what are they teaching out there?

depaul panel

 

The other night I was one of the speakers on this panel discussion in Chicago. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and I was invited to be on this panel by The Breathe Network.  The Breathe Network is an excellent online resource for trauma survivors looking for practitioners of holistic modalities and I am proud to be a member.

It was a great event with a big turnout. The other three presenters spoke about their modalities, Biofeedback, Holistic Psychotherapy, and Reiki. I learned from all three presenters and what was interesting was that we all had a single thing in common, as noted by the moderator:  the BREATH and HOW WE BREATHE can change things for us mentally, emotionally, and physically.

Many of you know that I am a long time student (10+ years) in the Krishnamacharya Yoga tradition and that the Yoga I teach is all about the breath, a breath centered practice.  I have seen how conscious breathwork can change lives.  Yes, literally, such as with trauma survivors and people with anxiety attacks and major stress.  They learn to self-regulate just as the ancient yogis, the sramanas, discovered that asana and breath can regulate their internal systems.

“Trauma sensitive” and “trauma informed” Yoga are buzzwords in modern Yoga but when I did my four day Trauma Sensitive Yoga training at The Trauma Institute, I realized how the training was a retooling of what I learned at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram insofar as therapeutic yoga.  It was nothing new to me.  The only thing new was the information about the physiology of trauma, the parts of the brain that are affected, and some languaging, the “technical” stuff.

Before I did that training in 2011 I had already been teaching for 6 years to survivors at a domestic violence shelter starting in 2005.  I intuitively knew that what I had learned in India and from my own insight meditation practice would help them.  And it did, tremendously — because it was a breath centered Yoga practice.  The survivors learned how to be in charge of their own physiological systems.

After our 90 minute discussion we had breakout groups where attendees could ask us questions.  I had handouts of articles (one that I wrote) about how Yoga helps with PTSD.  More than a few young people (“young” meaning college age students) took my handouts and then it got interesting — they started telling me about their experiences in Yoga studios.  Note that this was in Chicago so they were talking to me about studios there.

I preface what comes next by saying that I no longer attend public Yoga classes so I don’t know what people are teaching nowadays.  If I do go to a studio it will be to my teacher’s class at the studio where I certified as a teacher 15 years ago (one of the first studios to open in Chicago.)

I take that back — I DID go to a class just last week.  It was a gong meditation plus Yoga class and one of my students came with me.  I know that every teacher is trained differently, has his/her own style, and I am 200% sure there are many who would hate my classes and probably with a vengeance.  But I was stunned at the practice.  Shocked even.

The teacher was also a “woman of a certain age” and whom I know has been teaching longer than me.  There was absolutely no attention paid to the breath.  In fact, I could not even catch my breath because the sun salutation was so fast.  I decided (of course!) to move at my pace with my own breath ratio.

My long time student was incredulous and instead of a calming, grounding practice to go into an hour long gong session (by the way, I was NOT expecting a gentle or restorative practice, just a more mindful one) I felt completely agitated.  This is the reason why I no longer attend public classes taught by teachers whose teaching styles I don’t know.

Each person at my table at DePaul asked me “where do I find a class as you describe?”  Because EACH student told me “I take Yoga but …”  It’s “competitive.”  A “work out.”  “No one talks about the breath.” “I feel intimidated.”  “How should I breathe?”  “They don’t teach meditation.”  If I lived in Chicago instead of 40 miles away I’d probably have a dozen new students now.

Finally, what made me sad was a trauma survivor who told me she went through a teacher training program at a corporate Yoga studio chain.  I won’t say which one but they are all over Chicago and other big cities.  Many times they open down the street from independent studios.

She told me that she went there looking for a more meditative, what she called “spiritual,” YTT.  Instead, she told me the training triggered her PTSD, so much so that she completely stopped her own Yoga practice.  What was worse, she told me, that when she tried to tell her trainers what was happening with her, no one knew how to help her.

She finished the training but no longer practices.  She told me that in order to teach she knows she has to work on herself.  She asked me how to get back on the Yoga horse.  I said slowly and recommended Sarah Powers’ book, Insight Yoga, and her DVDs.  I gave her my card, it was all I could do, and told her to contact me if she got stuck.

After listening to the questions and comments, I was re-inspired to create a teacher training so I had better get my ASSana in gear before I go to India in November.  But I am SO STUCK, I don’t know where to start.  Mainly because I don’t know where to begin in writing a manual.  You can’t charge $3,000 for a training and not have a manual, people expect one after dishing out the dough.  But I only know how to teach OLD SCHOOL, the way I am taught in India.  You sit down, listen, and take notes.  In all my years at KYM the only handouts I have are from asana and meditation classes.  Ten plus years of notes will make a kick ass YTT.  I’ve already decided that this book will be the class text.

But when the day comes when I have a Metta Yoga: Mind-Body Education training you can bet your ASSana that I will have sliding scale payment for survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and vets with PTSD.

What the hell are they teaching out there?

