So I’m a little late in posting about the last conference while I was in Mysore. I’ve been traveling and then was feeling a little sick. I’m finally settling into life in Paris and wanted to catch up on the blog…so here they are…notes from the last conference:
Four weeks. Four conferences. It’s always better to leave wanting more, a friend reminded me, and I am definitely feeling blessed and full of good vibes. I leave on a high note on every level. Though I’ve been dealing with some new knee pain that limits my left lotus, my physical practice felt great. My mental focus was clear. I got a lot of writing done. I had totally difference experiences this time in Mysore than on my last trip. I lived closer. I met more interesting people. I got to travel outside the city. I felt less like an outsider.
This particular Sunday Sharath began by talking about the importance of asana in our spiritual journey. Asana is a tool, he said, to get the mind and body to become stable. There are hundreds of thousands of asanas, as many as there are living beings on this earth: plants, trees, animals and humans. In this life, we just focus on doing as many as we can safely master, and shouldn’t worry about doing so many of them.
Asana is useful for several reasons. It purifies the nervous system, brings flexibility, brings health to the body and is an accessible tool to reach higher levels of spirituality.
Sharath spent time again reiterating the unity in yoga. Yoga can only be one thing. We talk a lot today about different styles and varieties of yoga, but there is only one true yoga, and if we practice that authentic yoga then change occurs in us. And this change is more than just physical.
It’s also important to note that asana is not just the act of bending and twisting the body. Using vinyasa with asana is integral to the system. It is when we add the breathing that the mind and body can change.
Asanas should be “stirya sukkha asanam,” or stable and comfortable. Because the next limb of our practice is pranayama, which requires a lot of still sitting, it is important to practice the movement in asana to gain stability and comfort in sitting.
Sharath then wanted to reassure us that though asana is very important, what is less important is what pose you are practicing to. He says that whether you are practicing half primary series or all the way to 5th or 6th series, benefit can be gained. The important thing is that no matter what pose you practice to, you must understand the deeper reason for doing it!
In the yoga sutras, there are only three sutras on asana. So some people misinterpret this to mean that asana is not important. But Sharath reinforced the idea that there are other important texts, like the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, which are important in understanding asana practice.
A student asked about practicing yoga and its relation to Hinduism. Sharath explained that yoga is not bound to one religion, nor does it need to be practiced along side any religion in particular. God didn’t divide up religions, people did! He thinks of Krishna when he practices, but assured us that yoga is a personal experience within each of us and we can believe whatever we want.
Sharath said that for him, teaching yoga is learning. Though he sometimes wonders why he gets up at 1am, he said that teaching is very rewarding. To be with different people, energy, shapes and starting points and to see change in students makes it worth it. He reminded us that to be a student is the best life, though sometimes it is a little painful ;) I couldn’t agree more!