Conference with Sharath Jois, notes by Ally Ford
In conference at the shala Sharath stressed the importance of having a spiritual yoga practice. He began by stating that asana (physical posture) is not the end but the beginning. Advanced asana, such as lifting up to handstand in surya namaskara, does not a “big yogi” make. This is only used for demonstration purposes to attract people.
He continued by stating and explaining that “Yoga is a change which should happen within us.” If we practice with aggression inside, then that energy will happen outside as well, and soon we’re yelling at the coconut man;) This is the result of not understanding yoga. Yoga is to control the mind. If there is no calm in our mind then asana becomes only physical aerobics. Even if we practice for twenty years, if there is no understanding then it’s of no use.
“To see the ocean’s beauty you must dive inside, not simply look from the outside.” Asana should come from the heart, like chanting. When we chant from the heart there is meaning and it will generate positive energy. If the mind is negative then the practice generates negative energy. Asana practiced from the heart brings the mind and body together with good intention and this fosters our understanding of yoga.
We remove impurities through the practice of the Eight Limbs. Practice Yama and Niyama. All thoughts, words and deeds must be based on ahimsa (non-harming). This will generate positive energy. Remember the law of karma. If you do bad things to others then bad things will happen to you, so be nice to others and know you’re being nice to yourself. Practice Yama and your mind will be at peace. This is a change happening within you, then you’re practicing yoga all the time, not just on your yoga mat.
Practice saucha (purity) internally and externally. Keep your mind, thoughts and actions clean. Be aware of what you put inside your body. Ensure your environment, house, clothes and mat are clean. And bathe! Take a bath BEFORE asana practice.
“If yoga is happening within you then you have a spiritual practice.” To really know the meaning of yoga we must understand why we are doing it. Avoid claiming that you are a big yogi or practice (or teach) with selfish intention. This is a quiet change happening inside us. A true yogi would never take credit claiming, “I did this or I did that.” This is a form of greed. The practice of yoga fosters humility and humbleness. There are many things we don’t know. “When we say we know nothing we start knowing many things.”
For real transformation to happen you must learn from a guru. Yoga is powerful and if you know how to use it many good things happen. Receiving a certificate to teach is just a piece of paper. The real certificate is when knowledge grows within you.