Friday, August 10, 2012

24) What sort of "Practice" will help in yoga ?

 

Couple of days back I read an article where an ex-Indian Hockey Captain who had won Hockey Gold medal for India in 1980 Olympics , blasting the current Indian Hockey team for playing poorly in the London Olympics 2012 claiming that the real reason why the Indian Hockey team is getting royally thrashed from all teams is due to the fact that Indian Hockey players "lack the basics"  and that they need to "learn the basics first "before they contemplate on entering the Indian team and all the basics must be learnt at a Junior level and not after they enter the Indian squad for Olympics .

Now Imagine an entire team going to Olympics with out proper skill in Basics and getting royally thrashed there from other teams . It is not that the Indian Hockey team were casual contenders for Olympics , they did prepare seriously and all of the players were committed but when it comes to competing with the best , all their loop holes were exposed and they turned out to be failures .
The same thing applies to even Yoga practice .  There is lot of talk on practice - "Ounce of Practice equals tons of theory "- Swami Sivananda , " Yoga is 99% practice ,1 % theory"- Pattabhi Joise  and this is mechanically being repeated by their respective followers and they enter in to a brute practice and while the smarter ones are able to do an intelligent practice and achieve success while the vast majority get injured and confused as to where the mistake is .
Practice no doubt is very essential to enhance the skill in any activity be it Sports , Cooking , Yoga ,Music etc etc but what sort of practice is what we need to understand .The quality of practice matters a lot than quantity . You can practice Yoga  99% wrongly and will reach only a dead end while another person even if he does  !% practice rightly will be able to take the next step to reach 2% level and slowly build up to 100% . This is where the role of a teacher comes in .The teacher must take care to see the student leans the basics first and be thorough with the basics before he goes to the next level . Now the question is what does "basics mean" in the context of Yoga ? It will vary from one style to another style and from teacher to teacher . This is a very subjective area and I see no consensus on this issue . That is one of the reason why I stick to the principles of "Anatomy and Kinesiology" when it comes to defining what is the basics with regard to movement . This is independent of any particular school of Yoga or of any particular teacher . This is my way of looking at things in Yoga . Other people will have their own interpretations on this issue .
If we look at the Videos of master Yoga practitioners we will see their perfect mastery of the entire body and lot of intelligence and grace in their practice .No doubt they had years of practice to fine tune their skills but even when the practiced , the practiced with "lot of intelligence" .They had their basics right and hence they could execute the postures with perfect grace and elegance . 
So in conclusion : Practice is necessary for perfection but that practice must be intelligent and must train the students in the basics first before taking him to higher levels . Mechanical and un-intelligent  practice will never help you master any skill perfectly .I conclude by giving the quote of the famous Yoga Teacher Derek Ireland on Yoga practice  : Your Yoga practice is less about how much you can do and more about how deeply you can do little .
So quality matters in the end .

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

23) Yoga or Movement Science ?

