Sharath Jois Conference Notes – 8th November 2014

Yoga is sadhana, this means many years of practice with guidance. Without guidance it is impossible to reach higher levels of realisation.  Books are very good, academia, but real experience you need, with guidance.  Guru will remove obstacles and ignorance, taking towards brightness, jnana.

Doing advanced series, having flexible body, does not make you enlightened.  Application of sutras in daily life is what takes you there, thoughts become action. Following ahimsa brings good thoughts.  Satya also to ourselves and in interactions with others.

Youtube is not parampara! A student once came, he said he has studied much youtube video, but when practicing, there is no dristi, breath incorrect, open hands when they should be closed. People forget aspects of yoga over time, not just asana.  There is a method, if not followed it becomes a circus.  You can relish your practice, enjoy it, do it from your heart, then it initiates.  The process that happens within you, you have to allow it to happen.

If you want to know the depth of the sea, you can keep sailing and sailing all around the world, but you come to the wrong conclusion. Only when you go inside, then you can know, see the beautiful things underneath. Until you go inside you don’t see what is there.  You can keep reading books, but until you practice in-depth understanding is not starting to unfold.

In saucha there are two types, internal and external.  Internal cleanliness means our body should be cleared of toxins, by doing asana our mind is cleared and good thoughts allowed to build. External means our mat, clothes must be clean, and our body bathed.

Santosa also happens not just on the outside. Some people you see smiling, but they are not satisfied, inside there is competition and wanting. Some other people are always unhappy, even when they get what they want. Being born is a gift, how you use it is very important, relish each moment. Things may seem the same, like this conference, same people and same place, yet still slightly different. Santosa is not having something, it is to be grateful. Half of your stress will come down then.

Tapas also, discipline, sometimes people think it means being hard to yourself, like military strictness.  It is consistency, maintaining a suitable lifestyle, not excessive sleep. My grandfather taught for 70 years, waking at 3am, teaching, he would not eat until 2pm, only taking coffee or glass of milk before then. You should not do this though! [laughter]

Svadyaha, self study, it’s not that you believe you don’t need a teacher, it is additional personal study. Like today, I am talking about sadhana, so you study after. Conference, there are different kinds, you can use in different ways.  Teacher giving knowledge, also entertainment, stories. [Sharath tells a favourite story from his childhood, about cheeky monkey convincing a tiger not to eat him].

Real application is what we want, what we should concentrate on. Very important for sadhakas to know and realise in their own practice.


Q: Sometimes all the intensity of asana takes me away from depth and I get distracted by sensations, how do we maintain?

A: You can put more focus into asana. Pain is always there, when you are doing asana or somewhere else, it’s just a different sort. When doing asana, your attention is coming, it must be there. During kapotasana, is your attention there, and do you realise that your mind in that moment has stopped thinking other things? Attention must be there. If you just leave your mind idle, there is so much wandering. Asana brings focus, this is the depth. The concentration grows strong, with many years practice and with good intention. Intention is very important, like a knife, can be used to cut sweet fruit, or to injure. Again, you can try, stop practicing for 15 days, you will see how nice your mind was, how your concentration was.

Q: When practicing with a guru is so important, what if our guru is very famous and we are unable to get a place to study with him?

A: Then you know the value of the guru! [laughter]

[Sharath tells story about a young, enlightened, Buddha-like boy who drew crowds of people without speaking, just being present, doing his own yoga, at a tree where people would congregate]

There are so many students here, lots of good intentions.  Energy levels are very high.

Q: With the primary series, is there a goal or a theme, why were these poses chosen?

A: There is a goal and there is not a goal. Some students have goals, some not. These poses were chosen to cure diseases. Strengthen and stretches body, heals the body. Janusirsana, maricyasana, kurmasana and supta kurmasana, these are very good for health. You should not have a goal, if you do, frustration can come. Just keep doing.

Q: When we jump through to seated is it okay if we need to take extra breaths?

