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Conference Notes From Mysore: Ashtanga Does Not Need Us

Notes taken by Julie Alagde-Carretas  and re printed with her permission.


December 27th, 2014
*with the Highest Respect for Sharathji





Always it’s nice to be with one Authorized Teacher, so he will help you in your postures…who follows the same System, so your practice will improve. Sometimes when you’re doing Self-Practice there’s no one to help you in certain asanas, the difficult asanas. So it is always nice to have a Teacher where you can go regularly and practice. Sometimes when you do Self-Practice, you don’t want to get up and do the Practice. If there is a place where you have to go, then you can’t miss, you have to go.


When there is too much physical activity, jogging, walking, it’s totally different. You do Yoga here, you’re trying to open your muscles, your joints, hips, then you do too much walking you’re stiffening the muscles. Too much walking will stiffen your knees, your ankles, your hips…because I used to do all these things before. When I took a break four, five years, we used to bicycle from here to the lake near the University of Mysore. We used to go there, we do jogging, walking, pull-ups, push-ups, all those things. After, when I started Yoga, I came to know. I shouldn’t have done all those things. Then I had to go through so much pain, stiffness. When you’re doing Yoga Practice, Asana, you don’t need anything else. There is so much work out going on. Just doing Surya Namaskara, how much you sweat? Just doing Surya Namaskara five, three, is like walking half an hour. The whole body gets exercised. When you do walking, you only work the lower, with try your legs. When you do asana, the whole body gets exercised. So this is what we need, whole body exercise, so each and every organ will work properly, gets purified. Yoga removes all the toxins out when we do inhalation, exhalation.



When you’re doing Sadhana, more than your practice. Different types of people come do yoga for different kinds of reason. Some are satisfied with just doing some asanas, they just want to have some work out. A Sadhaka is different, who goes deeper inside with his Practice. To go deeper in your Practice, you have to Leave many things. In the Bhagavad-Gita it says…


yukta-ceṣṭasya karmasu
yogo bhavati duḥkha-hā’
– Bhagavad-Gita 6.17

Your Sadhana, if you don’t want it to suffer, you have to quit many things. I can’t run Chamundi Hill and do Practice. So there should be limit. Also there should be limit in having food. You need to work to digest so much food. How many hours you need? For example when you eat Thali, it needs six hours to digest, the process inside takes six hours to digest. If you eat Thali now then after two hours another Thali and then another, how your organs can digest the food? There should have limit food. When sleeping also, you can’t sleep 24hours! You can’t sleep more than six-seven hours. You will become so lazy then you won’t want to get up. Even your Karma. Karma is what you do, daily work. What you work everyday is also your Karma. I work from morning ’til evening, I do my Teaching. Here being a Teacher, that is my Karma, that is my Duty; to teach you all Yoga. And each one of you have your own work. Some are Doctors, some are Engineers, some are Artists, different kinds of work. They can’t work 18 hours a day! You have to limit your work also. So if you follow this, then your Yoga practice won’t suffer. From morning ’til evening if you’re working, when will you think about the Spiritual aspect of your Life? Morning ’til evening you start working, working, working, then you’ll get sick. You will get depression, lots of problems will start. Then you have to think ‘oh, have to take a break, go somewhere, do some Yoga, relax my mind…’.



