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 .

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

17) My Sadhana Intensive ( SI) Course experience

I did the  Sadhana Intensive Course ( SI ) at the Sivananda Ashram ,Madurai ,India at 2009 and repeated again at 2010 and these were life changing experiences for me .I did my Yoga Teachers Training Course (TTC) in 1998 and my Advanced Yoga Teachers Training Course ( ATTC ) in 2004 at the Sivananda Ashram , Neyyar Dam ,India and while TTC and ATTC were itself had a major impact on me ,it was the SI course that really created the big shift in me and brought me to the current state of solitude that I am right now .

About the Course :
 The SI course is only  for the people who have completed the Sivananda TTC .It is not open to any other student however advanced he /she may be .It is a 2 week course i.e full 14 days of intense Sadhana without any breaks in between and right now in the Sivananda Ashrams it is offered in India ( Madurai , Uttar Kashi ) , Canada ( ValMorin , Quebec ) and in Sivanada Ashram in France .
 The maximum no. of candidates allowed  is 26 ( sometimes this rule is relaxed and few additional people are accomodated ) . The course is conducted in a very secluded atmosphere that is pure and unpolluted and away from noise and away from external people .The course is based on developing a personal intensive Yoga Sadhana according to the Classic text " Hatha Yoga Pradipika" .
There is no group/guided  practice here and each and every candidate is required to do his /her own Sadhana as per the instructions given at the beginning of each day .Sometimes the practices are modified according to the capacity of the individual .Each student is required to maintain his/her own personal sadhana diary and note down their own experiences and problems and the same is shared in a group discussion at the middle of the day .
The Diet in SI :
 The students of SI course are given a very special diet that is free of oil ,salt and other spices and is usually a very bland diet  involving boiled vegetables , chapatis , yogic kitchidi ( not the usual spicy one ) ,simple dal and some fruits ,fruit juices . Every morning the students are given a glass of Almond Milk which is very conducive for Pranayama practice .
Some restrictions :
All the students are required not to use cell phones , telephones ,emails etc during this 2 week period .It is a sort of Electronic detox for 2 weeks .However there is no Military like discipline enforced and students are morally expected to abide by these rules and many do so .

 Some background regarding the SI Course :
Everyone knows that Swami Vishnu devananda started the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres world over in late 60s and he was the person who first started the concept of  Yoga TTC , Yoga ATTCs etc . Before starting the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres , Swami Vishnu devananda was a disciple of Swami Sivananda in Rishikesh and he used to do intense Hatha Yoga Sadhana in his own hut in Uttar Kashi on his own and  developed enormous amount of Prana that he used later for his Yoga Mission world over . In Mid 80s some students of Swami Vishnu devananda in Quebec asked him about the secret of his abundant energy and he said that it was due to his intense Hatha Yoga Sadhana based on the Hatha Yoga Pradipika that he did on his own when he was a disciple of Swami Sivananda . The students wanted to know whether he is ready to share those Yogic secrets and Swami Vishnu devananda told that there is no secret in this sadhana but it involves a high degree of self discipline and self control as it is a very intense sadhana for many months to be done under seclusion under strict control of diet and other external factors . However seeing the interest in the students , Swami Vishnu devananda told that he will give a trailer to this sort of Sadhana and hence compressed the essence of this 6 month sadhana in 2 weeks so that people can get a feel of what it is to do undergo a rigorous yoga sadhana .This was how the SI course came in to being in 1986 at the Sivananda Ashram in Val Morin , Quebec ,Canada and slowly it came to be given even in their  Indian Ashrams .Swami Vishnu devananda designed it mainly for the Sivananda teachers / staff to energize themselves each year so that they turn out to to be better yoga teachers and are able to give more energy back to their students .

The Course Schedule :
All the students are required to get up early starting from 5 a.m in the beginning and as the course progress they need to get up still earlier at 4 a.m or so and after finish their bath , toilet they need to do the basic yogic kriyas on their own ( Jala Neti , Sutra Neti , Uddyana Bandha etc ) and assemble for the morning Satsang ( Group Prayer and Meditation ) . After the Meditation and Group Chanting is over , there is a talk on Adi Shankara's  Text Viveka Chudamani .After the satsang is over students are given a glass of Yogic  Almond Milk and they assemble for the instructions for the day . 
 First all the students chant the Sankalpa (i.e Vow ) for the day and then the teacher gives out the type of practice to be done for the day .All are required to do the basic Sivananda Asana routine of  Surya Namaskar and 12 basic postures to start with before starting the pranayama routine .  The main thing in this course is the pranayama practice . So each day the pranayama practices are given and their rounds keep increasing day by day and also new pranayama's are introduced progressively as the course progresses . So at the morning session the teacher introduces the new pranayama to the students and also demonstrates how it should be done . Later Mudras and Bandhas are also added and they are also demonstrated as and when they occur .
Initially the course starts with 2 sessions of practice , morning and evening and later it progresses to 3 sessions , early morning , mid morning and evening sessions .
After the morning session , students go for the lunch and later each student is given some work to do ( Karma Yoga ) and it can be cleaning the toilets , the yoga hall , the garden etc and it is usually kept mild and only for 30 mts or so .
Then the students assemble for the afternoon group discussion where the Hatha Yoga Pradipika text is read and discussed as well as each student shares his /her own morning sadhana as well as previous day's evening sadhana's experience . This is the time where the teacher sometimes modifies the practice for each student based on the problems they encounter .For some he may tell them to lower the counts , for others to lower the ratio ,for others to skip bandhas etc etc .
In afternoon the students are given a glass of some fruit juice or coconut water or water melon to cool the system .After this the next session of Sadhana starts .
In evening the students assemble for the supper and after that they assemble for the night meditation and satsang and at night the holy text SriMad Bhagavatahm is read and after that students retire to bed early and the schedule repeats again .
Sometimes early morning there is a Homa ( Fire Ritual done ) and sometimes in evening there is a Mass Lalitha Sahasranama or Vishnu Sahasranama Puja ( Ritual ) will be done .This is basically done to keep the negativity away and also to energize the students and the atmosphere of the entire ashram plus also to invoke the divine blessings .

