Isabella Nitschke

Yoga & Coaching

January 24, 2015
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KPJAYI conference 24/01/2015 – “Yoga is within you, don’t search without”

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Sirsasana – Sharath demonstration

Today’s conference was my last this season. It’s only been six conferences, three a month, because of the new registration system. Now all new students have to register the first five days of the month and usually one of those days is a Saturday, which means that Sharath cancels the conference to welcome new students. Next Saturday will be such a day but by that time I will already be back in Sweden.

Each trip I’ve made to Mysore, Sharath has demonstrated an asana. And it’s always been head stand – Sirsasana – or forearm balance such as Pincha Mayurasana and Karandavasana. Actually it’s the two postures I never seem to get comfortable in, independent of how many years I’ve practiced them. All yoga practitioners will have one or two such asanas and those two are mine. So I’m very grateful for Sharath demonstrating them each time I’m here. In particular since also shouted at me across the Shala in practice yesterday for not having my arms straight in Mukta Hasta Sirsasana C (there’s not much space to do it really…bad excuse I know…).

It’s not so much that I use the wrong technique in head stand, it’s more the fact that I’m afraid of doing it following a nasty fall where I slipped a disc some years ago. Due to fear of being upside down I had refused to even attempt head stand in the first four years of my asana practice. But having finally let a teacher show me how to do it, I started slowly exploring the world upside down. Terrified each time. One morning when doing home practice alone I thought I should be brave and try it without a wall behind me. I felt relatively strong and managed to get up. However once up, my mind started wandering as I got too excited about actually standing freely upside down without support. And then came that moment of slow motion where everything stopped for a second and I remember thinking “I’m falling” (because that’s what happened).

And I fell badly! Since there wasn’t enough space for my legs in front of the mat I crashed into a desk with my legs and hit my lower back hard on the floor. After that I couldn’t walk properly for three weeks because of intense pain and my leg turned numb so I had to drag it behind me. It turned out I had a herniated disc but I was lucky since the injury healed by itself and it has never bothered me since. However the body remembers and that’s why it never really wants to go to the balancing point in inversions. The memory of the trauma is still there.

I guess this is why Sharath in today’s conference specifically underlined that one should ALWAYS learn Sirsasana and Sarvangasana (shoulder stand) from teacher. AND If you’re unstable you shouldn’t do it without assistance. I had to learn it the hard (and stupid) way but with sharing my story I hope that readers understand the dangers of learning asana – not only Sirsasana – without a teacher. That is why I also won’t share the details of what Sharath said or did in his demonstration as I think it should be taught “live” from teacher to student.

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One of the “seven deadlies”, Mukta Hasta Sirsasana C

Sharath showed us the version of Sirsasana that is done in the finishing sequence and then the seven head stands of the Intermediate series. I read somewhere that they are called “The seven deadlies”. The head stands at the end of Intermediate series are different when it comes to hand positioning and weight distribution. Though when doing Sirsasana as part of the finishing sequence there should be no weight on the head, it should only be touching the floor. The weight should be in the hands and forearms/elbows like a tripod.

So why is it ok to have a little weight on the head in the seven Intermediate head stands? Because these are only held for five breaths each. Sirsasana as part of the finishing sequence should be held for 20 breaths or more. When we hold it for so long there should be no pressure on the head as that would risk putting more pressure on the vertebrae. Also when we hold for more breaths all the blood will have time to come to the head and therefore we should take care to move slowly into and out of the posture so that the blood pressure will follow. In Intermediate series the transition out of the heads stands is different and faster, but again that’s ok since we’re only up for a few breaths.

If doing Sirsasana properly many diseases can be cured, in particular respiratory problems that lead to lack of oxygen in the blood, dizziness, head aches and anxiety, Sharath told. If we have little time to practice one day we should still always do Suryanamaskar and the finishing postures. The finishing postures are very important in our yoga practice (see notes from last week’s conference). On days we have time, Sharath reminded that we should try to practice Sirsasana a bit longer – even up to 20-30 minutes. This would of course have to be built up over time. “Don’t do it at once or you can get dizzy”, Sharath said. One should start by doing 5 minutes and then increase the time gradually. By extending the hold in Sirsasana once a week one will build much strength and stamina.