 

 

 

 

The Hathayogapradipika|Jyotsnayuta – Dr. Kausthub Desikachar

HYP 1

Yoga teacher Larry Payne had this to say about Kausthub Desikachar‘s new translation of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika:

The new translation of Hathayogapradipika by Doctor Kausthub Desikachar is a modern classic. His personal footnotes make this classic text “User friendly” for Yoga teachers and serious students. Highly Recommended!

I have to agree.  This is an excellent and valuable book to be added to the Yoga book library of the serious practitioner or Yoga teacher.  A beautifully designed hard cover (with two beautiful drawings of Kali Ma inside) where the wisdom therein is as rich (if not richer) as the outside.

Five forwards in the book are written by Sonia Nelson (Santa Fe, New Mexico), Geeta S. Iyengar (Pune, India), Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani (Pondicherry, India), Frans Moors (Belgium), and Sharath Jois (Mysore, India.)

Sharath Jois writes that “the Hathayogapradipika is especially important because it is a tool that helps to understand the entire system of Yoga practice.”  He writes that Kausthub has revealed a new level of understanding of the HYP.

Sonia Nelson writes that “the quality and use of the English language makes the translations and footnotes fully accessible to serious students willing to give the time and attention needed to digest the content.  …the inclusion of both the Devanagari script and transliteration in the word by word translation provides a useful tool for extensive study.”  Indeed, for a student of Sanskrit alone the book is invaluable.

Kausthub’s aunt, Geeta Iyengar, writes that her nephew has done a “wonderful job of transcribing and translating the whole Samskrta text along with the Jyotsna commentary.  The Hathayogapradipika is such a text that no student of Yoga can bypass it.”  She believes that Kausthub’s footnotes can be seen as his own “modern commentary, making it easier, more relatable and comprehensible to today’s readers.”

In his Introduction Kausthub gives a brief history of the HYP and of the ancient yogis at that time.  I particularly enjoyed this history telling because it echos what Stephen Cope taught in my Mindfulness Yoga and Meditation training at Spirit Rock in California: that the ancient yogis (the “Skull Men”) were considered rebels, cast out by conventional Brahmin society of the time.  Kausthub writes that the Skull Men had a significant influence on Hathayoga, which evidence can be found through texts such as Sivasamhita and the HYP.

Among other things in the 22 page Introduction Kausthub also writes about whether the HYP is the only Hathayoga text; about the commentator of the HYP, Brahmananda; the special view of Isvara; what is Hathayoga (see photo above) — my students liked my reading this in class.

Given the latest statement about yoga therapy by the Yoga Alliance, of special interest in the Introduction is his section on “Hathayoga and Yoga Therapy.”  Kausthub writes:

One key trend that occurs recurrently throughout the text is the health benefits of the specific tools presented.  Whether in the chapter on Asana, Pranayama or Mudra, the Hathayogapradipika makes claims regarding which illnesses may be warded off through such practices.

This clearly confirms without a doubt that Yoga is indeed a therapeutic tool used by its practitioners over a long period of time.  So to say that Yoga and Yoga Therapy are two different things is against what the tradition of Yoga represents.

***

Then comes the business of organized professional governance.

You’ll have to get the book to find out the rest of the story, i.e., the two problems that governance creates in Kausthub’s opinion.

A sample page:

HYP page

My long time readers know that I have studied in the Krishnamacharya Yoga tradition for 10+ years.  I am grateful and blessed to have been introduced to this lineage by one of Krishnamacharya’s longest standing students, Srivatsa Ramaswami, on his first visit to Chicago.  In fact, he is teaching about the HYP in Chicago in September.  Join me!

If the HYP is mentioned at all in Yoga teacher trainings, the usual text that I’ve seen used in my area (Chicago) is by Swami Muktibodhananda published by the Bihar School of Yoga.  Kausthub’s translation is an excellent addition to your study of the HYP for a side by side comparison.  His is the type of book to be savored, not read quickly (as if the HYP would be a candidate for speed reading!)  It’s always good to have a few different translations of a Yoga text just to see how and who says what.  You can purchase this book directly from his school in Chennai, India.

The Hathayoga journey is not meant for superficial results like having a nice and slim body structure.  Rather it is meant for meaningful psychological and spiritual exploration of oneself and a profound transformation at all levels, that takes us closer to our own potentials and helps manifest them into reality.  (Introduction, p.50.)

That’s authentic Yoga.  The real deal, the good, the bad, and the ugly, wherever the journey takes us.

the bottom line

I returned from India last week dazed and depressed and feeling like I had been deposited onto a different planet.  The fact that the temperature in Chicago was literally 60 degrees colder than what I had experienced for almost three months in South India did not help either.  But here I am for better or for worse.

My trip was a mixed bag of love and hate, positive and negative, joy and sadness, and bittersweetness.   Like life.   The group trip to the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram and yoga retreat in Varkala was a life training, that’s for sure.  Let’s just say: I learned a lot about egos with a capital E and how to deal with them.