 Experience of the students during and after the course :
 Each and every student has varied experience during and after the course and one cannot standardize the same .Some students cannot progress after a few days and hit a block and they struggle a lot in completing , some fall sick for a few days and then recover quickly  and some remain sick for a longer period .The sickness is due to the fact when the Sadhana is being done the body is getting purified  at the physical, mental and emotional level and all the toxins start coming out . That is why students are required to prepare themselves well for a few weeks / months before they do the course otherwise they will have a tough time during this course .Some students have a smooth sadhana for the entire 2 weeks , some have a sea saw like sadahana with its ups and downs .Initially it is very easy for some but later as it keeps getting tougher not many people can withstand it .But as I said earlier that this is not a military camp where people are forced to do everything that is being ordered . There is no compulsion or pressure on any student to do the day's practice . Each and every student is encouraged to do what is best for his /her own capacity and not to force themselves .In Ashtanga term this is like a sort of Mysore Style Pranayama practice - do what is within ur capacity .
Also students are advised not to put their Ego in to the practice and learn the art of surrendering as only divine grace can guide them to a successful practice .As a symbolic gesture of surrender and bhakti each and every student is required to prostrate at the altar before and after they finish their sadhana in each session .
Again after the course each and every student has a different experience and while some are motivated to repeat it again , others feel once is enough and that they do not have the courage to do it again .

My personal experience of the SI:

In 2009 when I first did the SI course  ,I had initial difficulty in adjusting to the course but was later able to pick up and move smoothly . In 2010 it was a smooth experience all along as I was more psychologically prepared .I had an intention of repeating this course in 2011 but then I did not have the favorable situation to do it .Anyway I was happy to do it twice and get a feel of what real Yoga  Sadhana means .
The SI course helps each student to understand what his /her own potential is ,evaluate his /her own commitment to the path of Yoga and for me it gave me a great shift in understanding the greatness of this wonderful Hatha Yoga Sadhana and pushed me further in to making Yoga as my entire life mission - not just as a career but to put my time ,energy and resources in going in to this subject of Yoga  deeply from various dimensions and bring out my own yoga teachings based on this personal discovery . Also after the SI course was over I was  getting lot of indirect signals not to get involved in any external activity that involved me being an extrovert but rather focus on those activities that helped me remain more in solitude and focus on my own personal sadhana at home . This upset many of my friends / relatives as I stopped interacting with them a lot , avoided taking part in functions , get togethers etc etc .Previously I used to run and help lot of people in doing lot of  their personal work or when they visit my town , I used to meet them / take them out etc but now I was saying a big NO to many of such things as all of those activities were sapping my energies and even when I tried doing them  ( after my SI experience ) I ended up burning my fingers  and this gave a clear indication to me that it is high time I put a full stop to such an activity . For some who are curious as to why this change in my attitude I tell them that after my SI have changed a lot and if they try to relate to me in the same way as they were with me before I did the SI course then they are in for a disappointment . Some are hurt by this , some are disappointed by this behavior of mine but I cant help it . I have to acknowledge this shift in me and respect it and move ahead in the way it wants me to go . But at the same time it helped me strengthen the bonds with some close friends , students within India and Abroad and with whom I share a very special spiritual bond  and they say that they feel  a  very special warming energy in my presence and I continue to nurture those good relationships and are also open to those sort of good relationships and now that I am on the path of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga /Structural Iyengar Yoga ,I am forming new friends through various Ashtanga/Iyengar  bloggers online and I hope to meet some of them in real life  and have wonderful discussions related to Yoga and other healing techniques .
I can continue to write many more as to how SI course helped me develop a big shift in my perceptions about my life in general and about my yoga sadhana in particular but I will reserve it for another day .The above is best what I can write about now .

Monday, July 11, 2011

16) Why I have slowed down ?