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Students eager to see Sharath demonstrating Sirsasana

Someone asked if Sirsasana could be practiced at any time of the day. No, it has to be done early morning during Brahma Muhurta (or maybe in the evening). “Early morning you all have time. Since you go on Facebook and Twitter I know you have time, but I know nobody really has time – so you need to make time”,Sharath said. Brahma Muhurta is the best time to practice yoga, he said. It is the period of time one and a half hours before sunrise. It literally means “God’s Hour” and is traditionally considered an auspicious time in all practices of yoga and most apt for meditation, worship or any other religious practice. Everyone is sleeping and so it is still quiet. Automatically your mind will be quiet as well. There is also less pollution and the air will be purer. With daybreak and all the activity going on your mind will be les able to focus.

Practice should be limited to once a day and if we practice on our own at home we should only practice what we’ve learnt in Mysore. No need to add any other asana. “Perfect what you’ve learnt so far and when you come to Mysore again you’ll learn a little more. That is how I learnt it from my grandfather, Sharath said. I had to show him perfection in an asana and then build up the practice slowly.”

Practice will strengthen body and mind and get rid of obstacles for stability. Being unhealthy is an obstacle to a stable mind. How can you concentrate when your body is suffering from disease? Therefore the first step of the practice is to gain health (yoga chikitsa=yoga therapy=primary series). When first learning asana one may develop “asana fever” or “asana diahorrea”, this is different from normal fever. You will feel tired or have a bad stomach, but it will last only a day or so and is a sign the body is cleansing. It is an automatic cleansing process where all poisons are discharged and as a result the body will become lighter.

If you have an injury you need to establish what type of injury it is. Is it only stiffness/weakness from previous activities/actions (karma) in your life or is it something that needs medical attention before you can continue in your practice? A torn ligament or meniscus would need surgery or other action to be mended as the tear otherwise would risk being aggravated through repeated bending/twisting etc.

“Don’t run after asanas”, Sharath said. Many people get so excited by asana and throw themselves into practice without considering whether they are ready for it. Then they injure themselves. It is important to have a strong foundation to build on and that has to come slowly. “Quickly coming will quickly go”, Sharath said. One should take time to cultivate knowledge about the body, about spirituality and the works of the whole practice system. Today many people have spoilt yoga with Teacher Trainings of 15 days. Such a certificate is of no use, it is only your own sustained practice that will lead to an understanding of yoga.

Because for what purpose do we practice? To get a certificate? If that is the case we will never understand yoga. A yoga practitioner has no agenda. “When I started there was no such thing as a certificate. I wanted to relish the practice. If you relish the practice you’ll understand yoga. But it takes time and hard work – a lot of dedication, devotion, discipline and determination. There are many D’s in yoga”, Sharath said.

If you want to know what yoga is you need to be disciplined. There are many other obstacles to practice such as laziness, doubt, carelessness, false attention and if we don’t have a strong foundation it is easy to get influenced by these. Our focus may falter and we may develop fear or depression. That said, a little fear is good as it will make you more focused. “No fear no fun”, Sharath often jokes and today was no exception. With practice the fear will lessen and the more one can learn to relax in an asana practice the more stability there will be. But again, it takes many years of practice.

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“Wake up! No coffee today”? – Sharath would ask if you are not alert enough when stepping into the Shala for morning practice

A real Guru will help you wake up. He will also be disciplined and strict. Without discipline it is not possible to teach yoga. Many people might not like that but one can’t just give out the knowledge of yoga like that.

The teacher needs to make sure the receiver is ready or capable of handling it. Otherwise it’s like giving a diamond to a monkey. It will not understand the value of it and will start playing with it like a stone. Or like giving a lump of gold to an ant, it will be crushed underneath it.

