Talks from our Guruji

Excerpts from Manju’s talk – Lunenburg,Nova Scotia, 2017
(this text has been edited & modified from the original transcript)

On yoga

We are all looking for answers.

Get to know yourself by going deeply into yourself to find them. People want to make radical changes to their lives and they want change fast – make changes slowly and positive things will happen.

Yoga is like a drug.

In the beginning, you start to think “do I have to do this”? Yoga takes a long time to get into your body and to have positive affects -once it is there, the benefits are tremendous – you can’t stop, this is the drug affect. The approach: learn to breath correctly first, this will begin cleansing the body then, continue to build your asana & pranayama practice.

Yoga has a healing affect on the body & mind.

For this to happen, you need to find a comfort zone – use the postures as a meditation. Try to focus&concentrate, this develops the mind for meditation. The breathing will do magic on the body and create a healing affect.

Yoga is considered a science.

You aren’t learning just one isolated thing – you are learning the science of which asana is only a part. The asanas act as a foundation for the body – you begin by putting the body through the geometric order. Then once you are feeling good in your body, you add more and, the mind straits to feel good.

Yoga has no restrictions, you can practice the way you want – it is all about discipling yourself!

On traditional ashtanga yoga

Patanjali said yoga stops the fluctuations of the mind – it is meditation (verse 1.2 yogah-citta-vrittinirodhah). Ashtanga is not a label nor a style but a complete system of eight limbs – yama, niyama, asana,pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, samadhayah!

Hatha yoga (postures) are only the base for the system. In India, we didn’t practice just postures but did all eight limbs unlike the west, where it is really about ‘labels’.

In the early times, we started with “a yoga prayer” – everything done in Sanskrit – the suryanamaskara is actually a prayer – as everyone doing these movements at the same time, becomes a spiritual dance.

The step-by-step purification begins with asana – we then add pranayama to begin the cleansing followed by chanting to create a balanced practice (balancing the wind and earth).

On practice

If you listen to your own body, then it will start to open up. If you can’t do something, don’t feel guilty about – yoga has no guilt. I didn’t ask my father to teach me to walk on my hands or flip flops, I taught it myself. Then I went to my father and he said “oh, self discovery”. Daily practice doesn’t have to be an hour and half;  we don’t have a rule that you practice six days a week. Practice consistently and take a day of rest as needed.

Moon days will drive you crazy and you can hurt yourself so it is not recommended to practice on these days. The days off are good for the oil bath then the next day you go on the mat, you will be flying. In India, castor oil is often used for its therapeutic affects. Sesame& coconut oil can work also depending on your climate.Pranayama is good for lack of memory as it increases oxygen to the brain – we practice four pranayama.

A half hour of chanting has the same effect as asana practice-the power of vayu.

A balanced asana practice includes 1st & 2nd series- it will maintain perfect health.

Doing both first series and the second series will help neutralize (balance) the body. There is nosuch thing as where the second series starts (there are only groupings of asana). Sometimes there are postures from the third series that help with earlier postures. I am starting to work in some of the third series postures into my teaching as the therapy asana are contained in this series.

People often ask about the bandhas?

Bandhas are automatic locks. When you inhale, the bandha will automatically happen – the correct method is to deeply inhale &exhale into the diaphragm. The breath works like a vacuum cleaner, drawing the bandha/energy up. To breathe correctly, you have to be completely relaxed. If you forcefully pull your rectum up, this will negatively affect the elasticity of the muscles.

Stories

What inspired me to do yoga

Every morning, I could hear this heavy breathing. I would be scared but after a few days, I got up and found my father in the kitchen with one leg up behind his head. The next day, I was waiting for the sound and found my father in yoga nidrasana and it blew me away. I asked my mother if everything is okay with Dad. My mom said yes, I know he has a problem and that is why I married him… to help him out. But that is what inspired me to do yoga!

My fathers first student was from France

His name – Andrew van Lisbeth, editor of life magazine – He wanted to know about eastern philosophy. After traveling india, he was told to see Pattabhi Jois. He stayed for a month and half and I translated. Then the French students started to come. He quit his job as CEO of Life magazine &started writing books

David Williams, the first westerner to learn the full system

I met David and sent him to my father. He taught David Williams all of the series in six months.

My father was the greatest guy that I ever met. He was always smiling. He treated everyone like his children. My mom used to make the coffee and bring it to you. Some people would say they don’tdrink coffee and my mom would put her hands on her hips and make you drink it.

It was a very family environment. Mysore became famous because of the way my father was teaching.

Pranayama saved my life & after that I started teaching it to everyone

In 2008, I was walking to get my suitcase. And my left hand was very heavy and painful. Usually when that happens, people panic. I knew I was in danger. I stopped walking and started pranayama (looking at the monitor at the same time). It took me three stops to get my suitcase and I walked slowly. My body needed oxygen which I couldn’t supply so I kept up with the pranayama.

Once I got back to California, it happened again. I told my wife I had to make an appointment with the doctor. When the doctor came out with the xray, he said “you say you did pranayama, what is that” I told him and he said that saved my life. “with what we see here, you are supposed to be dead”. The pranayama made room for the oxygen. After, I received a triple bypass.

When I went to America, I wanted to be like an American. I didn’t want to chant. Then after 11 years, I went back to India and I went to the temple where I met a man who looked like he was 45 years old – later I found out he was the oldest chanter at the temple – after that I started chanting!

‘The guru is the person who knows everything – we don’t know everything – we are just messengers’.