Recently I had an old yoga friend of mine who visited me and he was stunned to see the many books related toAnatomy , Kinesiology , Movement therapy along with the regular  books on Yoga in my book shelf and he surprisingly asked pointing to other books ( i.e Kinesiology , Movement therapy etc ) "What are they for ?" . I told him they are there to make me a better Yoga practitioner and better Yoga teacher . He asked me aren't the regular Yoga books/Yoga DVD  that I  have more than enough to give me   a solid knowledge to be a better Yoga practitioner and Yoga teacher and I told him that no doubt those books,DVDs  are very excellent but they have lot of gaps and those gaps are not the fault of the authors of those books but fault by the way Yoga is being taught .He could not understand by what I said .
I told him that when we learn a language say English , did we start reading the English Classic books  from the very beginning ? No . What we did was we first learnt to read the alphabets , then learnt to read   simple words  from the alphabets , then started reading simple sentences from those words and went on to read complex sentences , paras , then a single page , then a chapter , then simple books and slowly built ourselves to read Rich English Classics .Once we have learnt the fundamentals of reading a word , sentance , para , page ,chapter etc we do not require a teacher and we can read any book on our own .
But in Yoga how is the learning done ?
All Yoga are based on a particular style - Sivananda , Iyengar , Ashtanga , Bikram , Anusara etc and these have a set pattern and we start learning them from scratch directly and we need the guidance of a teacher for the same .Nothing wrong in this approach as long as the student has solid knowledge of the fundamentals of anatomy and kinesiology ,so that he is able to intelligently execute the postures without injuring himself  .But how many students have knowledge of anatomy and kinesiology to do this ? They are very much dependent on the instructions of the teacher and it is not possible for the teacher to give complete comprehensive instructions to each and every posture ( the Iyengar System follows the methodology ) and even if the teacher gives the student cant really follow all those instructions in real time ,with the result he gets injured while doing the posture and gets demoralized and stops coming to the class or moves to another teacher or another style .
But what if the student is taught the basics of Movement itself without referring to any particular style . This is what the Science of Kinesiology or Movement Science is . Start first by teaching the student how to lubricate his joints , how to move his spine , how to work on his core , how to unwind all the tense muscles ,how to strengthen the muscles , how to understand the limits of his body and limits of his movements, what are the dangerous movements  etc etc . These are the fundamental knowledge a student must be taught irrespective of which Movement he is going to practice i.e Dance , Yoga , Tai Chi , Pilates etc .Once this knowledge is there then the student will really enjoy his practice and which every yoga style he chooses to practice it does not matter as he has his fundamentals very clear and not only will he do a practice that is safe but there will also be lot of grace in his practice as he now practices listening to his body and there is lot of mindfullness and intelligence in the way he practices .
Most of senior Yoga  teachers advice their students to "listen to their bodies" while practicing in order not to injure themselves but then they forget  to mention the fact that "listening to the body" is not as simple a skill as it sounds and that it is "an art in itself" and while some people have the natural skills to listen to their bodies but for the vast majority this skill needs to be taught from the beginning .
I have watched the videos of many seasoned Yoga practitioners and I found that those who had lot of grace , elegance in their practice were those who really understood their own body inside out and those who came from a dance background had this quality in extra .
So in conclusion : If you have the natural instinct of understanding how your body works and moves then you are very blessed and can easily pick up your yoga practice and will have a fairly injury free practice but if you do not have this natural instinct then better acquire the knowledge of your body and its various movements through the serious study of Anatomy and Kinesiology or work with a teacher who has this knowledge, otherwise you will end up injuring yourself and will either keep jumping to various other yoga styles or yoga teachers without any success and finally drop everything in frustration . This applies not just to Yoga but any movement related science like Tai Chi , Pilates ,Dance ,Aerobics etc .So when it comes to teaching Yoga ,I would suggest that first students are taught the basics of Movement Science and then Yogic postures are introduced step by step .
As for myself ,I have no natural instinct to understand my body and hence started to seriously study the Science of Anatomy and Kinesiology to educate myself as to how best I can safely do my own practice as well as teach my students the safe way of doing . This is one of the reasons why I have cut off from most of my Yoga teaching assignments to invest time in my own self study and practice of   the Science of Anatomy and Kinesiology and related Movement therapies like Fieldenkaris Method , Heller Work , Pilates ,Tai Chi etc to equip me with the right tools and techniques that can help me understand my own body much better and also teach me the art of doing the postures safely and in a very efficient manner .
This is quite a tough and long journey and I am willing to go through it slowly and steadily .I will keep sharing my insights from time to time in this journey in this blog plus my another blog related to Movement therapy itself .

Saturday, May 5, 2012

22) Started my self study of Kinesiology

I have not been very active in this blog for the last few months and the same applies to my other blogs and the reason is that I have nothing new of my own to share . I have slowed down a lot on my Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Practice and approaching it from a different dimension . This is just an experiment/ research  by myself and it is in the nascent stage and once I have something worth while to share about this research of mine I will do so in my  blog .I consider Ashatnga Vinyasa Yoga to be a practice of a lifetime and not like a 100 meter sprint to be finished off quickly . The entire practice both in its structure and content is quite vast and has abundant challenges for a person to be occupied for a major part of his /her life time and hence I am not in a hurry to rush through mastering the poses or finishing off a series . I want to have more quality and mindfullness in my daily practice and also do not want to injure myself while doing Yoga and that is one of the reason why I have slowed down .
In order to understand in depth the science of Movement in general and yoga asanas in particular I have recently started my own self study of Kinesiology ( the science of movement ) and while I do have various books and DVDs for the same I am using the book The Science of Kinesiology - The Skeletal System and Myscle Function ( 2nd Edition ) by Joseph E .Muscolino as my main reference text and I find it to be quite comprehensive .For more about the author Joseph E .Muscolino and his books ,refer the site : http://www.learnmuscles.com/index.html 
I have highlighted the importance of bio mechanics for Yoga Teachers in my last post i.e post No: 21 and kindly go through the same to understand how important this science of Kinesiology for Yoga Practitioners and Yoga Teachers .
I have not kept any specific time frame for me to complete this study but do want to be quite thorough with at least the basics of Kinesiology within the next 1 year .Again like my Ashtanga Vinyasa practice I do not want to rush through the book but go slowly and steadily and assimilate one concept before moving to the next . 
So as I am quite involved with my own self study of Kinesiology and related matters I will not be very active in this blog but I do share important insights from time to time as and when I feel I have something important to be shared . While my interest is definitely on Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga ,I look it as a part of my larger interest in Kinesiology i.e science of movement and in fact I have already started a blog called :http://movementtherapies.blogspot.in/ for the same .