There is no teacher like Pattabhi Jois, Sharath underlined. He was the greatest master. He treated all students equal and had no ego whatsoever. “That makes him a very very great yoga master.

It is important that one shows gratitude and respect to the practice. The knowledge of yoga is inside all of us, but we need to understand it. Workshops and trainings will not help. Only once we through practice get rid of Kama, Krodha and the other six enemies we will understand yoga. “Don’t search outside of yourself”, Sharath said. “Yoga is all inside you”. That comforting thought ends this posting and this season at the KPJAYI. Four more practices and then I’ll be on my way home. Until next time…

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The home of Ashtanga Yoga

 

 

January 22, 2015
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The Blessing

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Full intermediate! Whoop whoop! 🙂

I’ve said it before – every trip to Mysore is different. Different energy, different people (some), different issues to deal with – yet it’s still all the same. Same Shala, same practice, same unruly mind, same people (many)…. Every trip is also rewarding in many ways, be it mentally, physically, spiritually, socially or maybe romantically (for some). During every trip there is bound to be some frustration, hard work, challenges and thus some exhaustion. Mostly it is all of the aforementioned at the same time. Needless to say that each Mysore experience is a roller coaster (or maybe like the streets of San Fransisco…search the blog archives if you don’t understand that reference). And although it’s physically and emotionally demanding to be here one is usually completely revitalized and re-energized when it’s time to leave.

Before coming here this time, I was a bit hesitant. During previous trips I hadn’t been able to relax in the Shala since I perceived I was being judged by Sharath’s observant eye and fellow students watching while waiting in the foyer. It made me feel very nervous and ungrounded. Yet I knew it was actually only my own mind playing tricks on me. So this year I made myself a promise to absorb and benefit from the energy of the room. Instead of trying to avoid the gaze of others, including Sharath’s, and instead of blocking out the strong energy fuming from all the sweating bodies, I vowed to surrender. And I decided to allow the energy to help me, to lift me and make me stronger.

Surrendering is extremely hard for me though. I usually don’t trust anyone – not even myself most of the time. So letting go and just allowing the energy of Mysore and the Shala to carry me was not easy. This Mysore “magic” that some call it – the surrounding energy of all your peers and of Sharath – can be extremely healing – if you have the courage to surrender to it and let it do its wonders. But as said, for me this has been a major challenge. It’s weird actually how something that involves relaxing and letting go can be so difficult.

In a strict yet loving manner Sharath has guided me, underlining that the journey isn’t just a bed of roses but might also be full of suffering. Something he literally spelled out to me in practice yesterday when he made me practice Karandavasana repeatedly in front of the edge of the stage in the Shala. A terrifying experience but also extremely empowering. And he helped me through the fear because he trusted my ability to do it and I decided to trust him.

They say that once you let go and stop chasing or push for things to happen things will come to you by themselves. And so by finally having the courage to trust my teacher, to surrender to him and the practice, I also earned his trust. But he made me work very hard for it – emotionally, mentally and physically. Sharath has often reminded us in conference that only the sweat which comes through hard work is the one that will be beneficial. And so I believe that it’s the same with achievements – we value them more when we’ve had to work hard for them.

That is why I’m particularly grateful for (and proud of!) the most beautiful evidence of my teacher trusting me, namely that he’s given me his blessing to transmit to others what I have learnt from him. A couple of weeks ago he authorized me to teach the full primary and intermediate series to others. It doesn’t mean that I’m a perfect yogi, or a good teacher for that matter, it only means I have the trust of my teacher to continue the lineage of Ashtanga yoga. It’s an incredible honor and it is a huge responsibility to carry and I will certainly do my best.

Devotion, dedication, discipline and determination are the four D’s that inspire me and that I live by. My hope is to be able to set a good example and in that way inspire others to either join or to continue on the path of Ashtanga yoga. As Sharath said in conference the other month – with authorization it this is where the journey really begins!