Your Life also is Management. Nowadays, modern day is called Self-Management. How to manage your Self, that is also very important, so that your a Practice won’t suffer. Last week I also said, if you keep on partying, morning can you practice 4:30am? No. If you are drunk can you practice? No. You smoke can you practice? No. So these things you have to leave everyday. Yoga means not only doing Asanas. You have to follow ‘Tapas, Svadhyaya, Ishvara Pranidhana, Kriya Yoga.’ Kriya Yoga means it’s a part of your Duty. Kriya is Action. It is part of Tapas. Tapas is very important, to maintain a Strict Life. Strict means ‘not to hurt your Self.’ Some people think strict means we should hurt ourself. Discipline in Life is also very important for a Yoga Practitioner. Last week I told you, just to do your practice. For 25 years I’ve been doing this; going to bed earlier, waking up early morning, ding my practice then teaching. I used to help my Grandfather for many hours in the old Shala. This routine, Every Day. All my friends used to call me ‘Ghost’, because I used to get up so early, like a Dracula (everyone laughs). If you want to do Sadhana, then you have to do all these things. If you just want to do some Surya Namaskara, some standing just to keep yourself healthy, that’s also fine. Tapas, Svadhyaya…Svadhyaya, Self-Study. Self-Study many people think ‘oh I don’t need a Teacher, I do my own Self-Study.’ And they create their own Yoga.

In your Sadhana, there are so many things to Realize, so many things to Study. Part of Study is when we do our Practice and Understand the System, the Lineage, all the Yogic Knowledge. To get better clarity, better understanding, that comes only when you do Self-Study. Your own Practice will teach you so many things, your own Sadhana will teach you many things, that becomes Self-Study. Ishvara Pranidhana, this can be Ishtar Devata Sampra Yogaha also. Svadhyaya and Ishvara Pranidhana are very close. Ishtar Devata SampraYogaha means to get connected to a Divine. It doesn’t say only this particular God. Whichever God you like. Again, when I say God you’ll get scared so whichever Deity you like, get connected to that One. It can be Jesus, it can be Allah, it can be Krishna, it can be Ganesha, any one.



That is Ishtar Devata Sampra Yogaha, constantly thinking. When you do Japa, it should be part of your Daily Practice. Japa can be thinking of One Deity, whichever you Iike, that one you constantly thinking. Japa is saying the same, repeating the same word of the divine, becomes Japa. This is very important to have a part of your Daily routine. ‘Tat Japah Tad Artha Bhavanam’ (Yoga Sutras 1.28). Japa should also be meaningful. Artha Bhavanam, good intention. Then only, the positive effect will come, Energy will develop. Japa is when you put everything together, bringing Oneness within You. When you do Japa, you are totally involved in that. When a Fish is swimming, it becomes part of the Ocean. When you’re diving, you become part of the Ocean. Japa is the big Ocean, and you get involved in that. Why this is very important? I’ve seen this in every Religion. Let us not bring Religion here. I went to a big monastery on the top of a monastery in Greece and everyday, they have their own ritual, they chant. Chanting is there in every Religion! When you go to a Mosque there will always be one person chanting. You go to a Church, you see pele are chanting. Every Religion has chanting, that is Japa. Why doing Japa? To get connected to the Divine, to bring focus in them, to get rid of all the pain and sorrow. It is very powerful. That becomes surrendering to the Divine, the Supreme Energy.


There is no Modification, it’s Refined. The Practice is the same. If you see olden days, 30-40 years back, in cricket, there was no proper bat, no proper pads to wear. Now everything has changed. When I started Yoga, There was no proper mat. Now you have all these Manduka mat, do you think Yoga has changed? People market themselves as ‘in the 80s I went to Guruji, I am teaching the Authentic Yoga.’ They didn’t understand what the Practice gave, how you should be, how humble you should be. What it gives, what transformation happens through the Practice. Don’t put Ego there. I went, I did. YOGA IS BIGGER THAN ‘I’. YOGA IS BIGGER THAN ‘US’. We need Yoga, Yoga doesn’t need us. Yoga doesn’t need one person to say ‘I did Yoga in 1970s with Guruji’…yes, but You didn’t learn properly. You didn’t learn the fundamentals of Yoga. You learned first but You didn’t learn the Fundamentals. I think it’s not a change. It’s more deeper you go, the deeper understanding you get. So when you do research within you, you go deeper and deeper in Practice. It is not a change, it is more refined, more deeper Practice, deeper understanding of the System.