The majority of the time it was wonderful (how could it not be when I am in my soul’s home?) and most of the first timers to India were very happy, falling in love with Ma India as I did 8 years ago.  However, for my next retreat — YES, I AM CRAZY ENOUGH TO PLAN TWO YOGA RETREATS FOR 2014! — there will be ground rules in place like, “accept what is offered to you” and “this isn’t about you, it’s about the GROUP.”  Behavior that I deem inappropriate and not conducive to harmonious group dynamics will not be tolerated and people will be asked to leave, no refunds.   Just sayin’.

Amanda the Yogachicky has been writing fabulous posts about the group trip and her first time in India.  We’ve been online friends for a long time and we finally met in Chennai which she chronicled here. You can read about our week at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram here.

Leaving India gets harder and harder for me each time.  My friends there don’t want me to leave and tell me they love me.   One friend hooked me up with a lawyer whom I spoke to about starting a business in India.  No matter where I am whether it’s a big city like Chennai or a bigger city like Mumbai (that I experienced for the first time and had a wonderful time thanks to another online friend — read Sharell’s story on the amazing slum tour we took) or walking the beach in Varkala, a feeling that suddenly makes me weep passes through me like an electric wave.  It is tangible and visceral, that  feeling of being totally in the flow, how what I am doing in that moment feels so natural and perfect and right, much more so than when I am back living where I live.  The feeling of being dropped onto a different planet never hits me when I land in India only upon my return.

One of the participants sent me this quote from Somerset Maugham’s The Moon and Sixpence  (you can change the pronoun and gender):

I have an idea that some men are born out of their due place.  Accident has cast them amid strangers in their birthplace, and the leafy lanes they have know from childhood or the populous streets in which they have played, remain but a place of passage.  They may spend their whole lives aliens among their kindred and remain aloof among the only scenes they have ever known.

Perhaps it is this sense of strangeness that sends men far and wide in the search for something permanent, to which they may attach themselves.  Perhaps some deep-rooted atavism urges the wanderer back to lands which his ancestors left in the dim beginnings of history.  Sometimes a man hits upon a place to which he mysteriously feels he belongs.  Here is the home he sought, and he will settle amid scenes that he has never seen before, among men he has never known, as though they were familiar to him from his birth.  Here at last he finds rest.”

I started teaching in Varkala.  My style of yoga is eclectic and I taught so that people gradually got into Erich Schiffmann’s Freedom Style yoga as I interpret it.  I know I took two people out of their comfort zone with it and with yin yoga.  The bottom line:  I don’t know what the hell type of yoga I teach.  I put no name to it other than “mindful.” I don’t know how to market my style to draw people and we all know that yoga nowadays is all about the marketing.  I guess my students here who’ve been with me since almost Day 1 of my teaching can answer my question because I sure as hell can’t.  I don’t want to be put inside a yoga box because as a friend told me this morning, I was put on earth to shake things up.  So if you dig what I teach, cool; if not, oh well.

In spite of having some less than stellar moments during the group trip, I love showing people my India (not your India, not his India, not her India, but my India.)  A friend tells me that he thinks I am meant to be a Westerner’s guide to India (this friend has agreed to co-teach the next two week retreat in Varkala so stay tuned for those details!)  The prospect of starting a business in India makes ideas swirl in my brain, one of which is running a guesthouse where I can offer yoga classes and energy healing.  We shall see.  Goddess willing.

This is what one person in the group had to say:

“If Lady Luck or good fortune or the grace of god showers you with her serene and beguiling smile a time or two, you may pause in appreciation and recognition that being alive can be, well, pretty darn good. And when that invisible hand so softly and gently guides you to a place beyond which you have only allowed yourself to imagine, you may pinch yourself again and again to be sure you’re not dreaming.

It wasn’t a dream. It was, in fact, two plus weeks of the most in-your-face, raw, sensual, noisy, chaotic, exhilarating, life affirming, life changing, drama-producing, tranquility-inducing living that you might ever ask for. Oh, and loving and lovely, too. It was my first visit to India. All put together by Linda Karl, our guide, interpreter, arranger, teacher and very passionate Indiaphile.

What started with very pedestrian concerns about jet lag and more heartfelt concerns about being half a world away from my family, was immediately seized by Mother India and transformed into an experience that was so far beyond my expectations that I’ll spend the rest of my life sorting it out.

Yes, this was a yoga study trip that included a week with some of the most accomplished teachers you could hope for at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandarim in Chennai. We practiced asana and pranayama, learned about Patanjali’s Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita, meditated and, for some of us, used our pitch-challenged voices to bring sound to Vedic chanting. Every day was full and complete and that doesn’t include the walk to KYM on streets filled with noises, smells, sights and sounds that invaded every sensory pore, every moment, unfiltered. It was double Red Bull India.