That said, without students there’s no teacher and that’s why I wouldn’t be where I’m today if it wasn’t for all the beautiful souls who in the past already decided to join me on the journey of Ashtanga yoga. Also I’m forever grateful to Sharath for his teachings and to all my peers here in Mysore for their support and uplifting energy. Indeed, the Mysore magic has made itself known to me at last. I guess nothing happens before you’re ready for it – I am now!

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The obligatory photo in front of the KPJAYI

 

 

 

January 17, 2015
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KPJAYI conference 17/01/2015: “You can’t change the world, but you can change yourself”

imageToday’s conference with Sharath was a discussion on the change that the practice of yoga will generate in us. Sharath always says that yoga is a process that happens within us, it’s a path of self transformation. But it has to be practiced correctly, it has to be Sadhana. If one only wants to practice asana for the sake of staying fit it is not Sadhana. It’s fine if staying fit is one’s only purpose but then it is not yoga. We do not practice Asana for the sake of the Asana. Asana is only a tool to help us to gain clarity of mind – not to enhance our ego.

Replying to a student asking how to know whether one’s thoughts/actions are genuine or only a manifestation of the ego, Sharath said that we need to stop saying “I…” all the time. We should stop marketing ourselves by always having to make our voice heard or say “I know this/that or the other”. We should stop having to assert ourselves in front of others and try to be better than them. Instead we should cultivate an attitude of humility and compassion. Rather than claiming to know everything, develop a mindset of “I don’t know”. “I don’t know everything”, Sharath said, “yoga is bigger than I and there are many things I don’t know”. He likened this to having two buckets of water from the ocean and thinking this would be equivalent to having seen the content of the whole ocean. But the ocean is vast…

Practice should be a tool to transform ourselves. “You can’t change the world, but you can change yourself”. If we change ourselves the world will look different to us. This reminded me of Gandhi’s quote “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. Practice will lead to a changed perception and attitude towards our surroundings and our change in behavior will positively affect society on both a micro and macro level. Our practice will benefit society. Caring for others is what is important, Sharath underlined. That is the meaning of this life. The problem with humanity is that we are greedy. Yes, we need money for survival, but we only need so much. Yet many people are so greedy they would cheat and kill to get richer and richer.

Caring for others should be the purpose of our practice. In the past, Sharath has often talked about doing our duty, our “Dharma” which is giving back to society, doing Seva – “service”. Last year Sharath said many times that it was good to come and practice with one’s teacher for a couple of months every year – one should aim to do that – but we should not stay here in Mysore. Instead we should go back to our real lives to work and practice yoga in real life as well. Because off the mat is where the real yoga takes place.

Thinking about it – aside from it being expensive to go to India, coming here to practice is relatively easy. Although it’s hard work physically and mentally, we don’t have to face the responsibilities that we would back home. Life becomes quite simple here. So being in Mysore is a privileged situation where we get to have time off from our regular lives to work on a “raw” part of ourselves. That’s why Sharath often reminds us that there’s more to it than practicing asana and that there’s something beyond the six series of Ashtanga yoga. It is in the 7th and 8th series where the real challenges lie (7th series is family life, marriage and children, 8th series is taking care of your elderly parents).

If we practice yoga correctly we will develop certain qualities. That is if we do proper Sadhana. Sharath elaborated on these qualities of yoga that will emerge after many years of practice:

