Here are some highlights from the past two weeks of conference with Sharath...
"What makes a good Yoga Practitioner?"
Sharath spoke about this at conference two weeks back on December 9th.
"It is the student's determination and dedication to continue practicing daily that makes a good practitioner. It is not about how flexible you are. Yoga is to help us get rid of the ego, to become more humble and grounded."
"Guruji (Sri K. Pattabhi Jois), was very special in his simplicity and humility. He had a very direct way of transmitting the teachings of the Parampara" (the lineage of teaching flowing down directly from teacher to student).
"The practice of Yoga should not make us more critical of others, it ought to be practiced for Self-Transformation. When we are able to change ourselves, then the whole world can be changed by us. We should focus daily on how to develop more deeply the qualities of Yoga within. As we become more established in the Yamas and Niyamas, our perception will change, and society will change as a result of our work."
Japa (mantra / prayer recitation) is good to practice in the evening.
"Twenty minutes of the Maha Mantra (Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare; Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare), or any prayer that is meaningful to you will help to calm your mind, and you will sleep very well."
For example: if you are Catholic, you can recite the Holy Rosary (Hail Mary Full of Grace...) or if Protestant, The Lord's Prayer.
Anything that you connect with on a personal level, that can calm your mind, and lift your spirit is good to recite.
The Japa should be meaningful to you, and your thoughts should be focused on good things while chanting, then the effects will be very beneficial.
"Japa can also help to develop Bhavana (Spiritual Development) within you, and this will lead to Ishvara Pranidhana" (Surrender to a Greater Power).
This week, December 16th, Sharath gave the example of Hanuman opening his chest to reveal that only Sita & Rama reside inside. He said that "this is a good example of full devotion, or Ishvara Pranidhana."
Someone asked about diet, and a vegetarian diet was recommended for various reason, the food is easier to digest, healthier for your body, and it also upholds Ahimsa (non-violence).
Pain and Fear were discussed. Sharath said, "new postures can bring fear, but if the practice was very easy, then students would loose interest, so a little fear makes the practice enjoyable."
"Pain makes you more aware of what you are doing during practice." However, it is important "not to over-stress your body either in practice or doing extra stretching outside of the practice." Sometimes it can take a while for a pain to subside.
Sharath talked about the back pain that he had for 4 years, but with slow, gentle, patient practice, he was able to heal himself fully, through the practice itself.
If you are practicing without focus, there is more chance of injury. Also, when first beginning new postures, sometimes there can be pain in the body. The body keeps changing, monthly, yearly, and you should progress slowly in the practice, to allow for this change. Don't hurry or rush the process, or there is a greater chance of injury.
Sharath told of a time when he waited 3 years before Guruji gave him a new posture, and emphasized that it was good to go slowly and patiently in your daily practice, and keep increasing your awareness in the postures that you are already practicing, rather then always wanting something more.
"Ashtanga Yoga is best learned in the Mysore style. Only in this format can a new student really begin to understand the correct breathing." They will receive more guidance in the Mysore style then what can be given during a Led Class. "The group Led Classes are too fast for beginners, and if you don't know what you are doing, there is more chance for injuring yourself. The Led Classes are to help students learn the proper Vinyasa counts, how to move correctly with the breath, and to help to build up stamina."
He also talked about how this practice can at times create a lot of heat, and how coconut oil can be put on the head daily to help relieve some of the heat, especially if you are already prone to overheating. He also talked about how traditionally in South India, they would take a Castor Oil bath once a week, either on Saturday or Sunday, to reduce any excess heat in the body.
Personally, one of my favorite parts was when he said, "Yoga should keep happening within you day and night, not just when practicing asanas. Yogic thoughts should be there all the time."
(Keep focusing the mind more and more on practicing the Yamas and Niyamas)
"Yoga is not simply a physical practice. It is not about showing off. The Yoga is what must happen inside, once you try to realize the true inner self, the inner soul."
All our attention is outside ourselves most of the time, and the senses keep pulling us outwards.
"Yoga is learning to withdraw all your senses inside, inwardly, to see the inner self, then the Yoga happens. This should be the goal of Yoga, to realize the True Self, and if this is your goal, you will progress very well."
Conference ended with three of our friends here in Mysore receiving Certification. A huge congratulations to Gabriele Severini, Tarik Thami, and Kranti! We love you guys!
Thanks to Max Czenszak for the use of this great photo
Om Namah Shivaya!