A: You can take extra breaths. Use surya namaskar, with more practice you can build strong lungs, full breathing.
{Sharath tells story about Guruji having to go to hospital before travelling to Australia because he had some small phlegm in his lungs, they asked him to blow into a device to measure lung capacity, and his breath was so strong they had to ask him to stop because he might break the machine]

Q: As we practice, we add new poses, when we get older can we have poses cut from our practice?

A: Mind stays young as the body ages. Some poses I used to do 10 years ago I am not doing now, with so much teaching. Effort must be there, otherwise laziness. Don’t say “I am old”, that is just the body. Bhagavad Gita says everyone has 100 years, don’t waste. Socialising is important but that is not life. Spiritual life, self-realisation is the most important, going in search.

Sharath Jois Conference Notes – 25th October 2014

Sharath began by recapping the Tristana discussed last conference, and then raised the question of the importance of bandha.

There are three most important bandha.  Jalandhara is locking the chin, Mula is locking the anus, Uddiyana is below the navel.  This is described in many texts, the Mula, is of most importance.  It is the source, the base.  One verse says “always mula bandha”, this means when walking, sitting, everything.  There are so many aspects to this, so much philosophy as well.  It is the source to control the mind.  Another verse says “old man who can control mula bandha, will become young again”.

The five great elements, what is their source?  Many people do not want to believe in a god, finding it scary.  It is the supreme energy, the source of the elements, giving life. You can feel it, just as you feel yoga inside you.  A verse says “when practitioner master mula bandha, he becomes king of all the yogis”.  It comes with practice, one or two years.

Perfection comes only from practice.  Nowadays everything is fast, fast food, everything is takeaway.  The process of creation is being skipped, masala dosa takes two days to create from scratch, but when we order we want it fast.  If we don’t give the time we won’t know the yoga. Mula takes one or two years, maybe more.

Here, with my Grandfather’s yoga, progress is slowly, slowly, one at a time.  So when we practice for two to five years, we can start to know what we are doing.  Until then it is physical.  We eventually have more clarity within us.  Many people get confused, you can tell the difference between people who don’t have in-depth experience, that devotion.  Asana can become ego, what we are doing is getting rid of these things.

In-depth experience and better understanding only comes through personal practice.  Anyone can read translations of the sutras and then recite out loud.  What is required for the individual is sadhana, to be a sadhaka.

A verse says “Guru is remover of obstacles and ignorance, one who takes us towards the brightness of spiritual knowledge”.  You can see what happens without parampara.  A devoted student dedicates himself to learning from a master, it is different to fleeting, changing practice. Someone asked once, how do you find your guru?  If, when you first see him, you have some dislike, but something in your mind persists, you hate him, but you are prepared to learn.

[At this point Sharath’s young son comes on stage to ask his father to announce that they will set of some big firecrackers after conference for Diwali, pictures in the comments]

Q: So what is the process for developing mula bandha?

A: Many asana help, in particular utpluthih, navasana, even jumping through.  Jumping into handstand is not it. Utpluthih is a pose, but also just means lift up, bring your body off the ground, like in navasana.  If you do mula properly, uddiyana will come automatically.  Jalandhara in is some postures, more in pranayama.

Q: Can you tell us more of the story of Patanjali?

A: Patanjali’s words were to bring health to the people, people suffering from physical and mental disease, using three methods. Yoga (clarity, concentration, steadiness), grammar (better speech, conversation, understanding), aryuveda (for some diseases, no side effects, everything natural)

Yoga came before Patanjali also, in the Vedas.  When the galaxy started, our existence, that is when yoga started.  The Bahagavad Gita has a reminder, Lord Krishna teaches yoga.  This is very old knowledge, from parampara.  It is timeless, it is pure experience.
Just as soil must be nourished for the flower to blossom, so we must follow the external limbs, yama, niyama, to allow yoga to be nourished.  [Sharath describes some experiences of dharana].  It is funny sometimes people are advertising they are in pratyahara or other state, it is impossible to tell, nor can it be advertised.

Q: What on your thoughts on why we get injured?

A: My question to you is why you did not come to practice today! [Laughter – the student answers that she was late and did not want to disturb].

