Today I went down to the Devaraj markets with my friend Megumi to look through a market stall stocked with beautiful framed vintage deity photos. I’ve been to the markets countless times but they never loose their appeal for me. What stands out probably even more than the colours and noise are the smells, from jasmine and roses, incense and oils, to fresh herbs and vegetables, and maybe even a whiff of stinky fish as you leave.
Just around the corner from the markets is the beautiful Jagan Mohan palace that was home to the Wodeyars, the kings of Mysore, while the present palace was being built. It is also where Krishnamacharya, Pattabhi Jois’ teacher started a yogashala in 1933, under the patronage of the Maharaja of Mysore, who believed yoga has cured him of disease.
(Krishnamacharya performing a yoga demonstration at Jagan Mohan palace)
At yesterday’s conference Sharath mentioned the time when he met the formidable Krishnamacharya. He said he was a very simple man, from a very different time. What I love about Mysore is despite the fast pace of change, taking a trip to the markets and downtown still gives you a glimpse into life of a bygone era.
Excerpts from Sharath’s conference are below….
There are so many different asanas, as many as there are animals and trees. It is impossible to do all the asanas in this lifetime. Many asanas are good for curing disease. In Ashtanga yoga the primary series is called yoga chikitsa, which is for curing disease. The intermediate series is nadi shodana. It cleanses the nervous system. It is important to perfect the primary series first then move onto the intermediate series as it is more intense. The advanced postures are divided into three series. This is called sthira bhaga which means to bring stability.
Many people don’t have patience. They struggle with marichasana D, then go home and do handstands or go to a handstand class. If you do this you get strong, but not flexible and back-bending becomes a problem. You have to balance your body. Asanas have to be used with proper guidance.
Guruji said one asana should be done 1000 times in order to master it. By practicing we can make anything perfect. You have to allow time for the body to change and remember that not everybody is the same. Don’t hurry yourself. You have 80 years to practice. This is the foundation of our spiritual practice.
Once you have mastered asana, only then should you do pranayama. The lungs need to become stronger otherwise there is too much pressure on the lungs and heart. In our Ashtanga practice we are already doing pranayama, lengthening the prana through the inhalation and exhalation.
Nowadays there are people offering to teach you everything in 15 days! It is true that by doing pranayama you can get rid of diseases. But by not doing it properly you invite disease. When you do kumbhaka (retention) pranayama your whole nervous system will be purified. Once this kumbhaka is practiced properly, when there is no longer any inhale or exhale, all sounds will stop, except for the sound of the divine.
Your mother is your first guru. Who taught you to walk, speak and eat? It was your mother. Without a guru you can’t step anywhere. A guru removes ignorance and takes you towards the light. At all stages in life there is a guru, from your mother, to your teacher at school. When you have basic knowledge of life, a spiritual guru will come.
Now Guruji is not alive, but his teaching is always with me. He is there forever in his teaching. I spent 19 years with Guruji – everyday. It was like spending 108 years! He had so much knowledge it would 500 years to learn everything.
I remember meeting Krishnamacharya (Guruji’s guru) when I was 12. I was a bit too young to form an impression. I remember having to wait out side to see him – like going to the Vatican to meet the Pope! Well it wasn’t fancy like that. It was a very old house. He was a very simple man. They had a very different lifestyle to now. Always doing japa and chanting mantras. Guruji was the same – he was always chanting mantras or the Upanishads, even when teaching, even when helping me in back bending!
(Krishnamacharya at age 100 in 1988)