen. Many new people had also arrived since the last conference and the change of month from January to February. The shala was packed as usual resulting in a serious lack of oxygen and sleeping legs after 45 minutes in the same position :).
The first topic of the day was a question on the balance between the two Nyiamas Santosha and Tapas. Sharath explained that one cannot relate to the specific Yamas and Nyiamas in an isolated way (one to one) but we have to see them ALL TOGETHER. They are all interconnected and interdependent. He gave the example of when someone does not follow ahimsa and does something bad to someone else, it is because there’s no Santosha within the person who acts badly (maybe an inner frustration) and there is no control of the mind. For some people there will never be Santosha inside – they are always unhappy no matter what. But Santosha is to enjoy daily life. One should develop Santosha through giving, sharing and helping others in giving back to the community, Sharath said. To do this one needs to first be true to oneself, to question oneself before taking any actions. If you do this and follow the Yamas& Nyamas in daily life, only then you are practising Ashtanga. The interconnectedness of all the Yamas and Nyamas manifests in that if we “break” one there will be an imbalance in the others as well. If we don’t follow one of the principles then we can’t follow the others either. But, yoga is not a religion Sharat reminded. It is for self-transformation. We practise yoga for our well-being.
Sharath likes to joke and yesterday was no exception. When asked why we only chant the closing Mantra on Fridays after led class he said it was to “apologize for all our sins in the past week”. But then serious again he underlined that the mantra is to be repeated every day after self practice. And it is not about ourselves, but rather asking for the happiness and well-being of all living beings “Lokah samastah sukino bhavantu” (Lokah refers to the universe).
Sharath also repeated the importance of having one single guru. Having a teacher will teach you the basics and give you the necessary foundation for practice. If you have more than one teacher you will end up confused or worse:
“If you have two gurus one student is dead; If you have two wives, one husband is dead; if you have two doctors once patient is dead – devote yourself to one single guru, follow one thing!”
Sharath R Jois
What to do when faced with distractions in practice? Or what do we do when we lose connection with the practice and feel unmotivated? Sharath replied that distraction may come from anywhere. It is not whether there is distraction or not that is important – it is how we respond to it that matters. Are we able resist or ignore temptation? Sharath spoke about Mohini the female avatar of Lord Vishnu who enchants everyone who sees her (Moha means dillusion) and makes them follow her. Much like the Swedish version of the forest nymph “skogsrå“ that lures men deep into the forest. When doing yoga we should not get carried away with anything. We tend to get attracted to many things out of greed. When this happens our sadhana (practice) gets upset. We need a certain mindset to be able to keep up our sadhana and a regular life. It is often when we have too many options that the mind gets distracted. Without options the mind is quieter.
The important thing is to keep practising – DON’T LEAVE YOUR PRACTICE – it will help you judge what is correct and not, Sharath said. When you go deeper into the practice it will become everything. All other things become secondary. Yoga is like a marriage, Sharath laughed – only half-joking this time…. To devote yourself to yoga is not selfish. You do it to stabilise yourself so that you can be good to others. Asana practice will change your mindset, the yamas and nyiamas will lead to an inner transformation, practising Japa will also develop inner stability and with time you’ll develop a quality to remain comfortable within even though you face outer disturbances.
Finally, when asked about if he ever took holiday and how many hours he slept, Sharath said he’d only slept 4-5 hours per night the last few years (didn’t we see the dark circles under his eyes 😉 ). Holiday would be lovely but how? With more than 400 students in the shala each month and only one Sharath – how would that be possible….?
Although Sharath has a heavy work load he remains in such good spirit. It is amazing how he manages to have time for each and every one of us, how he remembers our strengths and weaknesses and how he always seems to be there in the crucial moments. He has a hawks vision, eyes in the back of the head and on top of that a laser sight which reads your inner feelings and thoughts. Nothing seems to go past him unnoticed and it’s not possible to get away with cheating. Yesterday in led intermediate my neighbour Nikki and I tried to carry on beyond our final pose – just to test the boundaries I guess… But Sharath was there immediately and told us off. Luckily he wasn’t angry – he scolded us but with a slight smile on his face. So we hurried off into the changing room, embarrassed yet giggling a bit like naughty teenagers. I thought I would be punished for the rest of the week by him ignoring my presence in the shala. But to my surprise he asked me to show him the next asana tomorrow. So Dvi Pada Sirsasana it is….and splitting into intermediate completely moves one step closer.
I end this post with some pictures from another Sunday event – the fully lit Mysore Palace – one of the things to see when here. On Sunday evenings after sunset the whole palace it lit up with millions of light bulbs. Not very environmentally friendly I’m sure – the bulbs don’t seem to be long life ones….. And most likely one of the sources of the city’s many power cuts… When the Palace was lit the street lamps went out…