Travel and Gurus. Outside and Inside.

Some people say that traveling is not good for the spiritual practice. I´m thinking here in one verse (62) on The Hatha Yoga Pradipika and in some story that one friend told me about Prashantji (BKS Iyengar´s son) answering that for being a better yogi you must not travel, (I don´t know the context of the last information I´m giving  but, even though I believe that the context is very important in cases like this, I will go further anyway.)

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika is a book written around six centuries ago that focuses in the physical practice of asanas (postures) and kriyas (cleansing teachniques) as a way for transcend oneself.

Cleaning the nadis so the energy can finally move!
Cleaning the nadis so the energy can finally move!

Travel six centuries ago it was not the same as traveling today.

It probably took much more time that it takes today and this was a very clear way to lose a lot of vital energy but, when I think in Prashantji´s words –he probably said that somewhere during the last 15 years- a big contradiction grows inside of me.

In one hand there is something that is really important in the Yoga tradition and it´s basically that: TRADITION. In a short way this means that the practice must be inside of a lineage, that´s exactly why the Guru is SO important. It´s not that he/she is there just to keep you humble, oh no, it´s something bigger than that: He/She is there showing you a path that he/she already walked. Sometimes as a very present energy that guides you all the way, sometimes just as an observer that lets you discover for yourself, reaching you when you have gone too far.

Having a Guru is a very important element in every spiritual tradition.

But, what happens when the Guru is not close?

Well, basically, you travel to find it.

On the other hand, and I will talk here about my own personal intimate experience, one thing that happens when you travel is that you get very amazed by the outer world.

There are so many beautiful places out there, full of different things to look and to do, full of different flavors, colors and energies and, somehow, all of this influences oneself. The indriyas (senses) are so happy when we travel!

Those same senses are the tools we need to turn inwards (pratyahara), to go inside.

When everything is new outside it´s hard to concentrate in the inside. At the same time, I believe it´s a very honest way of challenge yourself because, everything  is new all the time, it doesn´t matter if you travel or not.

Maybe, traveling in the world can be seen as a preparation –or as a reflex?– for traveling in your inner world. If you learn how to be outside, maybe it will be easy to just be, inside.

Turning everything upside down.
Turning everything upside down.

Maybe, after traveling in the outside world, you realize this that Rumi said better that anyone:

You have no need to travel anywhere – journey within yourself.

Enter a mine of rubies and bathe in the splendor of your own Light.

Inside. Or outside?
Inside. Or outside?

BTW: After an amazing weekend in the incredibly beautiful northern part of Sweden teaching for the people in the Haglöfs Artic Weekend I´m now in Marseille enjoying amazing yoga lessons with the super gentle Senior teacher Sthéphane Lalo, observing myself and the beautiful spring that finally arrived, at the same time. I will write more about this but, meanwhile, maybe you´re able to find some photos of these moments HERE!

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Short review of: “The Science of Yoga: The Risks and Rewards”

The Science of Yoga. The Book.
The Science of Yoga. The Book.

I already wrote something about this book written by William J. Broad, who is a Pulitzer prize winner, journalist/writer and an experienced yoga practitioner.

The book is very precise putting science first and from there it explained to us what and how yoga is doing what it does. All the good -and bad- sensations, the relaxation and the “connection feeling”, have a physical/chemical reason behind it and it was really interesting for me to know more about the different studies and investigations that had and have been taking place around the subject.

It´s obvious that the author has experienced many of the benefits of the practice. But he has many questions and they motivated him to write the book to be able to share what science knows about the practice and to show us that we have a long way in front of us on this matter.

A few fast ideas that came to me during/after reading the book:

–       I felt motivated to learn more about the origins of the yoga practice and how it evolved from “an obscure cult steeped in magic and eroticism” to what we are doing today.

–       What an interesting re-interpretation of the Hatha Yoga concept !

–       I am quite more optimistic about the “injuries” subject. The author really wants to scare people and, from my experience things are not that bad. But the truth is that a practice guided for inexperienced people can be really risky. As my master, paraphrasing Guruji, says: Yoga can show you the nectar of life but, in the wrong hands, it can also show you the poison.

–       It´s scientifically proved that yoga keep us young! (pag. 43-44)

–       Yoga is not an aerobic workout by itself, you can make it aerobic: “The more aerobic you make yoga, the less improvement you´ll see in those other areas.” (Relaxation, concentration, reducing fatigue and pain and others)

–       Yoga, pranayama and other breathing techniques does not increase the amount of oxygen in the blood.

–       I´m really proud to be a certified Iyengar yoga teacher. Guruji´s work is really close to science even though at the beginning “only” his heart and intuition were guiding him. Today his work and approach to the practice is illuminating it in a very deep and incomparable way.

I can´t say that I liked the book (but I guess that´s what happened with science, you don´t need to like it, the information is there telling you how the things are) despite that, from my point of view, the book is a MUST for yoga teachers and practitioners. It has a really good intention behind it: make yoga more professional and safe.

It´s not that negative after all:

“Western science tends to view the body as a fixed thing with unchanging components and functions. But yoga starts from a different premise. It sees a lump of clay. The body in this view is awaiting the application of skilled hands.”

hands-potter-wheel
“We are the clay”.

HERE you have another interesting article written by Broad about how the practice is different for men and women. He talks about the different approach that guys vs girls have to the practice and how this makes them an easy target for specefic -and sometimes more serious- injuries.

 

Abhyasa, practice.

Yoga is evolving inside of each practitioner all the time. One day you realize something about your body, one day you connect that with your mind and spirit. That’s why is so fundamental to have a stable and conscious practice.

I imagine that something like that happened all the time to great masters like Krishnamacharya and Patthabi Jois. I could see that in mister Iyengar´s indications and he has said that his practice (and therefore, his teaching) is evolving every day.

That’s why I think that the different methods of yoga are evolving every day. It can’t be something static. The seek of perfection it´s open for all of us but we have to remember that, in perfection, you can’t change anything, if you do, perfection it´s gone.

In these videos, the asana practice of Guruji in 1938 was marvelous. How can you see that the practice is evolving? Where do you look at?

Can you see the heart?