Monday, January 30, 2012

21) The importance of BioMechanics for Yoga Practitioners and Teachers

 For all Yoga Practitioners and Teachers the article below is very very important and useful . Couple of weeks back the entire Yoga Community was rattled by an article in New  York Times by William Broad titled "How Yoga Can Wreck your body " and while there was a big debate for and against the article ,I found the following letter by Shmuel Tatz  to New York Times best explains how we need to go about addressing the issue of injuries in yoga without getting overtly emotional about the original article .
The reason why I am posting this article here is that I found Shmuel Tatz speaking exactly what I have been silently attempting to do as a yoga teacher and yoga practitioner in the last 1 year  i.e learning the biomechanics of the human body  so that I become a better yoga teacher and yoga practitioner . Previously I was taking pride in calling myself a Certified Sivananda Yoga Teacher but now I do not want to be under any label i.e Sivananda , Ashtanga , Iyengar etc etc .I have respect for all the Traditions i.e Sivananda ,Iyengar , Ashtanga and found that each has its own merits and at the same time each has its own drawbacks if not done intelligently . So it all boils to developing body intelligence and for that one needs to have knowledge of bio mechanics of the human body . So instead of jumping from one style to another or being fanatic with regard to one style I found that the wiser way would be to first learn the biomechanics of the human body and develop my own person practice with regard to Ashtanga Vinyasa . I have been doing lot of research on this subject for the past 1.5 years and found most of the Yoga people were very uni- dimensional in their approach i.e strictly ashtanga , strictly sivananda or strictly Iyengar and had the opinion either 'my way or high way ' without learning to respect the bio mechanics of each human body and learning to adapt the practice accordingly while teaching to others or while practicing on oneself . I found no Yoga institution training its teachers on this topic of bio mechanics and that is one of the reasons why you find lot of injuries in yoga practice . The problem is not in yoga but in teachers / practitioners who are not informed of the Biomechanics of the human body and they take pride  in the saying : 'practice leads to perfection' or 'no pain no gain '. Practice leads to perfection only when the practice is mindful or intelligent and not just mechanical practice and there is no need for pain or injury if you do it mindfully or intelligently .Out of the vast yoga practitioners only few are competent  enough to do a mindful and intelligent  practice and rest keep on doing the same mistakes again and again and keep on hopping from one teacher to another or one work shop to another to understand where they are going wrong or why they are not improving . Some get fed up and leave one style to switch another or switch to other fitness forms ( like Tai Chi , Pilates etc ) but their frustration will still continue . Out of my research in to body movements  I found few extraordinary people who were looking at the body not from a uni-dimensional view but  from a multi-dimensional view and they were :
1) Moshe feldenkrais who founded the Feldenkrais Method 
 2) Emilie Conrad who founded the Continuum Movement 
3)Vanda Scaravelli ( a former student of BKS Iyengar and Desikachar ) who quit the Iyengar Method after 10 years of practice to start her own method of doing yoga postures based on natural body movements and not on the strict Iyengar method .
4)  Shmuel Tatz who was a student of Moshe Feldenkrais and has integrated all the best with regard to understanding the biomechanics of body  in his own teachings called Body Tuning .

 I very much resonate with Shmuel Tatz and hope to assimilate as much as I can about body mechanics so that I can become a better Yoga Practitioner and Yoga Teacher . Since I do not have the luxury to study personally with Shmuel Tatz in New York ,I have devised a plan of self study on this subject through books and DVDs  to enrich myself on this subject of Biomechanics . This is a long journey and there is no short cut in this and  I do not mind investing my time , energy and resources in this pursuit .I need to give the best to myself and my students and I am prepared to make any sacrifices for the same .
For others interested on this topic kindly go through the letter given below by Shmuel Tatz to New York Times as a rejoinder to the original Yoga article to understand the importance of Bio Mechanics for Yoga Practitioners and Teachers .
For more details about Shmuel Tatz ,kindly go through his site : 


This is the  letter to the editor of the New York Times article by William Broad: How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body.
http://www.nyphysicaltherapist.com/blog/2012/01/my-letter-to-the-editor-of-the-new-york-times-article-on-yoga/ 
Dear Ms Glaser,

I am the Shmuel Tatz mentioned in William Broad’s excellent article: How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body. Glenn Black studied with me for 5 years in my ‘body tuning’ studio, and is an example to others of how a yoga teacher with knowledge of body mechanics can minimize the damage yoga can do.