The second week at Varkala Beach was India light – every bit as real but allowing you to catch your breath. A tropical forest of coconut palms, banana and jack fruit trees and other forms of greenery not found in more familiar climes were set high on a cliff overlooking the Arabian Sea with small shops selling everything Indian and restaurants with the freshest catches of the day and cold Kingfishers to wash it all down. Here each day started with two hours of Linda’s interpretation of Freedom style yoga. The remainder of most days was unplanned and thus afforded time to ease into conversations with the other seven members of our group. For me, this is when the rose came into full bloom. The combination of intense yoga study and practice in a country that gave no quarter to a first time Westerner left me exposed. And into this opening walked seven people who shared some of their most intimate joys and hurts. That’s when I knew this was and will forever be an experience of a lifetime.

Since returning home I have savored innumerable moments and tossed and turned many thoughts. For anyone so inclined, ever how slightly, to consider making his or her own visit to India, allow Linda be your guide. Timshel.”

It’s the most beautiful thing a student can say about the experience a teacher offers them.

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Mumbai sunset
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a car like me: outside the box
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the money shot: in Mumbai market
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in the Freedom Style flow with Alicia Keys music
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where my heart is: Varkala
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Mumbai plate seller
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up close and personal with Ganesha
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in the ladies’ car, Mumbai
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Ganesh Mohan with his father, A.G. Mohan: yoga therapy training, Chennai
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rockin’ out to Freedom Style

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UPDATE: who wants to go to India?

looking toward south cliff, Varkala, Kerala
the Heart of Yoga, Chennai

That’s a serious question.

Long time readers know that I started studying at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in 2005.  I thought back then that I would never return to KYM or to India, I thought it was a one-time thing.  Little did I know that I would return to KYM only 6 months later in 2006 and that I would be blessed enough to return there yearly.   Who knew what a grip India would have on my heart?  Who knew that the longer I study in this lineage the more I know that I can study here the rest of my life?  It is an honor and a responsibility to be a representative of this lineage.

The senior teachers know me by name now.  When I walked into the building on the first day of training this year I was greeted like an old friend and it did my heart good.   The intensive, “Discover Yoga Anatomy”, was amazing.  It truly was an advanced training, beyond asana, on a deeper level.  Although the teachers have studied with Desikachar for years and years, they are still students of yoga.  One of my favorite teachers said she is still learning, that they learn from us and from each other.  They are humble.  One touches the feet of Krishnamacharya in his photo portrait that is the classroom.  They are not afraid to use the word “guru.”

I have scheduled the week of March 11-15, 2013 for taking a group for private classes.  I have scheduled an asana class; theory and practice of pranayama; chanting; meditation; class on the Sutras; and an introductory class on the Bhagavad Gita, 6 classes daily for five days.   The classes will be geared toward the students’  yoga experience.  When I was there an American yoga teacher had brought 18 people with her.  My group will be limited to 12, and I need a minimum of 6 people for the trip to happen.

After that week, I will lead a yin-yang yoga retreat March 16-24 in Varkala, Kerala.  In between my trainings, before I went to KYM, I spent 15 days in Varkala, a place where I had never been.   In fact, I spent 10 days, returned to Chennai, and then flew back to Varkala because I missed the vibe and the friends I had made so much.  They did not want me to leave.

Varkala has a chill vibe, as people there say, and I thought I would be put off by all the westerners.  I must say I had some culture shock when I arrived because I had never been with so many westerners before in my travels (apart from KYM.)  But I grew to love it.  The place is a mix of backpackers, package tourist groups, retirees, old hippies, young hippies, and families with children.  It’s easy.  Real easy.  And it would be a great place to chill after the cacophony of Chennai.  Besides which, ladies, you can get some great yoga pants made for about $10 by the tailors on the clifftop, pants that sell in the US for 7 times the price — I had 4 made.

The retreat — where I will teach one class in the morning — will be here.  I have already booked all the cottages facing the pool.  Double occupancy only so bring a friend!

I had energy work done by an amazing energy worker so a session with her and a dinner party in her garden on our last night are included in the price.  Ayurvedic consulations are available as well.  I had a back issue for five years (thanks to being Miss Gumby all my life) and after doing the yoga therapy practice every day that I learned in my first training and having medical ayurvedic treatments for 7 days at this place, I now wake up pain free — and I still do my yoga therapy practice.  The Varkala resort has its own ayurvedic doctor or there are many choices in Varkala.

Other activities are available if you want to run around, but I guarantee that chilling on the beach, eating fresh food every day, and meeting great people will be enough for some.

You will arrange the domestic RT flight from Chennai-Trivandrum and the 5 star hotel in Chennai before flying home on March 25 (very early morning) with my travel agent.  Those prices are NOT included in my package price.

PACKAGE PRICE IS $1,950.00 (OR $1,925.00 for one garden view cottage at Varkala resort) WITH A PORTION OF YOUR PAYMENT GOING TO THE BANYAN, A WOMEN’S SHELTER IN CHENNAI.

THE BEST PART IS THAT I AM GIVING A $100 DISCOUNT IF YOU MAKE ONE PAYMENT IN FULL BY JANUARY 1, 2013!