After a long gap I am blogging again . Anyway ,I have never been a compulsive blogger and even though I am not blogging much ,I continue to keep my journaling activity intact by writing regularly in my private  journal offline .Compared to the past I have slowed down considerably and have cut off most of my outer activities and spend more time in solitude , doing my yoga ,reading ,contemplating and writing.Even with regard to my Yoga teaching activity I have cut down a lot and just confining myself  to few dedicated students .This slowing down and loving solitude rather than activity did not come due to any force or pressure from myself .It was due to natural shift in my perceptions about life in general and my yoga sadhana in particular .This shift happened more prominently after my doing the Sadhana Intensive Course ( SI ) twice at the Sivananda Ashram in Madurai in 2009 and 2010 and also after my visit to Rishikesh in Oct 2010 .While the SI course slowed down my thoughts and gave me a glimpse of how it is when the mind is slowed down due to intense rounds of Pranayama , the visit to Rishikesh kindled in me the power of  slowing down the mind due to "Vichara" i.e path of Self Enquiry  . Surprisingly this Vichara that I am talking about was not the Vichara of Ramana Maharshi ( done using  the method of hunting the "I") or the Vichara of Classical Advaita ( done using the Scriptures ) but rather done using a combination of the techniques given by Byron Katie ( through her technique called "The Work") , the pointers and teachings, dialogues   from J.Krishnamurti , pointers from Eckhart Tolle , Adya Shanti , Leonard Jacobson ,Osho,Poonja (Papaji) , Rameh Balsekar  as well as some insights  from the lectures of Swami Dayananda on his talks on Classical Advaita Texts .So it was a combination of many of the above that pulled my mind more inside instead of it going outward . That is one reason why I am not keen on blogging ,writing emails ,chatting , updating my Face Book etc as all those activities involve me to constantly keep interacting with people from the outside world and I feel a severe drain of energy if I do that .So that is one reason why I keep my interaction with outside people ( both online and offline ) quite less and just interact with a select few close friends and students and rest of the time spend time in  solitude doing yoga , reading ,writing ,contemplating and mantra chanting .As regards my Yoga practice previously it was just the Sivananda Style of  Classical Hatha Yoga but now I am doing a combination of Ashtanga Vinayasa Yoga as well as Iyengar based Structural Yoga and with regard to my current reading it is more of  things related to Movement Therapies ( Anatomy , Kinesiology , Yoga etc ) and anything with regard to healing the body and mind .So in short I am basically now doing a sort of research on healing the body and mind using various Yoga techniques as well as other healing therapies as well as non dual techniques and discover for myself what best works for me and later teach that to my students based on my own experience .Just like in my Vichara activity ,where I did not want to get trapped in any specific system like Classical Advaita , Ramana Maharshi etc but preferred to use a system that was a combination of various techniques and teachings from various Non Dual Masters ,similarly with regard to my Yoga practice I   do not want to get trapped in labels like Sivananda , Ashtanga ,Iyengar etc etc but want to take the best from each and develop my own unique way to practice and teach the same .There is lot of hard work in this as it is always easy to follow one system and teach it to others rather than discovering one for urself . I found out that no one system is capable of addressing the needs of all the students however noble it may be  .So trying to solve the problem faced by a student through a single system is like hiring a carpenter who brings only one tool i.e hammer and tries to solve all the carpentry problems using only the hammer and what will he do , he will just be banging on everything .So I do not want to be like that Carpenter having a single tool and I want to equip myself with as many tools as possible to help heal a person physically , mentally .That is what I see as my Dharma for the next phase of my life and I believe that is why Existence is sort of slowing me down to make me focus on the difficult task of being a multi dimensional yoga teacher /healer .How long I will be like this ( i.e in solitude ) I do not know but as of now this is my current state and I leave it to future to decide its own course for me .

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

15) Completed my 100th Ashtanga Vinyasa Practice at Home

I completed my formal 100th Ashtanga Vinyasa Practice at home on Fri 20 May 2011 . Though my informal introduction to Ashtanga started in year 2004 itself but the enthusiasm did not last long at that time as I was more keen on strengthening my Sivananda Style of Yoga practice especially after I finished my Advanced Yoga Teachers training in 2004 .

After 2004 it was in July 2010 that I restarted exploration to Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga and started doing it in bits and pieces watching you tube videos etc and I took the formal step of Learning Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga from Louise Ellis in Sept/Oct 2010 in Rishikesh .So I consider the month of Oct 2010   to be my starting point  of  formal Initiation to Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga .For more details about this refer my earlier blogs about how I came to Ashtanga Vinyasa practice .Though I used to record my daily Ashtanga Practice , it was never done in a very formal way and hence from Nov 1 , 2010 onwards I started to formally document my Ashtanga Vinyasa Practice and from Nov 2010- May 2011 i.e nearly after 7 months I have completed 100 Ashtanga Vinyasa Practice sessions .I am not daily practicing Ashtanga and my current Yoga Practice is a combination Of Ashtanga Vinyasa , Sivananda Style Hatha Yoga , Iyengar Style Hatha Yoga and Pranayama practice and I intend to keep it like that for some more months before I do a complete Ashtanga Vinyasa Practice .
My Ashtanga Vinaysa Practice so far :
In the first 100 practice sessions , my ashtanga vinyasa practice was of the following format :
Surya Namaskar A-5 , B-5
All standing sequences
Sitting poses up to Navasan ( I used to do Vinyasas only between postures but not between sides )
Conluding postures .
Savasan

In the above schedule I used to do Manadatory Surya Namaskar and all the standing poses and also do the concluding poses . Sitting poses I did not do much and even when I did ,I did not do the Vinyasa in between sides and just did between the poses .

