I’ve just finished the first week in Mysore and as always it’s been full of memorable experiences. The first practice in the Mysore room instantly confirms why I come back here each year. My mind is steady and focused, the body is energised and there is nothing like being back in the presence of my teacher.
It’s also always lovely to reconnect with old friends, many who I have known for almost nine years now. Most are also teaching in other parts of the world, and therefore share a similar path of daily practice, teaching, and annual trips back to the source.
This year I was happy to meet up with a friend from Sydney, Nadia. On Friday afternoon we made the most of the gorgeous afternoon weather and headed up Chamundi Hill to see the sunset. Chamundi is one of the most scared hills in South India and a popular place of pilgrimage to worship the Goddess Chamundi. Over the years I have taken many trips to Chamundi, often walking up the steep steps in the morning (on a non yoga day) or travelling up by bike or rickshaw.
This time I specifically wanted to visit the temple to make a special “puja” for a friend who is hoping to conceive. Indian temples are always surprisingly chaotic and not particularly peaceful. I often get confused of exactly what I should be doing but hopefully my gesture will not go unnoticed by the goddess, who represents the divine feminine.
(Buying the items to be used for the puja in the temple – some flowers, coconut and banana)
(I bought this mala and bought it on….then I was told I was meant to be giving it to the goddess Chamundi! No photos are allowed in in the temple – so her identity will remain a mystery!)
Here are some excerpts from yesterday’s conference by Sharath (February 2, 2014).
Yoga is to bring steadiness to the body and to still the mind. The mind is like a monkey, always jumping, constantly running. It is very impatient. Yoga brings it into focus. This is through “Dhyana” – meditation. But meditation can’t be “done” – it should happen within you – automatically.
In Ashtanga the first four limbs, yama, niyama, asana and pranayama are external exercises. The next four are internal. It’s like if you want to grow a plant. First you need to nourish the soil. Once the soil gets nourishment, automatically a rose will blossom. The mind is like a plant. With proper nourishment of yama, niyama, asana and pranayama, dhyana will automatically happen.
Restlessness in Practice
Excess energy can come from too much social interaction. It becomes a habit, like drinking coffee. Only talk as much as necessary. I know what is happening outside of the shala – everyone is talking about how to jump back! Now with social media everyone wants to keep up! It’s best to think about yourself first, what is happening inside you, before you think about others.
This is not being selfish. It is how to become a good person. Everyday before sleeping, shut down your mind. Turn off your computer and phone before bed. Do dhyana. Then your energy and restlessness will change.
Yoga as Sadhana (spiritual practice)
There is a big difference between the early yogis who started in the 1900s with Krishnamacharya, when there was no social media. For them yoga was sadhana. They never advertised. Pattabhi jois didn’t say he did the Krishnamacharya teaching training!
Sadhana is very important for your personal transformation. Yoga will be with the sadhaka (spiritual aspirant) for his full life.
Yoga and Bhakti (devotion)
No one has bhakti towards their practice in the beginning. It comes when you get deeper and as time passes, when your practice becomes part of your daily routine.
Yoga is like going to a temple, church or a mosque. When you are young you only go to temple because your parents make you. When you get older you go because you want to go. Something draws you inside. That is bhakti. When you don’t go you feel something is missing.
It can’t be forced. This is the same as with your practice. Doing your practice is like doing a “puja”. The practice should be like a prayer.
Yoga is the same as food. Food is necessary for the body. Yoga is necessary to keep us stable.