YOU CAN REGISTER AND PAY NOW ON MY WEBSITE PAGE.

ASK ME ABOUT THE “NO YOGA” RATE IF YOUR FRIEND/PARTNER WANTS TO ACCOMPANY YOU BUT DOESN’T WANT TO PARTAKE IN YOGA.

You are responsible for your international and domestic flights, one day/night stay your last 24 hours in Chennai, your Indian visa, food other than breakfast, sight-seeing, ayurvedic treatments in Kerala (if so desired), tips, and ground transportation in Chennai and Varkala.  Please be aware that your India visa starts on the day it is issued, NOT when you land in India.

This trip will be geared toward yoga teachers, serious practitioners, and those who are independent travelers and who can go with the flow.  I won’t sugar-coat it:  Ma India can kick your ass but good.  It did mine the beginning of this trip, my 6th, and then I surrendered and let go.  Once I did that, all was good.

The entire trip will be from March 10-March 24 (arrange  your flight to leave Monday, March 25 or thereafter.)  You must spend a day decompressing from your flight to India and acclimating a bit before KYM classes start on Monday, March 11.  However, I can tell you that after 6 trips with 16+ hour flights to India, I do not have jet lag when I arrive — I hit the ground running.

I’m throwing this out to the Universe.  Doing the best I can and letting the rest go.

Let me know your interest.

not where I had my treatment — I liked the sign!
looking healthy and happy in Varkala

“Personality According to Ancient Indian Teachings”

Patanjali

Written by S SRIDHARAN, TRUSTEE, KRISHNAMACHARYA YOGA MANDIRAM, CHENNAI — from KYM Newsletter, April 2012

The ancient Indian model of human beings. “Personality”, given in the Upanishads, consists of the ‘five’ sheaths.  They are ‘Annamaya’, ‘Pranamaya’, ‘Manomaya’, ‘Vijnanamaya’, and ‘Anandamaya’.   ‘Annamaya’ represents that segment of the human system which is nourished by ‘anna’, i.e. food.   ‘Pranamaya’ is that segment which is nourished by ‘prana’, i.e. ‘bio-energy’.   ‘Manomaya’ is the segment nourished by ‘education’.   ‘Vijnanamaya’ is nourished by ‘ego’ and ‘Anandamaya’ is the segment nourished by ‘emotions’.

[NOTE:  THE WORD “KOSHAS” IS NOT USED TO REFERENCE TO THE SHEATHS  BECAUSE KRISHNAMACHARYA DID NOT BELIEVE THAT THE BODY COULD BE REPRESENTED AS “BAGS”, WHICH IS WHAT KOSHAS MEANS]

Each of these five segments has a head, two wings, a body and a tail.   ‘Vijnanamaya’ which represent our ‘individual personality’ has ‘shraddha (faith)’ as head, ‘rtham (righteousness)’ as right wing, ‘satyam (truth)’ as left wing, ‘yoga (meditation)’ as body, and ‘mahat (source of all knowledge)’ as the tail.   “Vijnanamaya” represents ‘Buddhi’ which is the ‘determinative knowledge’ or ‘intelligence’ of what has been learnt through the ‘Manomaya’.

This ‘Vijnanamaya’ is different from one person to another and that is why the textual knowledge learnt is interpreted and practiced differently by different people.  However, for the ‘Vijnanamaya’ to lead towards the right path, the most important factor is ‘Shraddha’, the faith in what one has learnt.   It should be backed up with righteousness and truth in practice.   For these to be firmly imbibed one should take to ‘Yoga’.

Development

While the words ‘Development’ and ‘Evolution’ are considered as one, there are differences.   Upanishads talk of ‘Evolution’ rather than simple ‘Development’.   Evolution involves ‘discovery of the divine’ in us and everyone.   While ‘Development’ calls for sharpening skills and adding certain traits, etc., ‘Evolution’ calls for removal of impediments in the ‘realisation of Self’.   The major impediment in ‘Evolution’ is the ‘Klesas’ which consist of ‘Avidya’ (Wrong knowledge), ‘Asmita’ (Ego).  ‘Raaga’ (Lust).  ‘Dvesha’ (Hatred).  and ‘Abhinivasa” (Fear).   ‘Evolution’ is continuous process till the goal is reached.   It does not stop with simple ‘recognitions’ by Society or Institutions.

Modern day ills

In the modern day context, Personality Development is the sum total of the achievements of the individual in academic, art, sports, business or other areas.   Often a successful person is considered to be a totally developed person.   However, the moral and ethical aspects of life are not given importance.   Today’s ills are on account of the fact that textual knowledge is segregated from the practice of ‘truth’.   The university education lacks ‘Shraddha’ and that causes the mind to act in ‘sinful’ ways.   It has become a common scene to see how highly educated individuals take to violence and deceitful ways.   To put it in terms of the ancient Indian model, the development is just up to the “Manomaya” level.