Reason for going slow in my ashtanga Vinyasa practice :
When I started my Ashtanga Vinyasa practice under Louse Ellis in Oct 2010 I was yet to fully recover from my severe ankle injury that I had in April 2010 and as Ashtanga Vinyasa practice involved lot of jumps I was very keen not to aggravate my ankle injury and  hence went slow .Also since I came from the Sivananda Style of Classical Hatha Yoga which was totally different to the way Ashtnaga Vinyasa Yoga was practiced I had a tough time coming to terms with these changes .By the way I wish to point out that I still love the Sivananda Style of Hatha Yoga practice and I still keep in touch with it as I find it very relaxing and sometimes I do it in evening to have a more relaxed sleep at night.

Future of my Ashtanga Vinyasa Practice :
I have no blue print or time frame for my Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga practice .I just want to enjoy my daily practice without injuring myself and I am following my own route of building my own Ashtanga Vinyasa practice which differs slightly from the way  it is being currently followed at AYRI .This is my own research in to Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga and while I do keep Guruji's/Sharath's  class format as the standard refernce I am willing to have my own approach to master the primay series first and then the other series .So things like going to Mysore to practice in the shala under gudiance of Sharath , getting Ashtanga Certification from AYRI etc etc are not on my current agenda . Might be it will change after few months and I am open to any changes that comes its way.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

14) Questions regarding the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Practice

I am writing this post after going through the blog post of another blogger Claudia who had written about a similar topic in her blog titled "New Changes in the Primary Series of Ashtanga" . If one looks at the Ashtanaga Vinyasa Yoga format one can see to it that it was never a static one and had been evolving over the times . These days there is lot of confusion in Ashtanga Circles regarding the following questions :
1) When to start secondary series ? Should one wait till the primary series is over and then start secondary or should one start practicing secondary along with primary ?
2) How many times Surya Namaskar A,B ? Is it :5,5, 3,3,5,3 ?
3) Should one practice Vinaysa between the sides or just between the postures ?
4) Some postures that were in the past in Primary series is not here now and some that were not in past are included now in the series and which is the right approach ?
5) Should one practice a mini series as given by David Swenson in case there is less time or should one strictly stick to the classical ashtanga sequence without changing the Order ?
6) Should one wait for mastering a posture before going to the next one or should one just continue to practice a set sequence without bothering about whether one masters a particular posture or not ?
7) Should one use props or modified positions as given by David Swenson or should one avoid props of any kind ?
8) When should one start Pranayama?
and like this I can go on and on regarding the type of questions that exist with regard to the Ashtanga Vinaysa Sequence and every senior teacher of Ashtanga Vinyasa will have their own answers to these questions and no 2 teachers may speak in the same way .This is because each teacher had his or her own back ground before coming to Guruji  ( some totally new to Yoga , some had been through other styles like Sivananda , Iyengar etc ) and some came in 70s when there were very few foreigners , some came in 80s when little more foreigners came and some in 90s when Ashtanga was getting more popular and the classes at Mysore become more crowded and for each person Guruji's approach differed  .My own Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Louise Ellis said to me that  when she started Ashtanga in 1990s said that Guruji after starting   primary  with her quickly put her in to  secondary as she had previously 20 years experience in Sivananda as well as Iyengar Yoga .So there is no standard answer to any of the questions listed above .It all depends upon one's previous yoga back ground , one's  flexibility and fitness levels and one's own commitment to the path of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga .
My feeling is that one should not go to either extremes while practicing Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga  i.e never be too fanatical about the tradition  that you blindly do the practice without applying common sense and also never disrespect the tradition by doing things as per your own whims and wishes in the name of creativity(i.e mixing various styles in to Ashtanga )  or so called listening to one's body ( not everyone is competent to do this ) . Either extreme approach is dangerous and will lead to either injury or frustration later .
Ashtanga Vinayasa Yoga is a form of serious yoga practice and one will not get answers to all the questions by few days or few weeks of practice or by attending various workshops  and one must have a minimum commitment of 10 years of daily dedicated practice to understand all its subtle aspects .
So to start with it does not matter whether one follows the David Swenson's approach , Sharath's approach , Richar Freeman's Approach , John Scott's approach etc etc as long as one keeps a daily commitment to the Ashtanga practice and go slowly and steadily , use the modifications/props when required and later drop  it all together when you reach a stage where you can do the entire  practice on your own effortlessly using the proper co-ordination of breath , drishtis , bandhas and movement .
So that should be the goal : i.e an effortless practice of the entire series with the proper co-ordination of breath , drishtis , bandhas and to achieve this goal one must go slowly but steadily keeping the above points (i.e breath , drishtis , bandhas ) in focus during the practice without getting side tracked on other asana related issues which I feel is minor in nature and of not any serious importance . Many people in an eagerness to master the series go about practicing the series with the focus on asanas and on the jumps more( where there is lot of  counter opinions )   without giving importance to the other aspects of the practice : breath , drishtis , bandhas ( where there is very less controversy )which are  very much vital to the understanding of the complete Ashtanga Vinaysa Yoga practice as a whole .
So while the outer forms of the Ashtanga Vinyasa Practice may vary with time but its essence i.e co-ordinated practice with  breath , drishtis and bandhas will always remain same and hence one should  not get side tracked with these minor issues regarding asanas and jumps  and learn to focus on the broader integrated practice and reap the benefits of the Complete Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga practice . This is the essence of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Practice according to all leading Ashtanga Teachers right from Krishnamacharya ,Guruji up to Sharath  now .