  • a lean, healthy and strong body; practice will make us lose weight, we will become stronger and more flexible
  • a glow from within; we will look brighter and our eyes will shine
  • a clean and purified body
  • clarity in mind and speech. Once the mind turns toward the spiritual path our way of expressing ourselves will also change.
  • extension of our life span through the storing of “Amrita Bindhu”,the nectar of life. Amrita Bindhu is what we all are made of. It is stored in the head but with age it falls and as we loose more and more of it we age. Yoga practice and in particular inverted postures help to store the Amrita Bindhu and prevent it from falling. That is why we should hold inverted postures longer than the other asanas in our practice. That said, head stand should be done with the proper technique without putting weight on the head. Then one can stand in it safely for long periods of time. Asana practice will not only prevent the Amrita Bindhu from falling but also generate energy. With age we become slower and weaker, yet by keeping up a regular practice in the morning one will have enough energy for the rest of the day. Without practice it’s easier to become lethargic.
  • activation of the digestive fire; daily asana practice will help generate the internal heat and the digestive fire. In particular Primary Series has many good asanas that purify the nervous system and activate the inner fire (Janusirsasana A-C, Baddha Konasana, Upavistja Konasana, Paschimattanasana etc). When we breathe the air comes inside the digestive organs and increases the digestive fire so that we actively burn more toxins, Sharath explained. Through the sweat we release those toxins and we’ll purify our whole system and become healthier. This process is only supported if we keep the breath free and flowing in asana practice. A shallow or forced breath is not beneficial as it will prevent relaxation. Free breathing (not Ujjayi pranayama – for those not familiar with this topic please look into the archives of this blog and conference notes where Sharath elaborates on the difference between Ujjayi pranayama and free breathing) is essential for one to reap the benefits of asana practice. The inhalation and exhalation should be done properly and easy going. Without proper breathing there will be tension and risk of muscle pain/injury. If you breathe improperly the mind will be scattered and your focus will not be on what you are doing and so you could injure yourself. Therefore, the better we breathe the more we relax and the more asana will come. Sharath reminded of how Guruji used to say that to perfect an asana (sthiram sukham asananam) we need to do it at least 1000 times. “There are more than 650 asanas. If you want perfection in all, how long will it take….?”, Sharath asked rhetorically. He said that when we reach higher states of yoga we will be able to keep an asana for longer periods of time (ex sit in Padmasana for hours/days) but for now asana practice should take no longer than 1,5-2 hours a day. This will keep a flow in the practice that allows the blood to circulate properly and this will generate the internal heat. It is important to keep one rhythm, not too slow and not too fast and keeping the pace is particularly important in the cold season. Led class sets the general guideline for what pace to keep and one should aim to bring it into ones mysore practice. If we do this it will change and improve our practice a lot, Sharath told us.
  • Nadi shuddhi – purification and healing of the nervous system. Here again the breath is the main tool. With proper inhalation and exhalation the nervous system and the blood circulation will be well functioning and body and mind will be healthy. Now even the traditional medicine doctors have recognized the importance of the breath and the use of breathing techniques for healing purposes. For a long time Medicine did not acknowledge yoga as a tool for health but lately things have changed, Sharath said. Sharath also stressed that when injured one will heal quicker if one keeps up the practice. It is better to to what one can than to stop completely. The improved blood circulation from practice will help one heal faster. When injured it might however be necessary to go a bit slower and take more breaths. But even if one cannot follow the traditional vinyasa count one should try to keep a flow when practicing. The vinyasa (see last week’s conference for a more detailed discussion on vinyasa) is the chain of the practice that links it all together and has a healing effect. Also internal injuries will heal better. Sharath told the story of one student who had been born with double trachea (the tube that connects the mouth and nose to the lungs). By teaching this student various breathing techniques and asana (in particular Primary Series which has many benefits for breathing difficulties such as asthma, bronchitis etc) the student was able to learn how to use only one of the trachea and eventually the nerves of the one that remained unused died off and vanished.

Sharath is in a good mood and he shines where he sits in Padmasana on the chair at the front of the Shala. He’s joking and he likes to use metaphors and to tell anecdotes. His eyes sparkle and although he has a difficult task in taking care of all us neurotic foreign students (forgive me if anyone feels hurt by that description, maybe it only is true for myself) he truly seems to enjoy the exchange with us both in conference and in practice. He encourages and supports us and yet sometimes scolds us (lovingly) for being naughty – like coming too late to practice, stealing postures, hurrying in led class or for being out socializing or spending too much time online.