Holistic approach

A holistic approach in personality development, in this context, therefore, would mean a proper development in all the five maya-s.   Any practice should aim at developing the maya-s simultaneously well and work in harmony.   “Personality Development” is “Evolution” towards reaching the ‘Divine’ in the individual which is at the ‘Anandamaya’ level.

Message from Bhagavad Gita

The first and foremost message of Bhagavad Gita in the context of Personality Development is that even the most learned, highly successful and fearless can suddenly enter into a state of ‘despondency’ leading to ‘inaction’.   Arjuna represents the state of normal human beings, even though achieving greater heights have a chance to ‘fall’ if they don’t take to the path of ‘divinity’ and achieve the goal.

The ‘Divine’ qualities one should aim to possess are given in the Sixteenth Chapter and are as follows:

Abhayam:  Fearlessness
Sattva samsuddhi:  Purity of Mind
Jnanayogavyavasthitam:  Practice of Yoga for Self-realisation
Danam:  Charity
Damam:  Control of Senses
Yajnam:  Performance of Sacrifice
Svadhyayam:  Study of texts for ‘Self-realisation’
Tapas:  Austerity
Aarjavam:  Straightforwardness
Ahimsa:  Nonviolence
Satyam:  Truthfulness
Akrodham:  Absence of anger
Thyagam:  Renunciation
Shanti:  Tranquility
Apaishunam:   Aversion to faultfinding
Daya:  Compassion
Bhuteshvaloluptvam:  Freedom from covetousness
Mardavam:  Modesty
Hri:  Shame in doing unrighteous deeds
Achapalam:  Absence of craving
Tejas:  Vigour
Kshama:   Forgiveness
Dhriti:  Fortitude
Soucham:  Cleanliness
Adroham:  Freedom from envy
Natimanita:  Absence of self esteem

The ‘demonic’ qualities one should aim to get rid of are:
Dhamba:  Pride
Darpa:  Arrogance
Abhimanam:  Conceit
Krodha:  Anger
Parushyam:  Sternness
Ajnanam:  Ignorance

Yoga the best tool for Personality Deveopment

Yoga is aptly fitted, for holistic personality development, because its tools are varied and integrated.   ‘Asana’ practice for ‘Annamaya’, ‘Pranayama’ for ‘Pranamaya’, ‘Svadhyaya’ or Study of scriptures for ‘Manomaya’,  and ‘Vigyanamaya’ and ‘Isvarapranidhana’ for ‘Anandamaya’.

While the practice for everyone could differ from one to another, there are some ancient methods which have been handed over from time immemorial.  One such practice, which aims at ‘holistic personality development’, is the ‘Sandhyavandanam’, the prayer to Sun.

The word ‘Sandhyavandanam’ is split as ‘sandhya+vandanam’.   ‘Sandhya” is the name of ‘Sun God’ and ‘Vandanam’ means to ‘prostrate’.   There are at least 22 steps, which has ‘asana’, ‘pranayama’, ‘nyasa’.  ‘mudra’,  and ‘japa’.

There are a number of vedic mantras used in the ‘Sandhyavandanam’, but the main mantra which is used for ‘japa’ is ‘Gayatri Mantra’.

The ‘Gayatri Mantra’ is:

“Om hurbhuvassuvah tatsaviturvareniyam bhargodevasyadeemahi dhiyoyonapprachodayat”

The brief meaning is:

“Let me meditate on the effulgence of the Supreme Being in the Sun, which kindles our intellect.”

The concept behind this Mantra meaning is that all our actions lead us to happiness or sorrow and behind the actions is the intellect.   If the intellect is clear and is bereft of the impurities of selfishness, greed and lust, our actions will always lead us to happiness.

Sun is considered as the ‘visible God’ (pratyaksha devata) the provider of life to the Universe.   Sun is responsible for all the development in the Universe.

The highest knowledge is that which takes one towards the Supreme Being and that is ‘Brahma Vidya’.   The best form of meditation which qualifies one for enquiry into the Supreme Being is Sandhyavandanam.

The holistic development should aim at making human being divine.   Such a development will make one realize divinity in the ‘self’ and in every aspect of the Universe at large.   There is total love and that brings the eternal peace.

“Mechanism of Meditation” — lecture by Kausthub Desikachar, 3/15/12

The second of Kausthub’s lectures at the “Discover Yoga Anatomy” intensive at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, March 2012….

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Many people make claims about meditation, but still don’t  understand it.  They assume that TECHNIQUES are meditation. 

What is happening in modern day science and medicine is that they say meditation works, but we don’t want to understand WHY it works.  Books on this subject are merely guidebooks, they give no explanation as to HOW meditation works.  If we take a tool like meditation and become attached to it, there is no understanding.

WHY is more important than WHAT.

There are three domains of meditation in yoga, but modern yogis are concerned with bendy bodies, fancy clothes, and taking their pictures in front of waterfalls.  They should be applying for jobs in Hollywood, not in yoga.  Yoga is meant to be done as a meditative practice.