badha konasana


The Text is Within Me. You want to have the Text Within You. You have to open that Text. Everyone has the job within you. Because of Kama, Krodha, Moha, Lobha, Mada, Matsarya. Whatever you read through Text, it is just a book knowledge what you get. The real Practice comes when the Sadhana happens within You. Then you will understand what Yoga is. Yoga is unexplainable. Text are very limited. Even when you see Yoga Sutra, many things it says. But even Yoga Sutra doesn’t explain how to do Paschimattanasana, Utkatasana, Virabhadrasana. Again it has to come from Parampara. Only through Parampara Praptih. Only when you get through a Guru-Shishya Parampara. That is why this Tradition is so beautiful, it has come from generations, knowledge has been flowing from generation to generation. It’s like the Ganges, like how it comes from the Himalayas. So this Yoga also has to come from a Lineage, then only it becomes Pure. Then only the knowledge will come to you. In Yoga Sutras only three Sutras it says about Asana. There is no particular one text. Yoga is a process which should happen within you. You have to give time, your dedication, everything. Once you read Bhagavad-Gita, the Upanishads, that is just for reference. The real Text is within You. In the past there were only few books, those books were very very effective, very powerful, comes from real Practice.




12 yrs can learn Yoga. Younger, they don’t understand breathing Technique. If they want to play, then let them play by watching.


If You want to chant a Mantra before practice, ask a Guru. Whoever you feel is your Guru, ask him and he will give you a Mantra. It has to come from Father or a Guru. He should have Spiritual Knowledge and should do his own Sadhana. A Guru does Sadhana everyday.


You have to believe the Energy. If you say God, many people say ‘I don’t want to believe God’. Just believe the Energy. Everything is moving here, some One should be there to move everything. Right? The Supreme Energy doesn’t have any Form, but it can come in any Form. If you see in India, the Gods come in many different Forms. It comes as a monkey, comes as a cow,, it comes as human, it comes as a dog, we have pig God, we have lion God, we have tiger God, we have a monkey God, we have elephant God…we see God in Every Thing! We see the Supreme in Every Thing! We see in humans, we see in Every Thing. A tiger thinks God is a bigger tiger. A monkey thinks God is a bigger monkey. So how can you say that God is only in this shape? God is just Energy, that’s all.




It’s part of your Practice. Practice will clear. Many things will come. Sickness, doubt, misperception, laziness…it’s part of your Practice. You doubt your Practice, what your Tecaher is telling, correct or not. Some people go to other Teacher ‘this Teacher told me like this, what do you think?’. Some students are very fickle-minded, they go here, they go there, they go many places. Someone’s doing workshop they’re there, someone’s doing Teacher Training they’re there. So one Teacher says one thing ‘don’t do like this, do like that’, so then you get doubt. My Grandfather always used to say ‘you go to two Gurus. You go to one Guru he says one thing, and just to confirm you go to another Guru. Another Guru says another thing. This Guru says one thing, that Guru says one thing. This Guru says, don’t go to m. What he’s telling is lie, it’s not true. But you go to that Guru, and that guru says don’t go to that guy. What I’m saying is correct. You will die because you will be thinking which Guru is correct.’ So lifelong you will be thinking which Guru is correct and you will become mentally retarded. (Giggles). You can’t have two wives. I had only one Guru, I never been to anyone else. What he said, I’m still following. I have my whole Life to study whatever he start. He’s given me so much that My whole Life I have to do Studies.


Ashtanga is Ashtanga. Many have come, Ashtanga will be there. Many people don’t come, Sshtanga will be there. ASHTANGA IS JUST EXPERIENCE, THAT’S ALL. How your understanding will be…if You practice, if You follow, not Ashtanga follow You, it’s for Your good thing. you should follow It. Ashtanga doesn’t follow You. If You follow Ashtanga Yoga, the Eight Limbs of Yoga, all the impurities in your body and mind, you can get rid of. Jñana, the True Knowledge will glow in You, and You become Spiritually Wise. Ashtanga Yoga doesn’t need us, we need Ashtanga Yoga. We need to follow the Yama, Niyamas. We need to follow Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Bramacharya, Aparigaha for our own well-being, for our transformation. So many people now are coming, they want to know Ashtanga Yoga, that is a positive thing. So in 100 people if 30 people follow Yama Niyama, it’s very good for our own Spiritual Growth and it’s good for Society. We’ll start cari for others, other living beings, start caring for plants, for other things.



