Guru: where are you?

Belated wishes of Guru Purnima. We all Yogis and Yoginis remember our teachers, Gurus and guides who have shown us the path of light, the path of wisdom and feel the gratitude. It is a wonderful feeling and a way of imprinting the importance of Light & Wisdom into our mind-body.

History

Let us see the historical significance. Guru Poornima is also celebrated as Vyasa Poornima. The full moon day of this month (Poornima) is the day of Vyasa. Vyasa was the one who classified the Vedas into four divisions such as RgVeda, YajurVeda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda. He became popular as Veda Vyasa, the one who classified the Vedas. He is also the codifier – composer of the great Indian epic – Mahabharata. As he composed the story in the form of poems, it was penned down by Lord Ganesha!

Vyasa has narrated, composed Mahabharata in its poetic form based on what was seen, experienced by him. Hence, it is a poetical expression of the history. Considered as wise and respected in every corner of ancient India, he has also become the spiritual thread of holding the society intact.

He has also written the commentary on Yoga sutras of Patanjali (There are some scholars claiming a different Vyasa being the author of this text, though). He has also contributed in finding the essence of the Upanishads in the research text “Brahma Sutras“, one of the most significant texts on the study of the Upanishads.

 

Veda Vyasa

Guru: A human being?

Vyasa being the torch-bearer of all the Gurus, worshipped on the day of Guru Poornima. A civilised society needs to respect and worship those who share the knowledge, wisdom and bring positive side of the life into every human’s life. Hence, it is an important celebration.

Guru doesn’t have to be only human being. If you have the eyes to see, Guru can be in anything and everything. Every situation in life can be a Guru. Every living being can be a Guru. A tree teaches you how to balance. It is a Guru. A crow (Kakasana) teaches how to focus. It is a Guru. A small kid teaches how to be pure. Someone teaches you how to be humble. May be a book that shares some knowledge. It doesn’t have to relate to Yoga / spirituality. If I am able to learn something and that is making my life beautiful, the source is Guru. We are on the earth for a short period of life and would love to lead a beautiful life. Anything / anyone helping me in this journey is my Guru.

To all those Gurus who are thousands in numbers, in living and non-living forms, let us always be grateful. The best way to be grateful to a Guru is by being a better student.

Happy Guru Poornima.

Ashtanga Yoga: Why do we teach teacher training?

Ashtanga Yoga tradition as taught by Sri K Pattabhi Jois or by R Sharath has been evolving based on Guru-Shishya Parampara. It is always practicing under the guidance of the Guru and then the repetition of what’s been learnt with the teacher until the next visit to the teacher. The most unique part is the teaching of the Guru to every single student isn’t the same. Based on his/her capabilities the Guru teachers individually. This is one of the most possible ways of brining age-old Gurukula system of learning prevailed in ancient India.

Now though the tradition of Ashtanga Yoga doesn’t allow any mass-teaching such as teacher training, there have been schools of Yoga teaching Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Training courses.

Why do we teach teacher training in Ashtanga Yoga particularly.

EXPLORE THE SYSTEM OF ASHTANGA YOGA

At Samyak Yoga Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Training, we try to put forth the system of Ashtanga Yoga as it is. The students explore the primary series, the structure of it, the intelligence of sequencing behind it etc. It is a foundation to understand the Ashtanga primary series.

It is also necessary for any serious Yoga practitioner to start working on Yogasutras of Patanjali. During the teacher training, we study seriously on the philosophy of Ashtanga Yoga as written/codified by Patanjali. This widens the perspective of the student towards the Yoga system.

Mysore style

MYSORE STYLE PRACTICE

Most often, students of Ashtanga Yoga find it hard to remember the sequencing of the primary series in the beginning. The Mysore style classes can be harder and confusing for those who aren’t used to it. During the training at Samyak Yoga, students build slowly the Mysore style and get used to the environment of Mysore style and deepen their practice.

TRISTHANA PRACTICE OF ASHTANGA YOGA

As Sri Pattabhi Jois mentions, the Tristhana Practice i.e. Asanas, Breathing and Drishti are the inevitable components of the Ashtanga practice. Coordinating them with an ease on the mat is a challenge and with proper guidance of a teacher, the practice can be rhythmic and progressive. It benefits the student to explore the deeper dimensions of Ashtanga Yoga.

