Interview with Simon Borg-Olivier. "Traditional yoga for modern body"

Simon Borg-Olivier MSc BAppSc (Physiotherapy) is a Co-Director of Yoga Synergy, one of Australia’s oldest and most respected yoga schools. The Yoga Synergy style is based on a deep understanding of yoga anatomy, yoga physiology and traditional Hatha Yoga. Simon has been teaching since 1982. He is a registered physiotherapist, a research scientist and a university lecturer. Simon has been regularly invited to teach at special workshops and conferences interstate and overseas since 1990.
 
In this interview Simon is telling about himself, and about his time proven method. Also you're going to find out about differences between modern and traditional yoga, how to practice safely and efficiently, about spiritual and physical aspects of yoga and so on.
Enjoy the reading!
 
Olga Sydorenko
 

Interview with Simon Borg-Olivier

 

"Traditional yoga for modern body"

 
 
 
 
Let’s start with something neutral - tell me about your hobbies and interests.
 
About 10 years ago my main interest was yoga. But since than I have two children - 8 year old girl and a 5 year old boy. And they become my biggest passion. As I spend more time with them I found out that this is an ultimate yoga - the relationships. Cause I think yoga is all about relationships. Relations with my wife and my two kids is my biggest passion.
 
So you spend most of your time with your family?
 
Unfortunately I spend most of my time earning money for my family. You see, Sydney is quite an expensive city.
 
Have you been born here?
 
No, I was born in Malta. My father brought me here, when I was 8 years old. And I’m happy with his decision, I think Australia is the loveliest country I’ve been to.
 
How did you come to yoga practice?
 
My father taught me pranayama when I was about 6 years old. He was a free-diver, so he taught me pranayamas, which he used. And that was my beginning in yoga. Than, a year or two later I’ve met an asian athlete Basel Brown and he taught me the bandhas, uddiyana bandha, nauly and other things like that.
 
And you practiced all those things being a child?
 
Yes, since that time I practiced all those things. Then, when I was about 17 years old I went to my first hatha yoga class. And I talked to the lama, who taught me yogic philosophy. Then I become disinterested in yogic asanas, it didn’t seem exiting enough - the teacher just taught us some funny positions and then we went to sleep and I didn’t see the point. So I involved myself in walking, running etc. - those activities seemed more fun at my early 20s.
 
I was a sort of fortunate at the age of 22-23 – when after running madly I had problems with my back and knees. Then I started my first therapeutic yoga classes. Then I got very much involved.
So I went to study with B.K.S. Iyengar in India, then with Pattabhi Jois in early 80s. I also started teaching yoga at that time.
 
Did you face any difficulties in your practice? Which ones?
 
At the beginning of 90s, after I’ve been teaching for almost ten years, I felt that there is something still missing in my practice. So I understood that I need further studying.
 
I’ve already done two degrees in science in Biology. But I decided to study physiotherapy. I finished my third degree in 1996. After that I understood, what physical yoga was trying to do with the modern body is different from what traditional yoga did to an ancient Indian body.
 
So, what is the difference?
 
The difference is big. The typical western body sits for about fifteen hours a day, average person walks maybe for about 15 minutes a day. They sit on chairs, go to the toilets, where they also sit, they drive cars. They carry things on their shoulders, usually on one side. And body becomes very asymmetrical.
 
Now let’s see what happens to a traditional body in India. People sit crosslegged at every meal, which means their spines and hips become very mobile. They squat to go to the toilet and they would carry most of the things on their heads, even children carry things on their heads. And the weight they carry might be heavier than their own weight. Which means, when they turn themselves upside-down into a headstand, they will not have any problems with their necks. They’re not going to have problems doing lotus either. So all the common injuries that you see in the western body, a modern body, caused by traditional yoga postures, occur because they were not designed for the modern people’s bodies.
 
Me and Bianca (my business partner) combined what we’ve learned from Indian yogis and what we’ve understood as physiotherapists. And we redesigned the methodology of teaching yoga to western people with modern bodies. Not necessarily look the same but to have the same effect.
 
Describe your method please in more details.
 
The traditional yoga postures were not designed to stretch or to tense muscles. They were designed more to achieve some sort of union in the body, and that union would be done primarily by increasing the movement of prana and chitta to the body. In more scientific words - moving of energy and information in the body along the different energy channels. Those channels include blood vessels, nerves, lymphatic vessels, meridians. And the energy that flows in the body includes, for example, the heat in the blood, or electrical impulses that move through the nerves. So we than made our practice to enhance the flow of these things.
 