Mr. Broad states that I “devised a method of massage and alignment for actors and dancers” which is not correct. What I have done is to create what I call ‘body tuning’ which is designed to tune every part of the body, just as a musician tunes his instrument. I have worked with actors and dancers, musicians and politicians, but my practice is devoted to anyone and everyone who has pain and discomfort in the body and seeks relief.

What I wish for yoga professionals to understand is that they must know the biomechanics of the human body. Also, they need to work with someone, as Glen Black did with me, for at least 5 years to learn about body pathology, mechanics, disease and injuries. Yoga teachers should be aware of all facets of the human body so that they do not themselves nor recommend to their students other than what is health giving and safe.  I studied yoga after I learned physical therapy. If yoga teachers have a basic education in physical therapy they will never do hyper-extensions of the spine because they will know the great damage it can cause the discs.

As for yoga students, in my opinion it is best to learn yoga first in private lessons just as a piano student begins with private lessons. In group classes teachers do not have the time to pay attention to each student’s specific problems. After you become adept at learning the basics of yoga practice you can take group lessons. Unfortunately whether you take private lessons or group lessons, most teachers have no training in biomechanics and there is, then, always the danger of injury to themselves and to their students.

Again, I think Mr. Broad’s article was an important one in alerting the many yoga practitioners that along with the good that yoga can do, there is also a downside which can bring pain and limit mobility.

Sincerely,

Shmuel Tatz


 


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

20)In regal splendour - The Mysore Palace

For all Ashtangi's world over , a visit to Mysore Palace is inevitable and before one visits the palace it is better they have a large overview   about the palace  and its history and hence I am reproducing this article from "The Hindu" News Paper .


In regal splendour
R. KrishnaKumar
http://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/kids/article2667876.ece
Magnificent and historical, the Mysore Palace is protected by the Karnataka Archaeology Department. The royal residence would mark a century next year.

Reckoned to be the most popular monument in the country after the Taj Mahal (in terms of the number of visitors), the Mysore Palace draws close to three million tourists every year and the numbers are increasing.

Constructed to house the royal family of Mysore as the earlier wooden palace was ravaged and destroyed in a fire in 1897, the existing palace will complete 100 years in 2012 to mark which the State Archaeology Department plans to have a series of events and have it declared as a protected monument.

There are references to the maharajas of Mysore living in a palace in some of the texts belonging to the Mysore royal family such as Srimanmaharajaravara vamsavalli (annals of the Mysore Royal Family) while a description of the wooden palace has been provided in the Mysore Gazetteer, which notes that it was a constructed in the Hindu style with little or no trace of European influence, according to Dr. M.S. Nagaraja Rao, the former Director General of Archaeological Survey of India, and who has authored a book on the Mysore Palace for the benefit of tourists.

But it is the new palace whose construction started in October 1897 and was completed in 1912 that beckons the tourists and beggars description. It was designed by Henry Irwin who was the consulting architect of the Government of Madras and also went on to design the Viceregal Lodge at Simla.

The palace is an example of the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture and is a three-storeyed structure whose fa├žade comprises nine impressive arches — three on each side flanking the giant central arch that is supported by two smaller arches.

The central portion has a dome that towers to a height of 145 feet and the entire palace facing east, is surrounded by a fort. The main gate of the Fort leading to the palace is Jayamartanda Gate which is massive in proportion and is sublime despite its size.

As one walks into the interiors, the visitors are ushered into the Kalyana Mantapa which is embellished with 26 murals capturing the glory of Mysore Dasara, and further on the visitors enter the durbar hall called the diwan-e-aam which is about 155 feet in length and 42 feet wide.

The Diwan-e-khas is also called Amba Vilas and is lavishly embellished with inlay work, intricately carved designs filled with ivory. The then Maharaja Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV who reigned from 1902 to 1940 entrusted the responsibility of beautifying the Amba Vilas section to the renowned artist K. Venkatappa, according to Nagaraja Rao.

The palace has an impressive collection of objects of art including the model of the original wooden palace but the most famous of the exhibits is the golden throne and the golden howdah. The golden throne is, however, not open to the public throughout the year and is exhibited only during the Dasara. In addition, there is the armoury containing an exhaustive collection of weapons of the ancient and the medieval times but this is not open to the public at present.