He scolds us because practice – Sadhana – requires focus and discipline. But how do we keep that up, many students often ask in conference, and today was no exception. Sharath always replies that once we realize how late evening activities, too much food or other temptations will negatively impact our practice it will be easier to maintain discipline. “I wouldn’t go to an event at 10pm even if it was the prime minister who called on me”, he joked. But at the same time I remember that the last time Sharath was in Copenhagen during his European Tour of 2013, he said that yoga doesn’t mean that you become rigid or hurt yourself (or others). It doesn’t mean one should go into isolation. “Yoga means to be humble”. Sharath said back then. “When a friend needs your help you go help him and maybe skip practice that day. To develop ahimsa, satya (all the yamas and niyamas) is to develop yoga. Yoga doesn’t mean selfishness..”(you can hear him say this in the following video)

We often get lost in life because the mind is distracted. It keeps jumping around like a little monkey. This is the citta vritti. We should try make the mind more like a Koala bear that sits still on one branch, Sharath said. Controlling the mind may be a scary term, so better to say we want to calm the mind. We cannot stop the thinking process, if we would then we wouldn’t be able to move or do anything. We only want to get rid of he unnecessary mind stuff, the unnecessary distractions. Maintaining Sadhana is important for this.

In the beginning you may feel like you have to give up many things, but with practice everything will change and there will be less temptation and the mind will be more focused. You will be less attracted to going out, to having “bad” acquaintances etc. This is where a Guru is important. He will help you keep the discipline and scold you if you don’t get up to practice. He will “wake you up” in more than one one way….(see previous blog posts for a discussion on the role of the Guru)

Tomorrow is Sunday which means rest day and oil bath (for those of you who don’t know what that is follow the link to this video). But on Monday its time to wake up again, to wake up and smell he coffee…

January 14, 2015
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Comments Off on Spring schedule 2015, beginners courses, workshops and more!

Spring schedule 2015, beginners courses, workshops and more!

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Spring is coming!

I am currently in Mysore, India at the KPJAYI practicing and studying with my teacher Sharath R Jois. In my absence all classes are covered by Miho and Sara. The winter schedule runs throughout January and the spring schedule takes over in February. Keep reading and you’ll find what’s new for the season.

THE SPRING SCHEDULE starts on 1/2 upon my return from India. Among the new things this spring is a morning Mysore class in Malmö on Mondays and self-practice on Wednesday mornings. In Lund the Friday morning self-practice continues as usual. The weekly class in basic chanting on Sunday mornings prior to Mysore practice starts again in February. Please note that there are some adjustments to class times with the new schedule so check out the full schedule here

FREE INTRODUCTION TO MYSORE STYLE – For those of you who have not yet tried Ashtanga Mysore style practice but who are curious to know more I hold free introduction sessions the 8/2 in Malmö and 14/2 in Lund. Learn more about the free events here

BEGINNERS COURSES – As of February, there will be two new beginner’s courses in Ashtanga yoga in Malmö and Lund respectively. Please share the information with friends and family when may be interested. You find all about the courses on the courses page

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Learn how to become more balanced in life through the practice of Ashtanga yoga – both on and off the mat!

WORKSHOPS – a new series of “Vinyasa technique” starts in March. Once a month I’ll teach a so called “Adjustment Clinic” where participants will learn how to adjust part of the positions in the Ashtanga yoga’s primary series. The aim is to allow for a better understanding of the personal practice and the body. The dates are Sunday 8/3, 12/4, 10/5 and 14/6. More information is available on the workshop page

The series “Ashtanga Yoga in Theory and Practice” continues once a month as from February on the following Sundays: 22/2, 22/3, 26/4 and 24/5. We learn basic chanting and discuss a theme each time that treats yoga off the yoga mat and how yoga is a part of our everyday life. On the first occasion in we talk about the obstacles that make yoga practice difficult. Read more about the philosophy course here

NEW CARDS – Please remember that you will need new practice cards as from February. You will find all the cards (season, monthly, 10-passes) through Medborgarskolan as usual.

