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Conference Notes From Mysore: Mind Stronger, Body Lighter

Shared with permission from Julie Alagde-Carretas and  Ashtanga Ottawa. Notes taken by  Julie Alagde-Carretas


January 10th, 2015
*with the Highest Respect for Sharathji

Sharathji begins with the Guru Strotam:

Caksur Unmīlitam Yena
Tasmai Śri-Gurave Namah


“…’Vina vinyasa yogena asanadin na karayet (O yogi, do not do asana without vinyasa).’

As you all know, the main system in Ashtanga Yoga, the Yoga that we do, is based on Vinyasa. Vina vinyasa asanadin na karayet…do not do asanas without vinyasa. That is the inhalation, exhalation, the flow in between the asanas. It is all included, it’s called vinyasa. Vinyasa is not just jumping back, it is the whole cycle that we follow, inhalation, exhalation, jumping back, jumping through. Different asanas have certain number of Vinyasas. Utthita Hasta Padangushthasana has 14 vinyasa. Like that, easy asana has certain number of vinyasa we should follow. You can’t just do the posture. Do Utthita Hasta Padangushthasana then straight away sit down and do Paschimattanasana. Just like that. Because that interval is very important to allow the blood to circulate. When we do all this vinyasa, we also generate Energy within us. Energy will develop, it will develop. If you want to melt gold, you take raw gold from the earth, it won’t be purified.


The gold is mixed with many particles, it is not pure when you get it from the mine. It will be mixed with mud. If you go to a jeweler, he heats up the raw gold. When he heats it up, all the gold will be separated and they will take only that pure gold. This is exactly what we are doing. Here, we are trying to remove the gold. In the olden days, a goldsmith used to come home with a small equipment which had a wheel and a pot. There was charcoal from underneath and he would turn the wheel so lots of air can go in and melt the gold. All the gold would come up. This vinyasa is also exactly like that. All the impurities will go away and only the purest form of gold will come up. When you’re starting yoga practice, you can see you are heavy, you can feel that your body is very stiff, your body is not flexible.

So once we do asana practice, once we do this breathing technique, your body gets purified. How? All the toxins in your body will come out through sweat, through exhalation. So when we practice for two years, three years, you can see there is lots of changes within you, within your body. Your body gets more purified, body gets more stamina, body gets more flexibility, more resistance. Resistance is very important. Your mind also gets tolerant. I know some are still working (whole room chuckles). Tolerance also will come. All these things you can see when you practice for two to three years. When we sweat, that brings all the toxins out. When the Energy is generated within us, then all the sweat will come. Only sweat which comes by workout, when you do all these asanas, by that you get the sweat.

Nowadays there’s lots of different kinds of Yoga. Hot Yoga, this Yoga, that Yoga. They’ll heat up the room. As soon as you step inside you start sweating. You don’t have to work. You don’t have to do Surya Namaskara. This sweat is not good. The sweat which comes from doing inhalation, doing exhalation, vinyasa…when you do that hard work, sweat which comes through hard work..that sweat, don’t waste that sweat. Massage it.



That’s why many times I see so many students using their towel to wipe their sweat. Only when it’s slippery in some asana then you use your towel to wipe. Otherwise, do not waste that sweat. So lightly massage on you. When it brings out toxins, it brings good minerals also. Those minerals you rub to your body. The body is so clever, it absorbs all the good minerals. Booing this, the body gets stronger and very light. Many of you have bring arms. Still you can’t do Utpluthih, why? (laughter) Why you can’t do? Only two three breaths then come down.

Because your body has to become lighter. When you practice more and more and more, your body will change. You’ll become stronger, lighter. Then Uthplutih will be very easy. So vinyasa is very important, how we understand that. How we coordinate with the posture, that is very important. Some students you see, when they have to inhale they are exhaling, when they have to exhale they are inhaling. So when we do this vinyasa class on Mondays and Saturdays, we concentrate on the breath. You can’t follow exactly my counting, but that it’s just for you to understand where you have to inhale, where you have to exhale, how to do vinyasa for each asana. That is why we do the vinyasa class.

So once you do that, you get stronger. Your vinyasa also, your coordination and the breathing, both will get perfect. Everything will synchronize. Then you know where you have to inhale, you know where you have to exhale when you do vinyasa class. Vinyasa is very old. You don’t see this is any other style of Yoga. This is based on, what I heard, based on Yoga Korunta, which Vamana Rishi wrote. Vamana Rishi is a very big saint, who wrote this system of Asana Practice. So this has come from generations, I don’t know, maybe 3,000-4,000 years up to Rama Mohan Bramachari, it’s gone beyond that. When people see this they get confused, they think it’s gymnastics. There’s lots of difference between them. Maybe gymnastics was copied by seeing this. But this Tradition, there is no date when it started. When we just do Surya Namaskara everyday, how our minds become very calm. Just doing five Surya Namaskara A, three Surya Namaskara B, suddenly your mind becomes very calm, your mind becomes more focused. Is it not true? If you do just handstand, can you get focused?