Monday, April 4, 2011

13) My First Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Teacher - Louise Ellis


Today i.e 4th April is the birthday of Louise Ellis my first Ashtanga Vinayasa Yoga Teacher and I dedicate this blog post to her .Kindly go through my blog post "No:10) My first Mysore Ashtanga Yoga Class experience " regarding how I started my Ashtanga Vinyasa Journey with Louise Ellis .
Though my training with Louise Ellis was a short one but I consider it very valuable and treat it as a form of formal initiation for me for my Ashtanga Vinyasa Journey . I wanted to get initiated in to my Ashtanga practice only through Louise Ellis because I was  from a Sivananda Background and she also started her Yoga journey first with  the Sivananda system and Rishikesh being the place where Swami Sivanananda( my first Yoga Guru )  started his spiritual mission , I wanted my formal Ashtanga Inititaion to be at Rishikesh instead of at Mysore .
I am right now maintaining my own personal Ashtanga Vinyasa Practice at my own home and happy doing that .If time and situation permits I may go for further studies with Louise Ellis at Rishikesh or go to Mysore to study under Sharath or Saraswathi .The beauty of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga  is that it teaches you to be self reliant and develop your own inner discipline and that is what I am doing right now i.e focusing on developing my own daily dedicated Ashtanga Vinyasa practice .Since I come from a different yogic background ( i.e Sivananda Style ) , I am finding it quite challenging to adapt to the  Ashtanga Vinyasa style and hence going bit slow but steady in my Ashtanga Vinaysa practice and do not want to rush through as I believe that rushing through will result in injury and moreover we have the time tested saying "Slow and steady wins the race " and I follow that  principle for my own Ashtanga practice.
I am very much thankful to Louise Ellis for being the first  teacher  to formally initiate me in to the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga  practice and pray the almighty to bless her with long life , good health and abundant prosperity to keep inspiring many people around the world to take up the practice of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga and in the process help heal the world.

More about Louise Ellis :
Louise Ellis has been a practitioner of yoga for 40 years and has been teaching for 35. She began studying in Mysore with her Guru Sri K Pattabhi Jois in 1993 and is one of the few women to have been certified by him to teach the Ashtanga Vinyasa system. Having started out with the study of traditional hatha yoga, pranayama and philosophy under Swami Vishnudevanda in 1971, her background includes several diverse yoga systems in which she has both practiced and taught. Her individualized approach to teaching centers on the development of pratyahara and ease in daily practice through the use of breath, dristhi and an attitude of surrender and bhakti. She maintains a dedicated daily practice and continues to travel  extensively in India and around the world to teach. American by birth she is currently based in Rishikesh, India, where she  offers an ongoing Mysore program.

For more details about Louise Ellis and her classes refer her website :
http://www.ashtangacenter.com/index.html


Sunday, February 6, 2011

12) My Various Blogs

Here is a list of the various blogs that I have created right from 2006 up till now . They reflect the various interests that I have and how those interests kept evolving over the last few years  .I am not active on all the blogs and right now focused more on My Ashtanga Blog ( http://myashtangajournal.blogspot.com/) as right now that is what keeping me occupied more and it will be like this for the next few more years . However I do keep updating other blogs as and when I have some interesting information to be shared in those blogs .
This post is basically to let people know my varied interests and how it kept evolved over a period of time and what prompted me to start new blogs and also to know what my current interest is .

http://dailyspiritualmessage.blogspot.com/
1)Spiritual Messages related to Nonduality
This site deals with spiritual quotes and messages from various Spiritual Masters like Swami Sivananda , Swami Vishnu devananda , Osho , Eckhart Tolle , Ramana Maharishi , J .Krishnamurthy ,Papaji , Vernon Howard , Atmananda Krishna Menon , Jean Klein etc .Most of the quotes and teachings here reflect non dual teachings
This was my first ever blog that I started in 2006 when I took to blogging and it had a mixture of yoga and Vedanta related messages ( non dual messages ) but since I felt  the messages of yoga and vedanta conflict with each other ( as yoga involves effort and practice and considers mind to be real and  vedanta involves no practices and considers mind itself to be a non entity ) I decided to start a separate yoga blog ( eyogateacher.blogspot.com ) for my yoga related messages and kept this blog only to deal with pure non dual teachings .