YOGA RETREAT – 27/6 to 5/7 in Dalarna with me and my friend and yoga teacher Karolina Zakrzewska. Save the date in your calendar and contact us to pre-book your spot! More info about the retreat, price, schedule, etc. is coming soon on the retreat page.

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Sharat R Jois European Tour 2015

VISIT TO EUROPE BY SHARATH R JOIS – In August Sharath R Jois from Mysore will also be coming to Copenhagen, Stockholm and London. It’s a wonderful opportunity to practice with him if you haven’t yet been to the KPJAYI in Mysore or if you want to catch up with him in between trips. You can find out more about the visit to Copenhagen at the webpage of Astanga Yoga Copenhagen. There you will also fid links to the events in Stockholm and London.

I hope to see you soon at one or several of the events above. But remember:

“Asana practice is only 2 hours a day, yoga practice is 24/7”

~

Sharath R Jois

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The doors to practice are always open. You come and take practice!

January 10, 2015
by admin
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KPJAYI conference 10/01/2015 – “Follow one system or follow nothing!”

Who is a Guru?

Who is a Guru?

Two weeks ago I wrote a blog post on the theme “Who is a Guru?” with some thoughts regarding recent years’ revelations in the media of western and Indian so called Gurus abusing their students in various ways. In today’s conference with Sharath the topic resurfaced. How do we recognize “our” Guru?, someone asked. You have to figure that out yourself Sharath replied. You are all intelligent enough to make your own choices. Everyone you meet will try to influence you and say that their method or approach is the correct one but you have to choose what is best for you. Nobody can force you to do anything. I don’t force you to come here. It is your life – do what is good for you.

But one should only have one Guru in life. Having different teachers will be confusing – Sharath said and referred to Guruji’s saying “two teachers/doctors and the student/patient is dead”. A real Guru will not pamper you or take money from you and make you feel good. He or she will wake you up and lead you from ignorance to brightness, jnana/wisdom. (NOTE: At a previous conference where I wasn’t present Sharath is also to have replied to a similar question on how we know we’ve found our Guru with “You wont like him, but deep down you’ll know to go practice with him”. That resonates very much with me).

“I only ever had one Guru and his teachings are with me even now that he’s passed away”, Sharath continued. It’s how you use what you’ve learnt from your Guru that’s important. You can be with a Guru for 20 years yet learn nothing. You need to have the willingness to learn. Not everyone will understand what yoga really is. I’ve taught thousands of students over the past 25 years and only 20 percent will really have understood what yoga is. It’s difficult to understand each other. “I don’t always understand the western mind”, he admitted, and referred to a different mindset and different cultural references. “But I think I’ve learnt a lot”, he added.

Yoga is not only asana. Yoga is something we practice 24/7. Asana is only one part which we do 2 hours in the morning. Your Sadhana is how you practice. Tapas (which Sharat spoke of at the last conference of 2014) – dedication and effort is important, but you need to take it slowly. Too much too quickly will break you. Some students come to Mysore for one month and they want to do everything. More asanas, meditation courses, chanting, philosophy classes and so on. If you try to do everything once you’ll go crazy.

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Too much choice is confusing! 100g of intelligence please!

Today there’s too much choice, especially in the West. Sharath underlined the importance of following one system. “Follow one system or follow nothing. I’ve only followed one and it’s enough for this lifetime”. If you try too many things your mind will become unstable – the options will “kill you”. It’s like at a junction with many roads going off it and you’re confused where to go. That’s where your Guru will show you the way.