What they do at the gym, there is so much aggression if you see. These people have so much aggression. You see in the Olympics, they do so much and then you see their Ego. ‘I did this.’ But Yoga is different. The Asana is different. You are not doing the Asana to please anyone, you’re doing the Asana to calm your mind, to bring flexibility to your body, to bring stability to your body, to bring steadiness to your mind and body. This is the reason why we are doing Asanas. It is not to compete with anyone. So this you have to understand. Many people, oh I can do Kapotasana. After class you see in the coconut stand, many people giving lecture ‘oh you should do back bending like this’. Lecture is easy. Unless you understand, you experience, you do your hard work, it won’t come.


So when the mind gets calmed, when the mind gets focused in the posture, when you develop that strongly within you…sometimes, some days, you can focus on your practice, sometimes you can’t focus. This happens. There is no steady. It’s not consistent. Few days you have, you’re very focused…suddenly someone says ‘Oh Darling, I don’t love you anymore.’ Then there you go. Then another moment you won’t be focused. What I’m saying is general. It’s everything. There’s lots of disturbance everywhere. How to overcome if you have some money in the stock market and suddenly it goes. ‘Oh I lost everything’. Then you get depressed. That is why when we chant, in the morning, what we say! Samsara Halahala. What is this Samsara? It’s a poison! That is why we need a Jangalika. A Jangalika is who removes the poison. That can be the Yoga Practice. Samsara is like that. You want or not, it is like that. One day it’s good, one day it’s bad. You can’t change that. Up to certain extent you can but it’s not in your hand. What you can change?

Vanessa Mccarthy-Yoga Studio (Ashtanga )


You can change your mindset. You can bring your mind stronger. That is why Yoga, why it came…if you see Mahābhārata also, Arjuna was so confused. If you read Bhagavad-Gita, there Arjuna will get also very confused. He said why should I do this, why should I do that? Then Krishna will come and give him the True Knowledge of Yoga. So that confusion has been there from long time. Yoga also has been there for a long time. Many Upanishads it says, everybody who has this doubt, who has this depression, who has confusion in life, then only they will understand, they will do the hard work to know what Yoga is. If everything is perfect in Life, if everything is perfect, then you won’t even think of the Supreme Energy. What is that Supreme Energy? You don’t want to call again God (chuckles), the Supreme Soul. Not everyone’s Life is perfect. If your Life perfect? (Points to a student) No.

Someone says ‘oh I like to be like Sharath, he’s got so many students; oh he’s so famous’. But one day come and do my job. I don’t say it’s not perfect but everybody is always think ‘I want to be like THEM’ ‘I want to be like HIM’. Everybody has some problem. Problem is part of your Life. So how to keep yourself stable? You can’t keep outside stable. It’s not in our control. How to keep your mind stable when you do Asana, that is very important. That is why Yoga was there. When the True Knowledge comes, then your mind won’t get distracted. In the Yoga Sutras it says ‘Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodhāh. But how? It’s easy to read. Then you have to come to the practical experience. Only Guru Padishta Margena (a Yogi who has become Firm). Only with the guidance or the blessings of a Guru then only the knowledge will come to you.

My Grandfather was well renowned, he was very famous. One day in Lakshmipuram, my a Grandfather and I we were sitting. He used to have Conferences like this. It was a very small group, it wast a big group like this, maybe ten, fifteen students were there. And this one lady came ‘oh Guruji, it’s so nice to see you, you’re world famous!’. Guruji was telling all these things, he was saying some mantra..and Guruji said ‘oh really? Oh, ok.’ And he went back to what he was explaining before. What I’m telling you is how simple he was. The fame didn’t soil him or disturb him. It didn’t bring his Ego. So True Knowledge when you understand, then nothing disturbs you. When my Grandfather was in the hospital, always he used to chant. The last two years he suffered, ’till then he was lifting so many students. Until 92 he was lifting all the students. I think he strained himself a lot. He was standing a lot all the time, he never used to sit. He used to help these six footers in back bending, make them catch. Not even one day he said ‘I’m so famous, I want this kind of award, I want that kind of award.’ He never asked any government department to give him an award because he had so many students. That was the simplicity that he maintained. That was his Sadhana.



So how do we understand True Knowledge? Through our own Sadhana. The Sadhana part is very important in our own Practice. ‘Oh everyday I do Asana. I get very early in the morning and practice.’ There was one student, he was very angry with me. He didn’t get admission because there were so many students. So he came to practice with my Mother, he wanted to meet me. One day he came, he was very angry. He said ‘I’ve been here for ten years but you didn’t let me come inside. I also get up at 3 O’clock like you. I practice.’ I said, ‘Very good. You got up at 3 O’clock but you didn’t understand what Yoga is’.

The attitude has to change. Our perception towards this Life, towards this System, everything should change. Then also the understanding will start, then there will be progress. Once we say ‘I know everything’, ‘I am Equal to God’, ‘I am Equal to Krishnamacharya’. If you say that, then Life is finished. You cannot be Krishnamacharya anymore. To be Krishnamacharya, I think you have to live fifteen life cycle. You need to do every Sadhana. To be Pattabhi Jois you need to another seven. We used to say we take seven rebirths. We take birth, we die. We take birth, we die.

There is no end. Bhagavad-Gita also says, whatever Sadhana we have done in this life…we can leave this body but that Sadhana will carry with your Soul. It will carry on to your next Life. So many students don’t get disappointed ‘I didn’t get Marichyasana D…Kapotasana…Intermediate Series.’ Don’t worry, you have next Life

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