http://eyogateacher.blogspot.com/
2)My Yoga Blog
This blog presents a collection of my thoughts ,views related to Classical Hatha  Yoga and related topics like Diet ,Meditation,Fitness ,Health ,Relaxation ,Breathing and anything to do with improving physical and mental health .
This was my first yoga blog that I started as a Sivananda Yoga Teacher and was started mainly to distinguish my yoga messages from the non dual messages given by me in the other blog ( dailyspiritualmessage.blogspot.com ) . As I am now practicing ashtanga I did not want to confuse my Ashtanga experience in this  normal yoga blog and  started a separate blog for my ashtanga experience ( myashtangajournal.blogspot.com ) and this blog will continue to have articles / matter related to the Sivananda Style of Classical Hatha Yoga and  other health related topics like diet , relaxation , meditation ,  etc .Though I am currently  learning Ashtanga , I continue to be involved in the teaching of Sivananda System of Classical Hatha Yoga and hence this will contain articles related to Classical Hatha Yoga from time to time .
Note : up to Post 50. this blog had a sort of structured and one dimensional approach of just sharing about Classical Yoga ( Sivananda Style ) but from post 51 onwards this blog is taking an unstructured and multi dimensional approach and deals with issues related to not only yoga but other things happening in my life as well in society .So keep this in mind when you go through the blog .I have explained the intentions behind this new approach in my blog post No.53) A New Approach to this blog .

http://movementtherapies.blogspot.com/
3)Movement Therapies
This blog is to share information about the various Movement therapies like Alexander Technique , Feldenkrais Method , Pilates ,Tai Chi , Continuum movement,Ideokinesis, Hellerwork etc .
This blog I started in year 2010  when I was deeply in quest of addressing some issues of injury related to my lower back ( in 2009 ) and ankle ( in 2010 ) and  while I started it with Pilates , it went to Tai Chi and then I came across various movement therapies and felt that it is high time I start a blog  exclusively for the same and while I am not active in this as I am right now buys with my Ashtanga Vinayasa Yoga but definitely this is a blog I will get active in due course as I believe that each movement therapy has some excellent way to address  our injuries and provide healing .

http://livingaconsciouslife.blogspot.com/
4)Living a Conscious Life
The aim of this blog is to help those seeking to live a Conscious life ( a life in present )point out the best available resources(teachers, sayings , book /cd /DVD review , retreats , courses etc) with regard to Conscious Living from sources world over .
This is again a sort of extension of my Non Dual blog and right now not very active as I still continue to share messages related to non duality in my first blog ( i.e dailyspiritualmessage.blogspot.com ) but will keep this blog updated as and when I get some interesting inputs .

http://myashtangajournal.blogspot.com/
5)My Ashtanga Journal
This blog describes my Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Journey .
This is my most recent and currently active blog . As I am new to Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga  and wanted to document my  Ashtanga experiences exclusively I created this separate blog and this blog will be active as Ashtanga Vinaysa Yoga  is my current activity and will remain so for the next few years .