The first domain is that meditation is about helping us live our lives better.  We have daily activities, actions concerning the world, we’re part of a social eco-system.  Many times we do not deal appropriately with this eco-system because of our klesas — we make mistakes.  To help us see clearly, to improve our actions, meditation is done.

The second domain of meditation is to improve or regain our health because we get sick, whether it is body, mind, emotions, or spirit.

The third domain has to do with self-realization.  The difference between animals and us is that we are not only interested in eating and sex, but as humans we have the potential for self-realization.  We have the ability to question the meaning of life and our role in it, what we can give back.

It is my hope that there will be enough sanity in future yogis to move beyond the body and go inward.

So how does meditation work in these three domains, because it does not work the same in each.

For the first domain, yoga philosophy says that there is a process in which an action begets another action.  We hear or read something (knowledge) and that awareness creates a desire.  That desire creates an action, so we act from a place of desire.  The action is not the end of the cycle because there is a consequence.  The consequence leaves an impression on us, good or bad.  This is where mistakes happen.

Meditation works here by addressing the source:  is your awareness right or wrong?  Our knowledge is not based on a fact but what we are drawn to.  We have the illusion of clarity, we see what we want to see, not what is really in front of us.

In meditation for this domain, the practice is designed in such a way in order to give us clarity of perception.  It takes us to a neutral space, not from a bias.  Meditation can influence how we see things, i.e. with greater perception of clarity.  In that way, our responses in life become more appropriate — this is the opposite of what we usually do, how we usually react in and to life.

In the second domain, it is given that the mind controls the body.  For example, we have a nightmare and truly believe that whatever is happening in the nightmare is actually happening to us, we have a physical reaction to the nightmare  — that is how strong the mind is over the body.   In the same way our mind can influence us in a positive way.  Modern science is finally seeing this.  When the mind moves into nirodha samskara (YS Ch. 3), the mind becomes stable.  Meditation helps us change the patterns of the mind which can thereby change the patterns of the body.   In yoga philosophy, diseases and health are seen as nothing other than a set of patterns.   Patanjali introduces the concept of yoga therapy in the second and third chapters of the Sutra-s.   The mind is very powerful — there is a reason why it is said “mind over matter” — because the mind can literally change matter.   This seems paranormal, but it is not.

The trouble is that we always want things to change quickly, but change takes time.  The mind is linked with the senses which are linked to matter.  What is held in the mind moves towards what holds the senses.   We have seen what could be called miracles at the Mandiram, when all we do is show a person how to breath, how to meditate, when they came here and could not even lift an arm.

However, the same thing won’t work the same way with everyone.  The stupidity of modern times is that everyone is the same — we want the same prescriptions.  The same focus will be different with everyone.  A metaphor for this is that the same food will be cooked differently whether it is cooked in an electric oven or a traditional tandoor — same food, different result.  How your mind is will affect what the change is.  Giving the same medicine to everyone and expecting the same results is ridiculous.

Patanjali said that each of us has different kinds of mind — which mind that holds the object of meditation will affect the change.  The standardization of meditative practices is rubbish.

The third domain is the spiritual domain.  The exploration of our potential is the spirituality contained in the Yoga Sutra-s.

We all have within us seeds that are dormant, seeds that will grow.  Meditation in the spiritual domain is like a dry field with seeds — prana is equivalent to water for that field.   The prana will irrigate that mind field so that our seeds will sprout.

But we trap ourselves.  We are ignorant of our seeds.  We don’t nourish them because we don’t have the patience.

We don’t want to be who we are, we want to be someone else.  We think being different is somehow better.  This is where acceptance of ourselves is so important — a mango can never be a papaya.  We have to start accepting who were are and stop rejecting who we are.

The river of prana must water the deep levels of the mind, but remember that we also have negative seeds.  Besides the beneficial seeds, a field also has poison seeds, weed seeds — we have to accept both.  We do not have authority to judge ourselves or others.

If prana is remaining in you, it finds you worthy of something — look at the positive, not the negative, because no one is perfect.

“Transformation in Yoga Philosophy” – a lecture by Kausthub Desikachar, 3/7/12

Krishnamacharya

This is the first of four posts on lectures given by Kausthub Desikachar and A.G. Mohan during my two trainings in India during February and March.  I will say, yet again, that I have been blessed beyond belief to have been introduced into the Krishnamacharya lineage as early as I was in my teaching career.  Even after 10 years of teaching, these last two trainings confirmed (again) how vast yoga is, that no matter how many people I have studied with, there is always so much more to learn.  I will never call myself an expert.  It is an honor and a responsibility to be a representative of this lineage.  I hope I can always convey as authentically as possible what I have learned via my trainings in this tradition.

For those who don’t know, Kausthub is the son of T.K.V.  Desikachar, who is the son of Krishnamacharya, the grandfather of modern yoga.