If you are following some Religion and it says You have to kill someone, then it’s really bad right? Religion has always divided people. Ashtanga doesn’t have any Religion. Religion has divided this world. It’s brought lots of confusion, brought lots of hatred. Ashtanga Yoga is just for Self-Realization, Self-Transformation. Anyone can Practice and get this Higher, Greater Spiritual Knowledge. In Ashtanga see how many people are there. Many people come from different parts of the world, different Religion, different culture, everything is different. Why they are Practicing? Something is happening inside them! Something is changing inside them. For that change they are practicing. Not to say ‘I am Ashtanga Yoga. I am different community. You are Iyengar, go that side.’ Ashtanga Yoga is one thing, but You’re all doing Yoga. Just say Yoga.

Upanishad talks about Yoga. Patanjali Yoga Sutra, Eight Limbs of Yoga, is one book, that’s all, one reference. Are you all practicing Ashtanga Yoga? Whoever practices Yama and Niyama, that means they are practicing Ashtanga Yoga. If you’re practicing just Marichyasana D, you’re saying Ashtanga Yoga? I say No. You should follow Yamas Niyamas also. Then you’ll become like you’re practicing Ashtanga Yoga. ‘I just want to do Surya Namaskara, I don’t want to follow Yamas Niyamas.’ Then You are not practicing Ashtanga. Ashtanga Yogagot very big but only very few people understand what Ashtanga Yoga is. Ashtanga Yoga is incorporating all of these Yamas Niyamas in your Daily Life. Then you become Ashtanga Yogi. Going towards that direction. The process will happen only when you follow this. Then you can say I’m trying to practice Ashtanga Yoga. So over all, it just becomes YOGA. Just say Yoga. Ashtanga Yoga is just reference. Ashtanga Yoga is also very important, Hatha Yoga is very important, Jñana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, everything is very important for your Spiritual Growth. Ashtanga Yoga Nilayam, my Grandfather kept to his Shala…this is the Place for Ashtanga Yoga. That means he followed Yama Niyamas. That’s why my Grandfather said Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute. You have to do lots of research in Ashtanga Yoga, in Eight Limbs, to understand what it is.



Catching is Fun, that’s all (the whole room fills up with laughter; {For You} the student murmurs). Catching is Fun. It’s better than catching something else. There should be some Joy in your Practice. If Yoga comes so easily, why you have to struggle so much? Yoga doesn’t come so easily. What is why we make you catch. Catching your ankle is not easy. Yoga also doesn’t come easily. It’s mostly for Fun. After catching your ankle, you’ll see you’re body feels so free from everything. Is it not true? Just doing back bending, Urdhva Dhanurasana, not even catching. If you just do Urdhva Dhanurasana, your whole body feels something different. Yoga itself is unexplainable. The whole Practice you see, one hour, after that, how fresh you feel. Some pain will be there, but once you practice, you feel so fresh, your body becomes free from everything, your body becomes so light. You don’t want anything. Practice knocks you down also, it takes all of your energy, so you don’t have energy to do the bad things. Then again the next day you have to practice so you go to bed early, you’ll avoid all of these bad people, bad people who are partying, who want to distract you. These changes will happen within you. You’ll switch off your phone so that no one will call you for movie, party. So when you’re doing the practice, there’s so many changes. You get focused more in your Practice. ‘If I go do all these things, tomorrow I can’t catch!’ These are the basic transformation which happens. I have to eat at this time, I have to sleep at this time, I have to get up at this time. Automatically this discipline comes to you, to everyone.

Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail [email protected]