Thursday, February 3, 2011

11) Moving from One Yoga System to Another to be a complete Movement Teacher

Some of my friends who are Certified  Sivananda  Yoga teachers were surprised to see me starting a new blog  related to my Ashtanga Vinaysa Journey and my new interest in Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga  .There is a reason for their surprise as I have been associated with the Sivananda System for more than 10 years and have completed all their 3 levels of Certifications i.e TTC ( Teachers Training Course ) , ATTC ( Advanced Teachers Training Course ) and SI ( Sadhana Intensive ) .I told them that I have elaborated very well in my earlier postings about this transition from one Sivananda System of Classical Hatha Yoga to Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga and that this transition is only for my own personal sadhana and to enrich myself with another system which I will start teaching at a later date when I feel competent to do so and that I still continue to teach the Sivananda System of Classical Hatha Yoga . I still  believe that the Sivananda System  is the best starting point for any one to start their yoga journey and also the best system for those busy house holders and professionals who have less time to spare for their yoga practice on a weekly basis and who need a simple and straight forward method to do yoga to keep their body fit and mind calm .
Also I wish to point out that I never believe in hopping one yoga style to another just like that and I made a transition from Sivananda to Ashtanga only after investing 10 years in the Sivananda System and also after completing all their 3 levels of training and that gave me lot of insights regarding its positive points as well as some of its limitations and my transition to Ashtanga  was  to only to overcome the limitations that are in the Sivananda System to make myself a more complete teacher .Here I wish to point out that neither Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga  is free of limitations .All Yoga styles have some limitations in one form or the other and no system can completely address all sections of the population for all of its needs . It does not matter whether it is Sivananda , Iyengar , Ashtanga or Bikram .All Yoga Schools have their own pluses as well as their own limitations and as a Yoga Teacher I feel that I need to equip myself with as many variety  of styles as possible to address  the needs of various types of students .So I will not just stop with Ashtanga but will continue to learn Yin Yoga , Restorative Yoga and why only Yoga , I plan to learn other movement therapies like Pilates , Tai Chi , Feldenkrais Method ,Undulation method etc and be a complete Movement  Teacher /Therapist and I know that this cant be done in a year or two and it involves a life time of learning and I am prepared for the same .I love learning and I am very curious about various Movement therapies beyond Yoga as I believe that the human body is very complex as well as mysterious and no single yoga style can help address the needs of all the people .I am saying this because I found even great Yoga Teachers like BKS Iyengar ,Krishnamacharya  could not solve the problems of people due to their rigid "my method is right "approach  and that resulted in students going to other teachers / other movement systems to have their problems solved . Today many of the Popular Yoga Systems have become institutionalized and hence to maintain the purity of their institutions / teachings they need to be rigid with they teach and I accept that . That is why I never pointed out the limitations of the Sivananda System when I was a student / teacher there and I will never point out the limitations of the Ashtanga Vinyasa System while I am learning the same now . As I am only an individual and not representing any System / Institution I feel quite free to pursue learning  as many styles as possible , of course learning and digesting one at a time and not gobbling all at one go and I want to be known as a Complete Movement Teacher .I believe that best starting point for any healing is to start with the body , more specifically through body movement and that was why Yoga was popular in the last century but now as our lifestyles have changed a lot  and we encounter different form of problems both in the body and mind and sometimes the problem in the body is due to a problem in mind and vice versa and sometimes it is due to both and hence in such cases as a Yoga teacher I feel that I need to have as many tools at my disposal to understand the problem of a person and suggest a suitable remedy  . Before I conclude I give an real life  example as to why I want to have this multi dimensional  approach .
Everyone knows that Krishnamacharya was a great Yoga teacher and he himself had various skills like asanas , pranayama ,mantras , ayurveda etc to treat a person and did cure the ailment of many people who came to him but once the great rebel spiritual teacher U.G.Krishnamurti came to him for treatment regarding some mysterious energy flow in his body that was causing him discomfort and Krishnamacharya was employing alll his yoga skills in treating U.G.Krishnamurti and making him do various asanas but it did not have any positive effect on U.G and U.G got frustrated and left Krishnamacharya as he felt that Asanas wont do him any good and  tried doing tai chi to get some relief .
In another case BKS Iyengar was teaching J Krishnamurti ( JK ) and JK did not like his rigid approach to asanas and preferred the gentler style of Desikachar for his yoga practice and Vanda Scravelli who was herself a very dedicated BKS Iyengar Practitioner /teacher  finally quit the Iyengar System as she felt it was all wrong and while she was grateful to BKS Iyengar for putting her on the path of Yoga ,she felt that time had come to discover her own approach to Yoga and she developed her own unstructured approach to Yoga and did not want it to be named as any style though it is popularly referred to as Scravelli Yoga by her students .
I am giving the examples of Krishnamacharya as well as BKS Iyengar not to belittle them ( in fact I hold both of them in very high respect ) but to point out as to how even great yoga teachers like them could not address the needs of all the people who came to them . So let us not be rigid in our approach to yoga and adopt a flexible approach to it without compromising the discipline .