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Transformation begins with a serious practice of yoga.  Throughout the lecture Kausthub emphasized a serious practice of yoga — yoga beyond asana, yoga that is more than skin deep.  He said that according to some ancient texts there are four stages of transformation, other texts talk about 7 stages.   In his lecture he dealt with the Upanisads and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika that talk about our personal transformation having four stages.

It is Kausthub’s belief that not even 5% of people practicing yoga today are in the first stage of transformation, i.e , the state where prana begins to move fluidly in the body (prana being the life force, not merely the breath as is frequently taught in modern yoga.)   He said that most yoga practitioners don’t know what prana really is because they only know asana.  This knowledge of prana does not come from a casual yoga practice; it does not come from a practice that is only about the physical.  Transformation begins when your yoga transcends the body.

The first stage of transformation is when prana flows smoothly throughout the body.  Our perception become very sensitive.  Patanjali speaks to this in YS 3.36.  Our senses change, everything heightens, our sensations are beyond memory and all these happenings really can’t be explained in tangible terms.

At this stage it is very common for people to stop their yoga practice because their entity is so different now, it is discomforting, it is out of the norm.  Our perceptions are altered on a deeper level and this changes our relationships with people, with partners, and sometimes people want to change jobs.  However, Kausthub said that this is not the time to make dramatic decisions.

At the second stage of transformation, there is an identity crisis.  We start feeling like crap.  Our internal drums are beating and there is a loud noise inside us that disturbs our structural foundation, the way we have been accustomed to for so many years.  Our mental patterns are challlenged, our outlook changes, but again, try to make no changes….yet.

This is another stage where people leave their practice, we want to continue but we can’t because things are even more discomforting.  This is the time to especially sustain the practice.  Kausthub said that it is at the end of this second stage that collapse often happens and depression can set in.  The ancient yogis said LET IT COLLAPSE.  Just as an old building starts to collapse, no matter how much you try to prop it up, it’s not the same.  Let it collapse and then build a new foundation for a new building.  This is progress.

The third stage is when new patterns start to manifest, the new structures are built.  Let whatever is new come up slowly, don’t grasp.  It is only by not grasping do these patterns sustain themselves.

The fourth stage is freedom, not bound by any patterns, but this is a stage that few people reach.  It is difficult in modern times because we are still attached to so many things.

There was a different teacher-student role in every stage of transformation.  That is the way it was in the olden days as my teacher Ramaswami calls the ancient times which is very different from now.   In the olden days, yoga was taught one-on-one, teachers did not teach to 300 at a yoga conference.  There was absolute trust between teacher and student and the teacher was the platform of support for the student when the student’s structure was changing.

Kausthub believes that model is seriously lacking in modern yoga.  Back in the day this teacher-student model was taken for granted but nowadays it is not consistent because there are too many styles of yoga and many of the giants of yoga who could lead people in these transformations are now dead.  As for yoga teachers nowadays, Kausthub said that if anyone tells you something is absolute, like “this pose will always help X”, “this pose will cure X”, “X pranayama will change this”, know that it’s bullshit because nothing is absolute.  Every mind, every body, every day is different.

  The tools of yoga (asana, pranayama, meditation) don’t have power on their own; their power comes from the way they are practiced.  He gave an example of child’s pose:  it’s called child’s pose because it’s so easy a child can do.  Do it over and over without any emphasis on the breath or mental awareness and it’s just movement.  But taking 15 seconds to do it with emphasis on the breath and mental awareness has power because you are releasing your prana in a totally different way.

Don’t evaluate your yoga by your level of flexibility or your ability to get into a pretzel pose — only evaluate your yoga by the transformative effect it has on you.  When someone asked Kausthub “how do I find a teacher like you are talking about?”, he said “instead of looking for a teacher, ask if YOU are ready to be a student.  Seek to be a student first, then you will you find your teacher.”

Referencing current problems in modern  yoga, Kausthub said the main problem, in his opinion, is that anyone can be a yoga teacher nowadays.  Everyone wants to be a teacher but there is no accountability.  Of course training is important, but being a good teacher is not about how much you know but is about your transformation.  A serious question to ask is:  if someone is going through these stages of transformation, and their teacher just graduated from a 200 hour training, how in the world can a newbie teacher cope with the questions that student will ask if the teacher herself has not experienced those stages yet?  In the olden days, a teacher always needed their own teacher before they could call themselves an ACHARYA, and that practice no longer exists in modern yoga.  Because anyone can call themselves anything nowadays!  Look for a teacher who has a current relationship with a teacher, but focus on the teachings, not the teacher.  Kausthub said his father and grandfather were not perfect men, they were not perfect teachers, but they had a passion for the teachings.  That is what makes a great teacher.  Freedom is not about being perfect, it’s about making friends with your imperfections.

Making a veiled reference to Friendgate, Kausthub said this is not the first time yoga has faced difficulties.  If the spiritual teachings are valid, yoga will sustain; if yoga is merely a fashion, it will not sustain.   The teachings are much larger than any crisis modern yoga is currently experiencing.