The main topic of Sharath’s talk today was about the importance of the vinyasa system. This system is very old and unique to Ashtanga yoga, he said. It’s said to be based on the teachings of the Yoga Korunta and dates back many generations, about 3000-4000 years. Some people claim that the Ashtanga vinyasa system comes from western styles of gymnastics (from the British colonial rule) but this is not correct, Sharath said. More likely it was the other way around – gymnastics were influenced by yoga. Yoga is different from gymnastics. When practicing Surya Namaskar 5-6 times the mind becomes calmer and more focused. But, when going to the gym there’s so much aggression and so much ego involved.

“You are not doing doing asana to please anyone, but only to bring steadiness to body and mind. This you have to understand”, Sharath underlined.

One should not do asana without vinyasa. But Vinyasa doesn’t mean just jumping back etc between postures, vinyasa is a whole cycle of coordination of movement and breath within and in between asanas. All asanas have a different vinyasa (breath count within the posture and movement in and out of the asana) which is important to follow. That is why we do led classes on Mondays and Saturdays – to learn the correct breath count and when to inhale and exhale.

Doing vinyasa properly will increase the blood circulation and generate energy. You will sweat a lot and rid any impurities of the body. Like when you make gold. When gold is mined it is full of mud and other stuff. To separate the gold from the other substances one has to heat it up. Then all the impurities are removed and the pure gold can be extracted.

When we start to practice yoga the body is heavy and stiff. By combining asana and breath in vinyasa toxins are shed through the sweat and the body is purified. But only sweat that comes through work will have that effect. Nowadays many yoga studios heat the room so you sweat even before you start practicing, you don’t even have to work to sweat. This type of sweat is no good. Only the sweat generated through inhaling and exhaling in vinyasa, through hard work, will be beneficial. Don’t waste this sweat, don’t wipe it off with your towel (only if you get slippery in an asana). Rub it back into the skin. With the sweat come many good minerals that are good and by rubbing the sweat back in your body will get stronger and lighter. After 2-3 years of practice you will start seeing a change in the body and mind – you will become lighter physically, more stable mentally and more tolerant. Then even Utpluthi will be easy!

When the mind goes calm asana will come. But the mind will not be consistent. It will come and go. Some days you will be less focused, like when your boy/girlfriend tells you they don’t love you anymore – then you mind will be troubled. Lots of disturbance will be there, that’s normal. When we chant “…samsara hala hala” in the opening chant (hala hala is the poison that distracts us) that’s what we mean. That’s why we need “jangalikayamane” the practice that can ‘cure’ us from physical aches and pains and ‘cure’ us of unconscious and unhelpful mental and emotional patterns of behavior.

We cannot change “samsara”, it is what it is. We cannot control what is outside of us. But we can change the mind and make it stronger. No one has a perfect life, but we all seem to think others have it better than us. We always strive to be like someone. There are those who say “Oh I’d like to be like Sharath, he has so many students. But come and try what I do for one day….” (laughter). Someone then asked what is the mind? Sharath replied that it is all within us. “Intelligence is within you. You can not buy it in the super market like a 100g of intelligence please”.

So how do we keep ourselves stable? Through yoga practice – when true knowledge comes, you won’t be distracted. But Yoga citta vritti nirodah is easy to read about – so HOW do we do it? We need to look within and for this we need practical experience and the guidance and blessings of a Guru. So this is where the discussion arrived at the topic of the Guru with which I decided to start this posting.

Sharath then referred to Guruji’s attitude and stability by telling how he remained the same when becoming “famous”. He kept his Sadhana throughout his life, chanting even in his hospital bed. He strained himself to the maximum lifting tall guys in back bends and making them catch. But he never expected anything in return or as a reward. He remained simple and unaffected, fame didn’t move his ego.

Therefore, only when our attitude changes there will be progress. It may take several lifetimes, but the Baghavad Gita says that whatever Sadhana we achieve in this life it will be carried on by the soul into the next lifetime. There are said to be 7 rebirths for humans altogether. We leave the physical body but the Sadhana comes with us. “So students need not worry if you didn’t get all the asanas – in the next lifetime you’ll be very flexible!”, Sharath reassured jokingly 🙂

So hope is still there….to be continued….