Saturday, January 22, 2011

10) My first Mysore Ashtanga Yoga Class experience

When I first started to investigate about Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga after completing my Sivananda Advanced Yoga Teachers Training Course ( ATTC ) in 2004 , I came across Louise Ellis through the net .It was quite an accident that I came across her name at the ashtanga.com site and when I went through her website I was thrilled that she too had a back ground at the Sivananda System and had done the Sivananda Yoga Teachers Training Course (TTC ) in 1971 directly under its founder Swami Vishnu devananda .Soon I was in touch with her through emails /chats but could never meet her directly until September 2010 . As my interest in Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga was not very great in 2004 I dropped it and started to focus on the Sivananda System of Classical Hatha Yoga itself .  But in 2010 after I completed the Sivananda Sadhana Intensive Course ( SI) in Jan 2010 for the second time ( I did the first one in Jan 2009 ) ,I decided that it is time to move ahead of the Sivananda System and came across Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga in Summer of 2010 .I have detailed in my earlier blog post  titled "2 How my Ashtanga Vinayasa Yoga practice began " about this journey .
So in the summer of 2010 when I started seriously getting interested in the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga I decided to learn it myself using Books , DVD's as there was  no proper Ashtanga Shala in my City ,Chennai .In fact in India itself there is no proper Ashtanga Shala except the one of Pattabhi Joise  in Mysore run now by Sharath and Saraswathi .Of course there are few others in Mysore and other places but those are being run by people not directly Certified by Pattabhi Joise . So as a first step I got the relevant books related Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga like David Swenson's Ashtanga Yoga Manual ,Gregor Maehle's Ashtanga Yoga books ( both Primary as well as Intermediate series ) , downloaded the Ashtanga Surya Namaskar A,B Charts as well the entire Primary series Charts from the internet , downloaded David Swenson's Primary series videos from you tube and started learning on my own and practicing the same . As there is a wonderful online ashtanga community on the net  ( and some even maintaining detailed blogs of their practice right from the start ) I could very much connect with the way many people have started their ashtanga journey ,the challenges they faced etc etc .
Once I got bit familiar with the Ashtanga Surya Namaskar A,B and the standing poses I felt the need for a guided audio practice and got hold of Sharath's Ashtanga Primary Audio CD (Available from the site ashtanga.com ) and started to practice the same . It felt as though Sharath was personally instructing me . Though my practice was only up to the completion of the standing sequences ,I felt that I have got a good start as far as my ashtanga vinyasa practice was concerned .It took me a while to get used to this Ashtanga Vinyasa Practice as I come from a different style whose sequence and method are very much different from that of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga and whose style I have been practicing for more than  10 years . Even though I was happy with my personal  Ashtanga Vinaysa practice I felt the need for a direct initiation of the practice under a proper certified ashtanga vinyasa teacher  as I felt that while books , DVDs ,CDs can give you knowledge , inspiration and instructions they cant give you the energy of a live teacher . So while I was probing over how to solve this problem of finding a proper live ashtanga teacher to initiate my Ashtanga Journey I came across again Louise Ellis and got to know from her website that she is giving her Mysore style ashtanga classes in Rishikesh from September - December 2010 . This was like a spiritual call to me as Rishikesh in the land of Yoga where my first spiritual Guru Swami Sivananda started his Global spiritual mission and since Louise Ellis also started her Yoga journey with Sivananda Tradition in 1971 ,I felt that nothing better can be than having my first proper ashtanga initiation at Rishikesh ,the land of Yoga under a senior Ashtanga Vinyasa Teacher  who also has a Sivananda background .So I immediately booked my ticket as well as the hotel reservations to Rishikesh for end of september 2010 and luckily a friend of mine also wanted to join me ( though he was not interested in practicing ashtyanga yoga and  he wanted to just have a spiritual break in Rishikesh ) .Luckily for me the flight was available at very cheap rates and the hotel was also not expensive( I stayed at Hotel Narayan Kunj , Swarg Ashram , near Ram Jhula Rishikesh ) and  since it was being shared by my friend  I have to pay only half the rate and I felt like things were all falling in place . As I was visiting North India itself after a gap of 14 years and Rishikesh after 19 years and I was full of excitement .I sent an email to Louise Ellis informing my confirmation of my trip to Rishikesh to take her classes .
Once I landed in Rishikesh on Mon 27 September 2010 evening ,the first thing that I did was to  visit the Holy Ganges river and wash my hands ,legs and sprinkle few drops of the holy ganges water  on my head as a symbolic holy bath and then  visited  the Samadhi Shrine of my spiritual Guru Swami Sivananda at Divine Life Society to receive his blessings before starting my Ashtanga Vinyasa Journey . When I came back to the hotel I got in touch with Louise Ellis over her cell and informed her of my arrival and she told me to come for class the next day at 7 a.m at the Yoga Hall at  the Divine  Ganga Cottage near Laxman Jhula in Rishikesh .
I went half an hour early and when Louise Ellis came I informed her about my lack of real life  training in Ashtanga and she told me not to be worried about the same and just relax as this was a Mysore class and there is absolutely no pressure on me to be intimidated by other's performance .She handed out to me a photo copy of Ashtanga Primary series sheet as well as the copy of Ashtanga Prayer sheet .

The class started it at 7 a.m ( Tue 28 September 2010 ) with the Ashtanga Prayer and after that everyone started to do their own self practice and I started doing on my own Ashtanga Surya Namaskar A-5 rounds and B - 5 rounds and Louise Ellis was watching me over and she said they were correct and after that she demonstrated one by one each of the Standing Sequence and asked me to do the same . I had no problem in doing most of them except  Utthita Hast Padangushtasana ( Upright Hand to Big Toe Posture )  .After the standing poses were over , she introduced  to me one by one  the basic sitting poses  along with the Vinyasyas between the sides as well as between the postures up  to Navasan and said  that for any beginner to Ashtanga Vinyasa practice Navasan is the stopping point and after that one can continue with the concluding postures.For me the sitting postures some were easy and some were challenging  and it was quite a new challenging experience for me doing the Vinyasas between the sides as well as between  the postures  and finally  and I did the concluding postures on my own  and I got wonderful adjustments from Louise Ellis for Paschimottasana( Intense Western Stretch )  and Urdhva Padmasana ( Upwards Lotus Posture ) .The concluding postures were not a great difficulty for me as I am used to head stand , shoulder stand , halasan etc as part of the Sivananda Asana routine .Then I had a very good final relaxation for  10 mts .The entire session lasted 90 mts and I concluded around 8.30 a.m and she told me that this will up my regular practice for the next few months and I need to master all the postures up to Navsan before proceeding to the other postures in the primary series .
So this was my first ever real life Mysore Ashtanga practice in a Shala under a real life teacher and happy that I got my formal Ashtanga Initiation under Louise Ellis and I can never forget this first ever Mysore Ashtanga Class experience  on Tue 28 September 2010 at Rishikesh  under Louise Ellis and I consider that date to be my date of formal initiation in to Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga .