Final Sharath Conference

David Keil Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Leave a Comment

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Sharath speaks on the classical yoga texts

I thought I’d share my final thoughts on the Sharath conferences at Purple Valley in Goa.

In the last week Sharath’s family arrived. It was definitely very sweet to see the kids running around and calling sharath Appa (father). Although it added something sweet to the conferences, it made them a bit distracting and unfocused.

On the agenda was the recitation of the asana names which Sharath seemed to take very seriously. He was calling on authorized teachers to run through the names, usually starting from the beginning. At the end of the conferences, however, he would say the name and then the group would repeat the names twice in unison. This by the way is the classical way the Vedas are taught to Brahmins, where the teacher says the sloka and the students repeat twice and corrections are made.

Gretchen and I were waiting to be called on, feeling pretty confident in our knowledge and ability to say the names fairly well. Either fortunately or unfortunately our chance never arrived. We were never called on to recite the names. Oh well… perhaps in Mysore?

In terms of content, Sharath has shown himself to be well studied and growing in terms of knowledge and wisdom regarding the bigger picture of Yoga. There is no change in the message of “do your practice” as Guruji always said. The only change is Sharath’s ability to express this in a manner which is more clear and easily received by westerners.

In one of the conferences Sharath mentioned how, as westerners, we would obviously have a difficult time in fully understanding, not only what Guruji said, but what he meant by what he said. This is a result of cultural context and differences, as well as study. If we were able to “get” 70 – 80% of what Guruji meant we were probably doing well. Sharath also said that if he was lucky he would get 90 – 95% of what Guruji meant by what he said. In this way Guruji always left room or the need for one to continue to study, explore, and try to figure things out for oneself.

Another interesting point, for me in particular, was regarding the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. I’ve been on a little bit of a soapbox (not too loudly though) regarding this text and its relevance to the practice of yoga and more specifically to those practicing Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. My own conversations with Ashtangis about this text are often met with irreverence or even complete disregard. In essence they were saying that Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras was the only book that should be read on the practice of Ashtanga Yoga.

After a couple of readings of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, however, it was obvious to me that the text was directly related to what we were doing on the mat daily. A number of Guruji quotes are there and obvious… read and you’ll see for yourself.

Back to the conference, Sharath encouraged the reading of this text along with Baghavad Gita and the Upanishads, basically any book that discusses yoga. When Sharath quotes the nature of paschimottanasana, the quote is not from Patanjali. When he quotes the shastra that tells how to do lotus and why you put your right leg first, it’s not from Patanjali Yoga Sutra. Where is it from?

I’m getting off the soapbox just now… trying not to feel too proud, but instead vindicated from the funny looks about reading the Hatha Yoga Pradipika… thanks Sharath.

The most important thing I gained from the conferences (and the 3 weeks of getting to be a student again) is inspiration. There is nothing that pleases me more than being re-inspired by my teachers. To help re-ignite the fire of desire to practice with more dedication, effort, sweat, focus, and most importantly with Shradha (faith).

I know Guruji used to talk about a teacher as a signpost, pointing the way. Sharath did it very nicely as well with a metaphor about the area in Goa where we were. He was talking about how he could tell us how to get to Panjim (Panaji-big town in Goa) and how there might be a right or left turn here, or to watch out for snakes or potholes etc. But, just because he told us how to get there didn’t mean that we would arrive. We would still have to get on the scooter and drive ourselves there and maybe even find things that we weren’t expecting. Perhaps we could even find a different route? (The last sentence is mine, not Sharath’s and the whole thing is paraphrased).

Conclusion

I am inspired, grateful and always ready to be a student. If by luck I happen to share what I have learned on my road to Panjim and it inspires someone else, then all thanks goes to my teachers, most importantly Shri K. Pattabhi Jois.

Namaskara Guruji
and thank you Sharath
…..From another grateful student

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This website is simply about delivering yoga anatomy to the yoga community in a simple and understandable way. It has always been about you, the reader, understanding the complexity and diversity of our own humanness as well as our anatomy.

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