SANSKRIT NAMES AND COUNTING

Ashtanga Practice isn’t just about the practice of the series. Your practice of Ashtanga can get deeper when you know the meaning of the Asanas, the philosophy behind and Sanskrit names of the Asanas. You should also make an effort to count the Vinyasas in Sanskrit. The sounds, the energy and frequency of these words bring an atmosphere that makes your practice holistic and sacred.

VINYASA KRAMA OF ASHTANGA YOGA

One of the difficult aspects of Ashtanga Yoga is its Vinyasa Krama. It is though very significant aspect, rarely understood very clearly by practitioners. How many Vinyasas in a particular asana practice, the logic behind it; why another set of asanas do follow a different intuitive Vinyasa Krama are discussed during the training. This is definitely very handy for students who want to deepen their practice in Ashtanga Yoga.

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BUSTING THE MYTHS

Ashtanga Yoga is surrounded by many myths. Often understood as injurious, very strict practice wherein you can’t change the sequence, a flow practice good for fit people etc. It is very important to come out of the dogma surrounded and explore the practice and philosophy without the cults attached.

Our Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Training is a process in building the practice and philosophy of Ashtanga Yoga. It is a foundation to the basics, the significant aspects of Ashtanga Yoga so that the students should be able to deepen their traditional Ashtanga Yoga with ease and seriousness.

A letter from Patanjali to a Yoga Student

Dear Yoga Student,

I am very pleased to know that you have taken up the yoga practice. I am glad that ‘you want to know yourself‘. This was supposed to be the first and most significant aspect of life. Finally, the journey has taken its pace.

I was also in your phase of life once. Hence, I would like to share some tips with you. I hope these tips will keep you on the track and enable you to use your energy efficiently.

Do not allow the mind to achieve the practice. The practice of Asanas, Pranayama, Meditation etc. should be less result-oriented. They are more process oriented. Confused? You should enjoy the process of practice. For example, you set a goal that you want to improve hip opening. Set your goals. Find the best methods and start practicing. If the results are beneficial, treat them as a bonus. More you enjoy the practice, more you gain the results. The moment you start chasing the result, you lose it. And frustration chases you.

Always make sure that it matters less of what you practice, but what matters the most is ‘who you are when you practice’. Be a witness of you while practicing. More you witness, more you understand. This understanding of you allows refinement. As you refine, the Yogi inside manifests outside.

Being a Yogi has no types. You do not have to follow any type of physical appearances. Perhaps, this is one such practice that should make you free from all types. Do not allow ‘the path of freedom to create a new bondage’.

Being a Yogi doesn’t permit you to be arrogant. Do not think you’re special. No one is special. You are different from everyone else. It is same with others too. They are also different from you. The first few signs of development in the path of Yoga can be being kind, generous and humble.

You are what you do every day. Be regular with your practice. It is not only limited to Asanas. Be regular in being kind to people. Make a habit of being positive regularly. Be aware of how your body, speech, and actions speak. Over the time these practices become a habit and shape your character.

What you are on the mat is a reflection of what you are off the mat and vice-versa. Reduce your anger during the practice and it reflects in the life. Be more pleasant in the daily life and it reflects in your practice.

That’s long, isn’t it? Did you ask me where to find a teacher like me? Open your inner eyes. The teacher is everywhere. In every action, in every plant and birds, in every smile and light, in misery and frustrations.

I have always been in your heart trying to tell you. Often take some time off and sit with eyes closed. I will always be ready to share.

Until then, let me sign off.

Yours always

This is an imaginary letter from Patanjali to a modern Yoga student.

Inter-dependence in the web of life

Often I was asked during the Philosophy sessions during the Yoga Teacher Training about the freedom or free will of the human. Is there something called free will for a human being? Or is it Karma that decides everything in our life? Yoga explains this complex question with a symbolic expression. It says human life […]

Is 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training enough to be a Yoga teacher?

Is 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training enough for someone to be qualified as a Yoga Teacher? This is one of the biggest discussions in the world of Yoga. And definitely, the obvious answer is No. And most of the time we are comfortable in finding enough reasons to conclude that a 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training won’t make someone a Yoga Teacher.

But it is a half presented argument if you deeply ponder over.

As a matter of fact, even 2000 (Two Thousand) Hour training isn’t enough for someone to be a Yoga Teacher. ‘The number of hours trained’ is a modern educational thought and can’t certify someone wise enough to teach. That too if it is Yoga practice.

 

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The criteria for someone to be a Yoga teacher, in particular, is something different.

Have you been practicing or trying to practice Yoga in your life? Is teaching yoga your passion? Do you have “the student” in you awake always in seeking knowledge? Do you treat every student as a complete individual without generalizing him/her as one among many?  Is your teaching an extension of learning and sharing? Are you able to live a life that can teach Yoga more than the techniques that you have adapted?

Have you been practicing or trying to practice Yoga in your life? Is teaching yoga your passion? Do you have “the student” in you awake always in seeking knowledge? Do you treat every student as a complete individual without generalizing him/her as one among many?  Is your teaching an extension of learning and sharing? Are you able to live a life that can teach Yoga more than the techniques that you have adapted?

These are some of many factors that can refine you as a Yoga teacher, not the number of hours or a particular technique.

If there is an asana teacher with decades of experience but filled with negative attitude and the other with less knowledge of techniques but passionate to share with genuineness. Whom should I choose as my Yoga Teacher?

“Teaching Yoga” is not like any fitness training wherein only skill, knowledge or experience is enough. And of course, it is not a transitory profession wherein anyone or everyone can teach. You need to blend the knowledge with passion and as time passes with dedicated learning, experience melts with humbleness. Yoga in your life is passed in the form of teaching on the Yoga mat. Students will carry the same off the mat too.

 

What is the Philosophy of Yoga School?

What is the philosophy of Yoga at Samyak Yoga School during Yoga Teacher Training? We are often encountered with this question and I always wanted to present it to every one.

To put it simple, we do not have one. Patanjali’s philosophy is our philosophy.

We do not have any other philosophy and even if we have, they do not come in during the sessions of Yoga Teacher Training.

Yoga Philosophy with Arvind

As a Yoga School, we are trying our best to present Yoga Philosophy as it is the Philosophy of Yoga as explained in the Vedas, Upanishads, in Gita, by Patanjali and other great teachers. It is our sole effort to bring you the philosophy and practice as it is, not the way we think.

You are not here during the training at Samyak Yoga in Mysore to know what do we think about a particular topic. You are not here all the way from your country to know my individual opinion about a part of Yoga practice and philosophy.

You are here to know what Yoga Philosophy is in its most possible authentic form. As a Yoga Teacher, I might fail some time in presenting the precise philosophy due to my communication, or language barrier or an example less suitable.

But as a Yoga Teacher, I should and will always try to bring the Yoga Philosophy in its most authentic form so that you know what the Yoga Philosophy is, and not an individual Yoga teacher’s opinion about Yoga philosophy is.

We the teachers at Samyak Yoga hope and try every day to bring you the Philosophy of Yoga as it is.

Traditional Hatha Yoga Asana Practice

Traditional Hatha Yoga Asana practice can be basically categorized into three components, which are standing, sitting and finishing. These three components comprise the basic framework of the asana practice.

Yogi Trupta in Hanumanasana

Standing Asanas: 

Standing asanas are always the foundation of asana practice. They are for building the strength, balance and opening the hips. Standing asanas create the necessary foundation of the spine, the entire system to get in tune with the practice that is followed. You won’t be able to fuse standing asanas while practicing sitting or add a set of sitting asanas while creating the foundation with standing asanas.

Sitting asanas:

After a sufficient time spent in the standing series, you get into Sitting set. Sitting asanas here include all variety of asanas on the mat, i.e. forward folds, twists, hip openings, back bends, lying down on the spine and even on the stomach. These asanas are traditionally considered to be the main elements of the practice. You will practice standing asanas for the sitting sets. Sitting asanas get the textual reference too as they are the most important elements among all.

Finishing asanas:

Finishing asanas generally bringing the calmness, relaxing the system, creating the mental atmosphere for the Pranayama and Meditation. This is also very significant element as it allows the system to swallow the benefits of the entire asana practice. This generally includes inversions such as Sarvangasana series, Shirshasana series and Shavasana.

This is a basic frame of the Hatha Yoga asana practice. We will discuss the different levels of asana practice in the next article.

– Namaste –

What is Traditional Hatha Yoga?

There is no Yoga practice without following the tradition, on the first hand. Yoga has always been the technique offered by the teacher to the student. Hence, first of all, every Yoga practice is always backed by its tradition.

As there are so many varieties of Hatha Yoga practices unlike Ashtanga Yoga, the quest to know what is traditional Hatha Yoga is valid.

 

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Every Hatha Yoga practice is different

Hatha Yoga, the foundation of all the Asana-Pranayama practices has been an individual practice. It has to be understood without the influence of modern fitness perspective. Yoga teacher always teaches the student in front of him, not the techniques the teacher has learnt. A Yoga teacher can not present just what he knows, instead he should have the ability to adapt, modify and made it accessible to the student based on the abilities – limitations of the student. Of course, in this situation, Hatha Yoga classes do vary from person to person, place to place.

Basic Framework for Hatha Yoga practice

But there is a basic framework to be followed in the Hatha Yoga tradition. Hatha Yoga tradition emphasizes on the Kriya – Asana combination as the first step supported with the sattvic food. Kriya doesn’t necessarily mean only Shat Kriyas (six purification techniques). But every purification technique which removes the toxins from body-mind.

Therefore, you will have mantra chanting, Japa (repetition of a specific mantra), Jala neti, Trataka, Kirtans (inculcating humbleness), traditional meditation techniques for the initiation to Pratyahara etc as part of the Hatha Yoga practice. These support the traditional Hatha Yoga asana practice.

What is traditional Hatha Yoga asana practice? we will see in the next blog.

– namaste –

A thank you note for Guru

Here is a Thank you note for the Guru, perhaps for all the Gurus, and to the Guru inside on the special occasion of Guru Purnima. Guru Purnima is one of the most auspicious days in the lives of Yogis. Guru Purnima or Vyasa Purnima is celebrated as the day of Gurus, the day to pay our salutations to the Gurus leading us in the path of awareness.

As Yogis we work on expanding awareness. This is being done through variety of techniques adapted by different traditions, different people. Our techniques, methods might seem different and shorter milestones too might be different. But the goal of every Yogi in this path of practice is expansion of consciousness, being aware of the actions and refining ourselves to become better humans.

Certification

This is also the day when we remember those Gurus, the teachers who inspired us in the path of knowledge, who ignited  curiosity in exploring the world outside. There were a few who led us to explore the world inside too. As Yogis, always thankful for what has been given, we offer our respects to all theses Gurus, teachers.

There is also a Guru inside us, who often get neglected. The light, the god within, the “right voice”, which is the real Guru who is found, explored with the help of an external Guru. This is an occasion to introspect about this life of being more aware of actions, keeping the Light inside active, alert and functioning.

Let this inner Guru be shining, spreading Love and Light.

200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training is over. Am I a Yoga Teacher now?

No, you are not. 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training can be a good foundation for you to explore the practice & philosophy of Yoga if you are opting a good yoga school. It can bring out the teacher in you if they have sessions on teaching yoga every day.  But one month training is not something makes you a yoga teacher.

Then, how many hours of teacher training is required?

Even 1000 Hour training is not enough you won’t have the passion. But if you have the passion, knowledge and the way to communicate, you will succeed in teaching. You can’t compare Yoga training with other professional training courses. Often you find a teacher teaching a great class after 200 Hour training while some pathetic classes even after a few years of teaching.

When should I start teaching after the training? 

You should teach right after the training. It is not because you are ready to teach. It is because you are ready to learn now how to teach. You will refine your teaching every day.

I will first focus on practice and then by next year I will teach. What do you think?

Teaching and practice, though they are connected, are different frames. You can be a great practitioner. But to harness your skills of teaching, you need to teach on a regular basis. If you have gained the confidence of teaching during your teacher training, then to wait for a few months to begin the teaching can make it harder. Teaching and practice can go hand in hand.

Two ways to refine your teaching skills.

1. The first and foremost after the 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training is to teach wherever there is a possibility. Grab the opportunity to teach because you want to learn “how to teach”. This experience of teaching different people enhances the quality of teaching.

2. Attend different classes with teachers who are good at their teaching. Observe their classes. If possible teach classes while asking them to watch. You can also use the videos of you teaching Yoga classes.

Even after 10 years of practice, following a legendary tradition, being a disciple of someone, travelling to India and practicing with many teachers won’t help unless you teach the classes.

Happy practicing and teaching Yoga.