In view of its magnificence the palace is a must-see in the tourists' itinerary and for those who wish to savour its grandeur, the official website www.mysorepalace.tv provides a 360 degree panoramic images to whet the appetite.

The Mysore Palace is illuminated on Saturdays, Sundays and during public holidays and presents a majestic sight like no other. The palace is embedded with 96,000 to 100,000 bulbs for the illumination purpose and was installed in the early 1920s, according to the palace authorities. The cost of illuminating the palace for one hour is about Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 30,000 at the current power tariff.

The throne

The golden throne which is exhibited only during the Dasara, is among the prized possessions of the Palace. Its origins are steeped in mystery and there are beliefs that the golden throne belonged to the Pandavas and it was Vidyaranya — the preceptor of Harihara I, one of the founders of the Vijayanagar empire in the 14th century A.D. — who retrieved it from Penugonda in Andhra Pradesh. It passed on from the rulers of Vijayanagar to the Wadiyars who were the feudatories of the Vijayanagar rulers. There is another theory that it was gifted by the Mughal Emperor Aurangazeb to Chikkadevaraja in 1700 A.D.

Fort gates

Of all the gates to the fort surrounding the palace, the Jayamartanda Gate is architecturally sublime. The central arch is about 60 feet in height and has a width of 45 feet. Made of concrete and granite, it provides a panoramic view of the front portion of the palace. The other gates are named as Balarama, Jayarama, Brahmapuri, Karikal Thoti and Varaha.