There are lots of reasons for injury. Overdoing it is common, lack of concentration, and from doing other physical exercise. Body can become confused from switching between stiffening and stretching.  I played lots of cricket when I was younger, and when I began practicing seriously I could tell the difference, body is changing, brings pain, you have to allow it.

I would prefer to do 10 asana perfectly than many with imperfection.  If mind is somewhere else, injury can come.  A kind of meditation should arise over time as you get deeper in your asana.  Concentrate on your own practice, not other people!  If you do this, you become focused, your practice will change.

I have done many demonstrations, when I do, as soon as I begin asana I become unaware of the people and what is going on around me.  Only through much practice, giving attention entirely to practice.  You can get to another level of yoga.  Try it.

Q: We have been talking about meditation this conference, should we be meditating outside our practice?

A: Meditation is an English word, what does it mean?  [Student proposes “one pointed mind”].

It is not a real word in Sanskrit. A verse says that vision is often directed externally, when we draw attention inwardly, external stimulus will not bother you.  You can call this dhyana.  Meditation is usually external, more like drishti.  Bring peace within you, dhyana, try to be calm, quiet, not disturbed. There is difference between dhyana and meditation.  It can happen any time, again, like the flower bed, nourish the soil and it can happen spontaneously.


Sharath Jois Conference Notes – 18th October 2014

Yoga doesn’t have a start date.  You and I, we each have a date of birth, but not so with yoga, no one can say when yoga started.  In this parampara you can follow the different lineages, different saints, rishis, each who practiced yoga and did their own research in yoga.

There is no one day when it started.  There are several different definitions.  Patanjali sutras describe as mind control, which can sounds scary to some people, so we can instead say calming of the mind.  The monkey mind needs to be controlled. We have vrittis running around in our mind, and we develop concentration and focus for this.  Sometimes, we can say we have consciousness, sometimes not.

These aspects are the initial stages of yoga.

Further stages of yoga go deeper and take a lot of work.  We talk about higher consciousness, using Dharana and Dhyana to reach Samadhi, to the ultimate.

So yoga is not just physical, three aspects are important. Asana brings health and stability.  Breathing, as I said last week, breathing controls the mind, and the mind controls the body.  Gaze is bringing focus into the practice.  It is hard to go deep when you are looking around, I am seeing students who have been here many times, showing this focus.  When we put all our focus into the practice it becomes meditation.

Pranayama can be defined as expansion or contraction.  Breath is an automatic action in the body and when we do breathing technique we can expand life.  In one day we have 24 hours, if we can expand our breathing this becomes like 26 hours, we extend our life. 80 years becomes 100 years!  Many years ago, the old rishis used this technique to live longer.

There is a small village nearby called Hassan, it is becoming city now.  On the way from Mysore to Hassan, 6km before Hassan there is a village Koushika (Kowshika).  This is such a beautiful village, there is so much spiritual energy there.  Rishi Vishvamitra, who created the Gayatri mantra, was there.  He was a king when he arrived, and he did much work, and became enlightened.  In North India he spent 10000 years, in South India he spent 5000 years, going to many places.  You can imagine how long he lived!

So, yoga is not new.  Definitions of yoga are changing lately with commercial teacher training. 25 years and I am still trying to be a teacher, still trying to become enlightened.  I am close! [Laughter] Well, closer than you [laughter].


Yoga cannot be purchased.  All is happening within you.  How we develop outside depends on the change that happens within, how we follow Yama and Niyama, very important.  Asana is useless without Yama and Niyama.  Only after this process can we have proper understanding.

Ahimsa is the start. If you do Asana, and then fight and gossip, what is the use?  It becomes just physical. If we do Surya Namaskar we develop great strength, if you misuse this energy, this is not yoga.  Satya, be true to yourself.

Asteya is a problem these days, stealing postures, create your own yoga!  Not coming from a lineage or parampara.  Guru teaches method, postures, but not only this, Guru gives blessing also.  Teachings with blessing are important.  Dosa is only tasty with chutney, dosa by itself is not so nice. Like this with teachings, the blessing is the chutney!  You may want a Kriya or Asana right away, but guru will not give it to you.  People want to squeeze all the knowledge, guru always knows when you are ready.  If you give an ant a piece of gold, it cannot handle it.  Slowly, slowly, many years learning, one by one, knowledge accumulates.  Sutras cannot be consumed in one sitting.

