Donna Farhi on yoga

My blogging time here is growing shorter. Thirty-three more days and I step on the plane for a yoga adventure of a lifetime (and yes, this woman of a certain age still feels blessed to be able to do this.)

I’m starting out in Chennai, my second home, at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram. Taught by Desikachar’s senior teachers, I will have four private classes a day in meditation, pranayama, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, and vedic chanting (which will be my favorite class to attend.) I will also have a yoga therapy consultation and a yoga therapy program designed for me — I will then do two asana classes with a KYM therapist. For me this is yoga heaven, and of course, I will spend time with the friends I made on my first trip to Chennai.

I am spending the least amount of time in Chennai this trip. I usually stay a month, but this time I will only be there for two weeks when my friend meets me and we fly to Kolkata….my first time outside of South India.

However, before she arrives I am spending a weekend at the holy city of Thiruvannaamalai to climb the holy hill Arunachala and visit once again (I was there in 2006) the ashram of the great Advaita Vedanta sage Ramana Maharshi. He said, “enquiry in the form ‘Who am I’ alone is the principal means. To make the mind subside, there is no adequate means other than self-enquiry. If controlled by other means, mind will remain as if subsided, but will rise again.” He considered his own guru to be the Self, in the form of the sacred mountain Arunachala.

I am blessed to be able to climb the holy hill.

I am beginning to turn inward more and more the closer I get to leaving, a deep knowing is coming to fruition. After Arunachala, I will be blessed with Kali shakti in Kolkata at her temples and visit the Temple of the 64 Yoginis in Bhubaneswar.

Finally at the Maha Kumbh Mela in Haridwar I will dip my toes in the Ganges on MahaShivaratri and witness the tantric yoga rituals of the ultimate yogis. Me and 50 million of my closest friends.

After India, even more amazing to me is that I WILL TEACH YOGA IN AFRICA. I am bringing a style of yoga (yin) to yogis who have never experienced it before. It amazes and overwhelms me. My weekend is sold out, the spaces bought by the small yoga community of Tanzania, and I am blessed to do this. Paul Grilley told me “YOU GO, GIRL!” YES!

Sounds like a good idea for a movie…another Enlighten Up!, only better.

So with my death and rebirth looming before me in India (as has been told to me for more than a few years by various spiritual adepts), I will be blogging less and less. There will be another guest blogger in the near future, one of my college yogis who, I am happy to say, has totally drunk the yoga kool-aid. She will be writing about the true purpose of yoga: healing and transformation — how yoga has helped with her ulcerative colitis.

In my blogging laziness I give you a conversation with Donna Farhi, Svasti’s guest posts being good segues into her conversation about yoga. Years ago I did a workshop with Farhi and she was another teacher that made a lightbulb go off over my head when I was a newbie teacher. Everything she said made sense to me. Here is an excerpt:

Q: How do you differentiate between “good” and “bad” yoga?

Donna Farhi: Good yoga cultivates a deep sense of self-acceptance and tolerance for others. When I witness someone practicing and living yoga well, they have developed clear perception, concentration, and the skill to respond to any situation with a presence of mind. In my yoga classes that means that the form of the postures is not the goal – you can be as stiff as an ironing board and much less flexible than your compadres in a yoga class and still be practicing beautiful yoga if your practice is fostering that respect and care for yourself.

In this sense the greater and greater emphasis on the form of postures in the West has been a two edged sword. The refinement has allowed us to make the postures much more beneficial, but Westerners are so caught up in external image and the meaning they attribute to those images, that for many Westerners good yoga means touching their toes. The trend in the U.S. in the last ten years has been to judge people’s yoga almost purely from their physical adeptness. We attribute some kind of spiritually advanced state to someone who can put their feet on the back of their head. That is we’ve started to mistake the map for the territory. Quite often this supposedly good yoga is fostering a sense of superiority and judgment towards others who practice any other form of yoga. To me, any yoga that fosters those qualities is bad yoga.

Talk amongst yourselves.

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5 thoughts on “Donna Farhi on yoga

  1. I don't know you and only started really following your blog recently but this post has got me all excited for you! It's sounds like it is going to be such an amazing experience and I love Donna Farhi – she makes a lot of sense and made a lightbulb go off for me too. This is going to sound corny but you're really inspiring.


  2. Thanks for the details of your trip. That is so exciting.

    Great quote from Donna, too.

    Have a great trip, and we're all looking forward to hearing all about it when you get back.

    Bob Weisenberg


  3. fantastic trip you have ahead of you. I know it is selfish but would LOVE it if you still blogged, and shared pictures… but I know… after all the journey is an internal one. Enjoy!


  4. Donna Fahri is brilliant. Hers was the first yoga book I ever read that was truly wise, and not just about bendy-barbies. Like Mark Whitwell, Donna comes from the Land of the Long White Cloud (New Zealand). Must be something in the water. Or the air. Or the mountains…


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