Monday, August 15, 2011

19) Politcial Freedom to Psychological Freedom

Today i.e Mon  15 August 2011 is India's 65th Independence Day and the entire country is celebrating India's Independence from British rule and this freedom did not come cheaply it came after 90 years of Intense struggle starting with the first war of Independence also called Sepoy Mutiny in 1857 which was crushed brutally by the Britishers and from then up to 1947 there were various forms of protests , agitations peaceful and non peaceful and finally under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi India won its Independence on 15 August 1947 in a peaceful way but this freedom came at the cost of Partition of India and it resulted in lot of bloodshed and violence .Though the freedom struggle was itself peaceful it had its after effects in the form of various communal violence due to partition and while the Britishers were driven off ,India continued to fight within itself .  Now India is politically free ,but there is lot of discontent here due to Corruption , poverty ,lack of development , high cost of living , Urban Rural divide etc and many people in various parts of India are now fighting against the Government ,some through arms and some through peaceful  means .So what I am trying to say is that even after achieving political freedom ,India is still struggling to maintain peace and order as not all sections of the  people are contended and still the struggle continues .
 Now what does the above mean for Yoga practitioners ? Many people discontented with their regular lives take to yoga for solace and are happy in the initial stages with the rest and relief provided by Yoga and some also take the next step of becoming yoga teachers but not all are happy leading the life either as yoga practitioners or yoga teachers barring a few as the feeling of discontent is still there .They keep changing their yoga styles , try vipassana or other new meditation techniques , take to zen ,visit India and keep searching various Gurus to fill their void in their lives . This void will continue to be there until we achieve "psychological freedom." The term "psychological freedom " is  a subtle concept and is bit difficult to explain as the human mind is highly conditioned through various conflicting desires , ambitions , urges etc and such a mind cannot really grasp what it means to be  psychologically free . In conventional spiritual terms the word 'Moksha' or 'Nirvana' or 'Enlightenment' is used to denote this state of freedom but the problem is that people have fancy notions about these terms and believe that this is a special 'mental state'  that can be achieved through the practice of yoga , mantra chanting and some form of meditation either buddhist meditation or yogic meditation  .Those who are not in to Yoga or Meditation take the help of drugs ,alcohol etc to achieve these high mental states .The thing is all these techniques help a person only to develop a relative mental calmness but it can never help that person to erase all his unresolved thoughts , urges , desires ,ambitions and they spring up after some time after these practices are over . So Yogic practitioners curse themselves when these thoughts resurface again and therefore again  learn some new technique or go to a new workshop or a  new retreat to handle these stressful thoughts and while retreats , meditations etc can act as a temporary balm in healing these stressful thoughts ,it cannot help a person completely resolve it .Note I am using the word resolve instead of erase as erasing a thought is a temporary thing but resolving a thought is a permanent thing .
Unfortunately world over this subject of how to resolve one's stressful thoughts receives very less attention and  world over new and new yoga and meditation centres keep springing up that keeps introducing techniques after techniques promising people to control their thoughts or keep their thoughts suppressed through various meditations techniques like mantra meditation , vipassana meditation , zen meditation etc etc . Thoughts have been looked upon like enemies waiting to be cut or suppressed ,this is like brutally suppressing an agitating public with a brute police/military   force by the Government without taking pains to understand why the people are agitating in the first place .World over many freedom struggle still continues to exist because of this brutal suppression by the State of one set of people who are fighting for their political freedom . While they may succeed in keeping the people suppressed through brute military force they are not happy as they fear that any time the uprising may again erupt and cause lot of tension and disturbance .So that is why great Political leaders say that the best way to resolve a crisis and bring in permanent peace  is through dialogue and not through arms and violence .Extending this same analogy to what is happening in our own minds , our thoughts are constantly rebelling and expressing discontent and first we try to  win over them through our own Career and Economic Goals and while it gives  a temporary satisfaction , the thoughts again start rebelling feeling discontented and we keep changing one goal after the other and then finally we take to yoga and spirituality to address this problem and again for the  time being the mind is happy and less agitated but again after some time the mind starts agitating and it leads to a sort of spiritual frustration . This is where people like J.Krishnamurti , Ramana Maharshi and Byron Katie say that you cannot achieve a permanent peace of mind by suppressing the thoughts through mantra , meditation etc and the best way to achieve piece is to resolve them through Enquiry/Vichara  .Out of these 3  people I found the vichara /enquiry method of J.Krishnamurti to be very simple and straight forward and does not require you to attend any workshop or retreat to practice it. It is done by asking a simple question "why are u doing this action" or "what is the motive of doing this action " .Here this action can be anything -secular or spiritual . It is questioning first our own motives in doing any action and each of these motives leads to other submotives and this chain of inner hidden motives and desires are there that we need to confront it .This type of vichara is easy to explain but very difficult to practice as for centuries our minds have been trained only to move only outside and never inwards and even when it moved inwards it was kept occupied by what we wanted it to occupy like a mantra , prayer , breath etc but here we are investigating the very content of our own minds and investigating the very motives of all our goals , ambitions , urges right from childhood  in an impartial manner and the mind resists such a sort of inner investigation . It is basically an act of stripping ourselves mentally naked to discover our hidden motives .Once we start doing this honestly then we feel more light and  less stressful as now we are more comfortable in understanding the next time when he encounter any stress that the culprit is not outside but inside us in the form of our own stressful thoughts and that the best way to handle them is not through any new meditation or mantra but through simple investigation to our own thoughts , motives and desires and resolving it then and there .Doing this technique only works when we are really interested in discovering the truth even if it means blasting away of all the goals ,ambitions and desires that we have built up over the many years .So next time when we are confronted in any stressful situation we need to ask ourselves only this simple question i.e are we interested in truth or interested in our opinions and desires being right even if it goes against what is true ?Doing  this sort of vichara or enquiry needs lot of patience , energy and focus and as I said unfortunately it is not being taught or encouraged to be done as people are more interested in quick fixes and instant stress busters rather than doing a mental surgery on themselves . A Psychological revolution is necessary to achieve success in this sort . Just like for a political revolution to be successful lot of sacrifices are to be made ,similarly for this psychological revolution to be successful we need to make lot of sacrifices with regard to our own personal goals , ambitions and desires .Only then  we will have a taste of true Psychological freedom . Only when the citziens of the world are psychologically free will we have permanent peace otherwise tensions will start erupting at various parts of the world and that will lead to war and insurgency and hence we see that for thousands of years wars are constantly being fought even after many countries are Politically free . So  Psychological freedom is the true freedom and on this day of India's Political  freedom I wanted to share this piece on my blog .

Friday, July 15, 2011

18) Importance of 14th July for me-My Guru Purnima tribute to Gurudev Swami Sivananda

For everyone certain days are very important and unforgettable and for me the day 14th July is a very very important day in my life as that is that day in the year 1997 I started my formal yoga journey at the Sivananda Yoga Centre in  Chennai i.e 14 July 1997 . Co-incidentally that is also the day of the Maha Samadhi  of Gurudev Swami Sivananda and I see this as an amazing co-incidence .

Today i.e 15 July is the day of Guru Poornima and people world over pay respects to their respective Gurus on this day  .Previously I used to faithfully attend the Mahasamadhi Celebrations of Swami Sivananda as well as the Guru Poornima celebration at the Sivananda Yoga Centre in Chennai but I have stopped doing the same the last couple of years . After Completing my Sadhana Intensive Course ( SI ) in 2009,2010 I felt a big shift happening in me ( I have describe about it in my blog post No:17,16) and this shift automatically made me erase many of my past associations with the Sivananda Yoga Centre ,its staff , its students and its activities there . It was  not that I was upset /hurt with the Sivananda Yoga Centre or its staff or people or its activities,rather it was a feeling of  saturation/disconnect  with everything there after I completed my SI course for the second time in Jan 2010 . This is surprising considering the fact that I was a very active person with regard to the Sivananda Yoga Centre in Chennai right from 1997 .I was active in teaching there , doing workshops , organizing yoga retreats , organizing festivals , functions , get together s,working with Government people in issues related to the Centre , collecting donations , taking the foreign  staff there out  in and around Chennai etc etc and many activities that I can go on and on .I used to spend most of the time there to such an extent it appeared that it was my second home .Sometimes I used to wonder why am I doing so much work for this Organization and that too as a free service .I got the answer for the same when I went on a visit to the Sivananda Organization's Head Quarters in Val Morin ,Quebec ,Canada in 2006 .There I met some very devoted students of Swami Vishnu devananda( the founder of the Sivananda Yoga Veadnta Centres )  who had been his direct disciples for many years and still faithfully come to take part in the activities at the Val Morin Ashram and they said that Swami Vishnu devananda used to say to the people who came to work for him/ or for the Sivananda Organization  have some past debts that need to be cleared and once those debts are cleared they will leave on their own or situation will force them to go out and till then whether they like it or not they will be forced to work in one way or the other for the Organization . So some people stay for 1 month and leave , some for 1 year and leave and some like me work for around 10 years and leave and some continuing to work there for many years . So I too felt that I had lot of my past life debts to be repaid for Swami Vishnu devananda and once that was over , it was now freeing me and making me travel my own path .

What benefits I got from my association with the Sivananda Organization :
1)The greatest benefits I got from my association with the Sivananda Organization was the exposure to the most simplest and classically pure and undiluted hatha yoga & raja yoga teachings .There was no New Age stuff , short cut methods , reference to some dubious and mysterious texts to claim validity and all that Swami Vishnu devananda synthesized and put in to a simple and straightforward package of 5 Basic Points of Yoga and 12 Basic Postures and 2 Basic Pranayamas were nothing but a condensation of the teachings of his Guru Swami Sivananda and who relied completely on the classical yoga texts - Hatha Yoga Pradipika , Patanjai Yoga Sutras , Shiva Sahmita , Gherenda Samhita , Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads for all his teachings and writings .
2)With the simplified Sivananda format of Asana Sequence I not only had an opportunity to practice it easily but also to teach it to others in a more simplified way .This Sivananda format was very useful to help beginners get a grasp of Yoga and I had a wonderful time passing on the essence of classical yoga to many people through my yoga classes and workshops at the Sivananda Yoga Centre .Also in 2001 I was fortunate to do a 70 episode morning yoga tv show for a private TV channel here which had the program broadcast all over India and I presented the entire Asana Sequence as part of the Sivananda System of Asana practice in that program . This program exposed me to what it is to come on TV and where ever I went out I had people talking to me and asking are you the guy who comes on the Yoga TV program and it was a wonderful experience being sort of famous at that time .
3) In the Sivananda System , Yoga was not just an academic subject to be taught and listened to . It was to be a practical experience and the Sivananda Ashram schedule was designed in such a way that anyone who comes to it either for the Teachers Training Program or for Yoga Vacation must undergo a set program right from morning to late evening and that had 2 meditation sessions , 2 yoga asana sessions , some yoga theory  , karma yoga ,free time etc and it was a complete package of Karma , Bhakti , Jnana and Hatha Yoga .So whether u liked it or not , u have to get up early sit for the morning meditations , attend the morning yoga class , do some work allotted to you , have the simple food served there and then do the same routine in evening .So this was helping a person develop positive samskaras and here you did not discuss about yoga , you are actually practicing yoga day in and day out .
4) In the Sivananda System the courses that I did were TTC( Teachers Training Course )  in 1998 ,ATTC( Advanced Teachers Tarining Course )  in 2004 , and SI ( Sadhana Intensive ) in 2009, 2010 and they  were very terrific  .TTC was tough in that you are first time pushed in to an ashram schedule , and in ATTC you do not have that problem as you are used to an ashram schedule but it is very tough in that it is highly packed schedule with regard to Asana , pranayama and theory sessions .SI is intensive in its own way and I have mentioned about it in my earlier blog post No:17 .
But the beauty of these courses was that they were being done by a group of people world over at the same time together   - Indians , Amaericans , Germans , French , Italians , Isarelies , Arabs etc etc . These courses had people from the age 20 to 60 and it has a combination of men and women . Inspite of all these differences in language , culture ,age etc  we all lived like students in a University and we all found that we had the same problem ir-respective of which Country / Culture we belonged to .Swami Vishnu devnanda believed in Unity in Diversity and the TTC ,ATTC and SI courses was a demonstration of  this spirit .I heard that in Mid 80s during the height of Arab -Isareli conflict ,we had Arabs and  Jews sitting together and eating peacefully in the Ashram during the teachers training courses .This spirit of Unity in diversity does continue in the Sivananda Ashram world wide .
5) Being part of the Sivananda System made me aware of the rich cultural and spiritual heritage of India .I was very much ashamed that being born in Brahmin family( Brahmins were supposed to carry on the spiritual tradition of India )  I was unaware of many of the basic disciplines that need to be followed in a Hindu household like morning and evening prayers , prayers before meals , special mantras to be chanted when moving out of the house /journey , rituals to be done on auspicious occasions like Ganapathy Homa , Sudarshana Homa , Maha Mritunjaya Homa , Vishnu Sahasranama Puja , Lalitha Sahasranama Puja etc etc . It was only after being associated with the Sivananda Organization that I started to bring in many of these things in to my own day to day life .
6) Since the Sivananda Organization is a world wide Organization , I had the opportunity to meet , interact with many people from world over and get a much broader perspective about many things related to Yoga and other topics .I had the opportunity to take many of my Western Sivananda friends around my City , have them come for lunch at my house and many other such interesting things . Eventhough I went outside India for the first time in 2006 but before that itself  I had a big lot of  people from the Western world as my Sivananda friends and I was in regular touch with them .The Sivananda TTCs ,ATTCs and SIs helped me develop such a good network and in this respect I consider the Sivananda Ashrams to be a sort of Multi Cultural University .
7) My visit to the Sivananda Ashram in Quebec , Canada in 2006 as well as 2007 was the very best I can say .It exposed me to life outside India for the first time , more so as the way Ashrams are run outside India .It also helped me connect to many new friends and in fact my second visit in 2007 laid the first foundation of me going bit deeper in to my own Yoga Sadhana and taking the route of a Solitary Sadhak ( spiritual aspirant ) .

So like this I can go on and on regarding the benefits I had got due to my association with the Sivananda Organization and this one blog post will not be enough . The reason why I am writing this today is because today is Guru Poornima and today  one must thank one's Guru's for all the blessings they gave and continue to give in your life .I never choose Swami Sivananda as my guru , in fact it was Sri Krishnamacharya who was my first Yoga inspiration but then it was the grace of Swami Sivananda who pushed me to the path of Yoga on July 14 , 1997 on his Maha Samadhi day and till this day I feel that  it is his grace that is guiding me on the next steps in Yoga .

Today I am no longer interested in being part of the activities of the Sivananda Organization as I feel that I have reached a saturation limit in that and destiny wants me to move ahead and spend more time in my own solitude and sadhana and hence I do not have any guilt in not being part of any  Sivananda Ashram activity or being in communion with my regular Sivananda friends as I used to do it before .At the same time I continue to take inspirations from the teachings of Swami Sivananda and Swami Vishnu devananda and try to live in the spirit of the teachings as much as I can .I feel that the best respect one can show for one's teachers/Gurus  is to try to live their teachings as much as one can in one's life and I am happy that my association with the Sivananda Organization for many years has only strengthened my faith in Yoga and in living a Yogic life .While I continue to pursue learning other styles of yoga like Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga etc , my spirit will always remain in the basic teachings of Swami Sivananda which is :
 SERVE , LOVE , GIVE , PURIFY , MEDITATE , REALIZE ,
BE GOOD , DO GOOD , BE KIND , BE COMPASSIONATE ,
ADAPT , ADJUST ,ACCOMMODATE,
BEAR INSULT , BEAR INJURY- THIS IS THE HIGHEST SADHANA
BEAR INSULT , BEAR INJURY -THIS IS THE HIGHEST YOGA
- SWAMI SIVANANDA

Once again on this auspicious Occasion of Guru Poornima I   thank Gurudev Swami Sivananda for kindling in me the spark of Yoga on July 14 - the day of his Maha Samadhi and hence I consider July 14 to be a very memorable day in my life . I consider this blog post to be as a form of gratitude to Gurudev Swami Sivananda and other Gurus who have guided me and who continue to guide me and I am very much thankful to all the Gurus for guiding me on the right path at the appropriate times and the spiritual bliss that I am enjoying right now  is due to sticking to the path of Yoga that would not have been possible had the grace of Swami Sivananda not acted on me on July 14 , 1997 .