Krishnamacharya had so much book knowledge, he had eight degrees, learned from many people.  Debating also, in those days, to be a scholar, you had to debate, be asked questions from professors, answer on the spot.  Eight degrees he obtained.  He also wanted to learn practically, and he went north to see Ramamohan (Brahmachari), he learned there for eight years, practical methods.  Many stories have been written on this.  We always repay our gurus in some way, Krishnamacharya’s fee this time was not money, but the instruction to spread the knowledge and teach others.

This is the parampara.

This year is my 25th year, in April next year it will be 26 years.  Not including childhood, small pieces of learning.  Twenty five years getting up at 1am, practice, teaching, learning, is not easy.  Other than this practice, I don’t know anything.  My wife gets cranky when I am not teaching, in the house she is asking when will I go and teach!  I get cranky when I am not teaching [laughter].

Sometimes students ask “Should I practice every day? Can I miss a day?”  Practice is 24 hours, yoga is not doing, yoga is happening.  Asana is doing.  Asana is important, but not too much, not every pose for many hours a day, don’t overdo it.


Q: As Ashtanga becomes bigger, sometimes it seems to become competitive, with an emphasis on fame.  Strong community is important for students. Can you advise us on supporting each other in a united, global community?

A: Yoga doesn’t belong to one person.  When there is proper knowledge of yoga there can be no conflict, yoga teacher should get rid of ego.  You need to solve this yourself at home, I don’t know your situations, I never put my nose in any of this politics.  No one is greater, everyone is great.  What you are doing, that is what is important.  Once the world inside yourself is correct, the world outside becomes very good, very beautiful.  For this issue you are wise enough.  If someone is telling me a story, someone else tells me something different.   So I think for this question, you have to sort it out yourself.  With proper exercising of yoga there is no conflict.

In July and August this year I held training for the authorised students, it was such a nice time.  It was so nice to see all the senior students coming and practicing together, real yoga is happening there.  Yoga is union also, this is also a kind of union, everyone coming together.

Q: In the led classes as we finish the chant, what is it that you recite, what does it mean?

A: This is thanking the ancestors, all the gurus, the parampara.  Many people forget gurus, without gurus it is impossible.  You cannot master yoga by watching video.  Only asana, no ethics.  Just bending the body.  Only guru can show you the path.
Q: How should we handle doubts when they occur in practice?

A: Doubt keeps coming.  Without doubt there is no chance to find the answer.  If you want to learn you need the doubt.  All common. Keep pushing little bit, makes best practice.  Yoga is challenging, it doesn’t come easy if you just sit, so many distractions.  Sometimes students go on Vipassana retreat, and on first day, very excited and feel success, on second day, so much distraction arises.

This practice is beautiful.  Doubt is there, so many thoughts going around, excuses, pain, all common. Slowly, slowly, it will vanish.  After some time, stopping becomes uncomfortable!  Become unstable when not practicing. Try it, try stopping, see how you feel.
The outside world affects practice so much, mind is always there, thought.  So detach from everything, when on your mat don’t think about anything else.

Q: There are many other healing therapies in India, do you recommend?

A: Not necessary, only when sick, not for everyone.  [Sharath tells a joke about a doctor prescribing the same treatment for everyone that walks into his office, even the mailman].  Many toxins come out during practice, primary series is for this. Use therapies to treat allergies, asthma, illness.  Be very careful.  Too much can make you weak, sick.

One karma is enough, you want five? [laughter] When I started, when I was 19, I wanted to do everything perfect, so many asana, practicing for 3 hours every day with Guruji, so much pain.  One day I do much neti, three times, next day couldn’t talk, throat was so sore!


Sharath concluded by inviting students to attend the Maharaja Sanskrit College, where Guruji started teaching, on the 22nd of October at 6pm.  The will be a memorial event thanking the great K Pattabhi Jois and BKS Iyengar for their work in spreading yoga around the world, and the college will honour Sharath and Saraswati Jois.