Notes by Josh Pryor
Yoga is sadhana, this means many years of practice with guidance. Without guidance it is impossible to reach higher levels of realisation. Books are very good, academia, but real experience you need, with guidance. Guru will remove obstacles and ignorance, taking towards brightness, jnana.
Doing advanced series, having flexible body, does not make you enlightened. Application of sutras in daily life is what takes you there, thoughts become action. Following ahimsa brings good thoughts. Satya also to ourselves and in interactions with others.
Youtube is not parampara! A student once came, he said he has studied much youtube video, but when practicing, there is no dristi, breath incorrect, open hands when they should be closed. People forget aspects of yoga over time, not just asana. There is a method, if not followed it becomes a circus. You can relish your practice, enjoy it, do it from your heart, then it initiates. The process that happens within you, you have to allow it to happen.
If you want to know the depth of the sea, you can keep sailing and sailing all around the world, but you come to the wrong conclusion. Only when you go inside, then you can know, see the beautiful things underneath. Until you go inside you don’t see what is there. You can keep reading books, but until you practice in-depth understanding is not starting to unfold.
In saucha there are two types, internal and external. Internal cleanliness means our body should be cleared of toxins, by doing asana our mind is cleared and good thoughts allowed to build. External means our mat, clothes must be clean, and our body bathed.
Santosa also happens not just on the outside. Some people you see smiling, but they are not satisfied, inside there is competition and wanting. Some other people are always unhappy, even when they get what they want. Being born is a gift, how you use it is very important, relish each moment. Things may seem the same, like this conference, same people and same place, yet still slightly different. Santosa is not having something, it is to be grateful. Half of your stress will come down then.
Tapas also, discipline, sometimes people think it means being hard to yourself, like military strictness. It is consistency, maintaining a suitable lifestyle, not excessive sleep. My grandfather taught for 70 years, waking at 3am, teaching, he would not eat until 2pm, only taking coffee or glass of milk before then. You should not do this though! [laughter]
Svadyaha, self study, it’s not that you believe you don’t need a teacher, it is additional personal study. Like today, I am talking about sadhana, so you study after. Conference, there are different kinds, you can use in different ways. Teacher giving knowledge, also entertainment, stories.
[Sharath tells a favourite story from his childhood, about cheeky monkey convincing a tiger not to eat him].
Real application is what we want, what we should concentrate on.
Very important for sadhakas to know and realise in their own practice.
Q: Sometimes all the intensity of asana takes me away from depth and I get distracted by sensations, how do we maintain?
A: You can put more focus into asana. Pain is always there, when you are doing asana or somewhere else, it’s just a different sort. When doing asana, your attention is coming, it must be there. During kapotasana, is your attention there, and do you realise that your mind in that moment has stopped thinking other things? Attention must be there. If you just leave your mind idle, there is so much wandering. Asana brings focus, this is the depth. The concentration grows strong, with many years practice and with good intention. Intention is very important, like a knife, can be used to cut sweet fruit, or to injure. Again, you can try, stop practicing for 15 days, you will see how nice your mind was, how your concentration was.
Q: When practicing with a guru is so important, what if our guru is very famous and we are unable to get a place to study with him?
A: Then you know the value of the guru! [laughter] There are so many students here, lots of good intentions. Energy levels are very high.
[Sharath tells story about a young, enlightened, Buddha-like boy who drew crowds of people without speaking, just being present, doing his own yoga, at a tree where people would congregate]
Q: With the primary series, is there a goal or a theme, why were these poses chosen?
A: There is a goal and there is not a goal. Some students have goals, some not. These poses were chosen to cure diseases. Strengthen and stretches body, heals the body. Janusirsana, maricyasana, kurmasana and supta kurmasana, these are very good for health. You should not have a goal, if you do, frustration can come. Just keep doing.
Q: When we jump through to seated is it okay if we need to take extra breaths?
A: You can take extra breaths. Use surya namaskar, with more practice you can build strong lungs, full breathing.
[Sharath tells story about Guruji having to go to hospital before travelling to Australia because he had some small phlegm in his lungs, they asked him to blow into a device to measure lung capacity, and his breath was so strong they had to ask him to stop because he might break the machine]
Q: As we practice, we add new poses, when we get older can we have poses cut from our practice?
A: Mind stays young as the body ages. Some poses I used to do 10 years ago I am not doing now, with so much teaching. Effort must be there, otherwise laziness. Don’t say “I am old”, that is just the body. Bhagavad Gita says everyone has 100 years, don’t waste. Socialising is important but that is not life.
Spiritual life, self-realisation is the most important, going in search.