….you should enjoy it just as much. When you relish your practice, when it’s just as delicious as ice cream – it’ll touch your inner core and only then you will understand what yoga is and get to the higher levels of yoga, Sharath said this Sunday afternoon.
Today’s Sunday conference brought much laughter and “family moments” with Sharath and his two children who kept running in and out of the shala to have their dad’s attention. Shraddha, Sharaths daughter sang a few songs for us and Sharath explained that she studies classical singing and had recently done a performance at the nearby Krishna Temple. Her singing was very sweet, but then the little brother Sambhav got jealous and started having his own show, dancing on the stage much to everyone’s amusement. Sharath shook his head and claimed his son had watched too many Bollywood films… 😉
Many questions today were related to how to combine sadhana and family life. Sharath – who has spoken about this many times – said that when one has practised for some time, it becomes natural. Sadhana will not be an effort, it will be part of one’s day – just like brushing one’s teeth. When you’ve practised for a while you cannot be without it. If you leave it out one day your state of mind will not be good. It becomes like when you haven’t brushed your teeth – you do not feel well, only smelly :). “For me”, he said, “practice now comes from within, it is part of me, so it’s not stressful to fit it into my day. It may be more difficult nowadays to do a long asana practice because I have so many responsibilities, including having to teach so many students. So now I only practice about 2 hours instead of 3-4, but it’s enough. But I tend to do too much anyway,” Sharath admitted with a smile.
When one practices yoga as intensely, the family will get involved as they see you practice. They will get interested in what you do and it will motivate them so that they sometimes also start to practice, Sharath said. If not they will most likely understand your commitment and support you. “When you do back bends in front of your wife she will know how difficult it is and she will help you :)”, Sharath said. “This morning I woke her up at 2 am to ask for help in back bending! Mostly it’s her or my mother that will help”.
One student pointed out that not all husbands or wives may be as understanding of one’s yoga practice as it tends to introduce changes in ones life and life choices. Some partners may not be very supportive of the new lifestyle with early bed times and early mornings, or the vegetarian diet (for those who decide to change their food intake) or other changes that the practice may lead to. Sharath replied that “If your partner really loves you he/she will support you”. But he also underlined that not everyone had to be as hard core as him and get up at 1 am to practice, 5 or 6 am was enough. As for combining sadhana with family life and children, Sharath encouraged parents to let their children watch the practice and become familiar with it. In that way they would get used to one or both parents’ routine and not question it. Children however, should not start practising seriously before the age of 12.
Sharath also spoke about the importance of balance within one’s practice and daily life. The need to balance the intake of food, the amount of sleep, work and practice. Too much or too little of anything would not be good. Too much food would make one slow and sleepy. Too much sleep makes the body stiff and heavy. Too little of food or sleep leads to lack of energy. Too much work wears one down and too much asana practice may lead to a strained aggressive mind. Sharath warned against bringing aggressiveness into one’s practice – asana practice should CALM the mind, not the opposite.
“Some people are so aggressive about their asana practice”, he said. “They think – I have to get this asana, I have to bind…. But in some cases it will never work and one will just have to accept it”. There is no such thing as a “good or bad practice” – you are not practising for this but to calm your mind. Yoga, as Sharath has said many times, is not just asana practise. It happens 24/7 but asana practise is only 2 of those hours.
Asana is a tool, but not the final stage of yoga. Practice stabilises the mind and allows you to handle external and internal distractions better. “Yoga cures all diseases”, said Sharath. It calms the mind and when the mind is calm it is less distracted and more focused. Therefore yoga is very important for this generation. Nowadays there are so many distractions – people are running after everything and we’re bombarded with advertising. These distractions cause desires which trouble the mind. But with yoga, once stability of mind is strongly established one will be less prone to distraction, depression and anxiety. Outside factors will not upset you emotionally in the same way – that said it doesn’t mean that you will not have compassion towards others or help them in difficult situations. That is still your duty.
Sharath was again asked about his view on meditation in addition to asana practice. He explained his view on this at a previous conference, but today he went a bit further with his arguments. “Dhyana – is not something that you can go and sit and perform”, he said. “It is something that happens within you”. It is what happens in asana practice when all the senses come to one – that is meditation. When asked if he didn’t see any benefit in meditation outside of asana practice Sharath said: “You need to sit in asana to meditate”. But he also said “Dhyana can happen anywhere (in daily actions) but mostly for short moments”. However he did not believe in meditation courses or retreats since he thought few people were ready to sit and try to meditate for 10-15 days. He underlined that Dhyana is something that happens automatically when the mind and body are ready for it, when steadiness has been established – it is not something that can be forced. He likened Dhyana to the process of growing a plant. If one nourishes it properly and waters it regularly it will automatically grow. You can’t make the plant grow by forcibly trying to pull it out of the seed. It’s the same with Dhyana – cultivate and nourish your body and mind and Dhyana will automatically happen.
Most importantly though – we need to enjoy our practice and make it delicious! So you know what to do – go out and have some ice cream!