October 18


Sharath Jois Conference Notes – 18th October 2014

Yoga doesn’t have a start date.  You and I, we each have a date of birth, but not so with yoga, no one can say when yoga started.  In this parampara you can follow the different lineages, different saints, rishis, each who practiced yoga and did their own research in yoga.

There is no one day when it started.  There are several different definitions.  Patanjali sutras describe as mind control, which can sounds scary to some people, so we can instead say calming of the mind.  The monkey mind needs to be controlled. We have vrittis running around in our mind, and we develop concentration and focus for this.  Sometimes, we can say we have consciousness, sometimes not.

These aspects are the initial stages of yoga.

Further stages of yoga go deeper and take a lot of work.  We talk about higher consciousness, using Dharana and Dhyana to reach Samadhi, to the ultimate.

So yoga is not just physical, three aspects are important. Asana brings health and stability.  Breathing, as I said last week, breathing controls the mind, and the mind controls the body.  Gaze is bringing focus into the practice.  It is hard to go deep when you are looking around, I am seeing students who have been here many times, showing this focus.  When we put all our focus into the practice it becomes meditation.

Pranayama can be defined as expansion or contraction.  Breath is an automatic action in the body and when we do breathing technique we can expand life.  In one day we have 24 hours, if we can expand our breathing this becomes like 26 hours, we extend our life. 80 years becomes 100 years!  Many years ago, the old rishis used this technique to live longer.

There is a small village nearby called Hassan, it is becoming city now.  On the way from Mysore to Hassan, 6km before Hassan there is a village Koushika (Kowshika).  This is such a beautiful village, there is so much spiritual energy there.  Rishi Vishvamitra, who created the Gayatri mantra, was there.  He was a king when he arrived, and he did much work, and became enlightened.  In North India he spent 10000 years, in South India he spent 5000 years, going to many places.  You can imagine how long he lived!

So, yoga is not new.  Definitions of yoga are changing lately with commercial teacher training. 25 years and I am still trying to be a teacher, still trying to become enlightened.  I am close! [Laughter] Well, closer than you [laughter].


Yoga cannot be purchased.  All is happening within you.  How we develop outside depends on the change that happens within, how we follow Yama and Niyama, very important.  Asana is useless without Yama and Niyama.  Only after this process can we have proper understanding.

Ahimsa is the start. If you do Asana, and then fight and gossip, what is the use?  It becomes just physical. If we do Surya Namaskar we develop great strength, if you misuse this energy, this is not yoga.  Satya, be true to yourself.

Asteya is a problem these days, stealing postures, create your own yoga!  Not coming from a lineage or parampara.  Guru teaches method, postures, but not only this, Guru gives blessing also.  Teachings with blessing are important.  Dosa is only tasty with chutney, dosa by itself is not so nice. Like this with teachings, the blessing is the chutney!  You may want a Kriya or Asana right away, but guru will not give it to you.  People want to squeeze all the knowledge, guru always knows when you are ready.  If you give an ant a piece of gold, it cannot handle it.  Slowly, slowly, many years learning, one by one, knowledge accumulates.  Sutras cannot be consumed in one sitting.

Krishnamacharya had so much book knowledge, he had eight degrees, learned from many people.  Debating also, in those days, to be a scholar, you had to debate, be asked questions from professors, answer on the spot.  Eight degrees he obtained.  He also wanted to learn practically, and he went north to see Ramamohan (Brahmachari), he learned there for eight years, practical methods.  Many stories have been written on this.  We always repay our gurus in some way, Krishnamacharya’s fee this time was not money, but the instruction to spread the knowledge and teach others.

This is the parampara.

This year is my 25th year, in April next year it will be 26 years.  Not including childhood, small pieces of learning.  Twenty five years getting up at 1am, practice, teaching, learning, is not easy.  Other than this practice, I don’t know anything.  My wife gets cranky when I am not teaching, in the house she is asking when will I go and teach!  I get cranky when I am not teaching [laughter].

Sometimes students ask “Should I practice every day? Can I miss a day?”  Practice is 24 hours, yoga is not doing, yoga is happening.  Asana is doing.  Asana is important, but not too much, not every pose for many hours a day, don’t overdo it.


Q: As Ashtanga becomes bigger, sometimes it seems to become competitive, with an emphasis on fame.  Strong community is important for students. Can you advise us on supporting each other in a united, global community?

A: Yoga doesn’t belong to one person.  When there is proper knowledge of yoga there can be no conflict, yoga teacher should get rid of ego.  You need to solve this yourself at home, I don’t know your situations, I never put my nose in any of this politics.  No one is greater, everyone is great.  What you are doing, that is what is important.  Once the world inside yourself is correct, the world outside becomes very good, very beautiful.  For this issue you are wise enough.  If someone is telling me a story, someone else tells me something different.   So I think for this question, you have to sort it out yourself.  With proper exercising of yoga there is no conflict.

In July and August this year I held training for the authorised students, it was such a nice time.  It was so nice to see all the senior students coming and practicing together, real yoga is happening there.  Yoga is union also, this is also a kind of union, everyone coming together.

Q: In the led classes as we finish the chant, what is it that you recite, what does it mean?

A: This is thanking the ancestors, all the gurus, the parampara.  Many people forget gurus, without gurus it is impossible.  You cannot master yoga by watching video.  Only asana, no ethics.  Just bending the body.  Only guru can show you the path.
Q: How should we handle doubts when they occur in practice?

A: Doubt keeps coming.  Without doubt there is no chance to find the answer.  If you want to learn you need the doubt.  All common. Keep pushing little bit, makes best practice.  Yoga is challenging, it doesn’t come easy if you just sit, so many distractions.  Sometimes students go on Vipassana retreat, and on first day, very excited and feel success, on second day, so much distraction arises.

This practice is beautiful.  Doubt is there, so many thoughts going around, excuses, pain, all common. Slowly, slowly, it will vanish.  After some time, stopping becomes uncomfortable!  Become unstable when not practicing. Try it, try stopping, see how you feel.
The outside world affects practice so much, mind is always there, thought.  So detach from everything, when on your mat don’t think about anything else.

Q: There are many other healing therapies in India, do you recommend?

A: Not necessary, only when sick, not for everyone.  [Sharath tells a joke about a doctor prescribing the same treatment for everyone that walks into his office, even the mailman].  Many toxins come out during practice, primary series is for this. Use therapies to treat allergies, asthma, illness.  Be very careful.  Too much can make you weak, sick.

One karma is enough, you want five? [laughter] When I started, when I was 19, I wanted to do everything perfect, so many asana, practicing for 3 hours every day with Guruji, so much pain.  One day I do much neti, three times, next day couldn’t talk, throat was so sore!


Sharath concluded by inviting students to attend the Maharaja Sanskrit College, where Guruji started teaching, on the 22nd of October at 6pm.  The will be a memorial event thanking the great K Pattabhi Jois and BKS Iyengar for their work in spreading yoga around the world, and the college will honour Sharath and Saraswati Jois.


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