What I was feeling during yoga practice - that I was in yoga. It didn’t feel like I was stretching, tensing, breathing or thinking. Yet what we observe with most people’s yoga practice in the modern world, that they are trying to tense, stretch, breath too much and think too much or not to think at all.
 
So we’ve redesigned the sequences in such a way that people without thinking too much would make their bodies do what automatically normal indian traditional body would do. For example, what a modern person would do to get into a lotus position. He would take one leg, grab it and pul it on the opposite thigh, the same with the other leg. When you do this you cause the muscles between a knee and a hip to stretch as a result of a stretch reflex. But if you do this posture in the way that traditional Indian body would do - they do it the same way we cross our arms - they put leg on the opposite thigh without using their arms. You must do it in the same way while you are in the head or hands stand, for you can’t do it with your hands. So legs are moving due to the action of the muscles. It is a simple nerve reflex - in order to bend your knee you have to switch on one muscle and switch off the opposite muscle. So by moving actively into a position, using forces of the internal body, it automatically gives you strength on one side of the joint, relaxation and length on the other side of the joint. It looks like you’re having a stretch, but it doesn’t feel like you’re stretching. And because one side of the joint was tensed and compressed, while the opposite is relaxed and lengthened, this causes change in the blood flow - from high pressure to low pressure. And this improves circulation. Working in such a way you feel warm very quickly. I can practice in a freezing cool room or walk outside in the winter and my body in a couple of minutes becomes very warm. Or if I practice in a very hot conditions I would not feel overheated because of good circulation process in my body.
 
So the most important aspect of the practice I teach is - can you move energy and information through the body in a way when you don’t feel like stretching and tensing. But as a natural byproduct of the practice you end up very flexible and very strong, and fit, while feeling like you were meditating and your mind is at peace.
 
Is this what makes your method unique?
 
Well, if our method is unique, it is only in the world of modern yoga. Because this is exactly what traditional yogis do. And that’s why they achieve the results they do. That’s what my teachers taught me, I had very good Indian, western and Chinese, Tibetan teachers.
 
So it’s a kind of traditional yoga but with a different approach?
 
It’s traditional yoga redesigned to work simply with the modern body, modern people, without making them think too much.
Because it is possible for me, for example, to put a student into any posture and tell them that they have to tighten this or that muscle and flex the other, lengthen that one and shorten this one. But giving even only one instruction like that makes many students chaotic. When you give them three instructions, after hearing the third one, they already forget the first one. They think they can not move different parts of their body at the same time.
 
So you think that traditional yoga can not be practiced as it was practiced years ago in India? And hence, it’s a good thing to invent new sequences, new approach.
 
To practice traditional sequences one has to have a traditional Indian body. And my experience of 40 years of practice, 30 years of teaching and about 25 years of physiotherapy tells me that results of traditional yoga practice are not good for modern people. If you give traditional yoga sequence at your class at least half of the people will not come back to your class, about 30% of the half left would stop after one year. Those who would not stop, had a kind of traditional bodies at the beginning and that is why they persisted.
 
Should we create the whole new yoga for the modern world? I don’t think so. All that we should do - to apply traditional principles for the modern body. And some of those principles as I said before - not to use your hands to lift up your legs. Move only as fare as the body wants to go, when it makes not any pain or discomfort. Use principles of tapas and ahimsa:
Tapas - you move as fare or deep as you can only by using your internal force;
Ahimsa - go as fare as you can without causing pain or damage;
And Santosha - be happy with how fare you can get at the moment.
This approach is especially good for new people.
 
So what yoga looks for is a balance between fight or flight and relaxation. And to achieve this balance you use the adage which comes from Patanjali Yoga Sutras and defines yoga practice, which is called asana. And it says sthiram sukham asana, meaning be firm but you have to be calm and relaxed.
 
So the modern yoga that I see is of two types: one yoga was reduced to something that is very stressed, they do stressful exercises after which they relax for 10 minutes; the other type of yoga that is commonly taught today - something that is totally relaxed, it is called yin yoga or restorative yoga, there is no energy movement, it’s one joint collapsing over another and with the time one gets the joint problems.
So what a yoga practitioner really needs - is a practice, which engages the joints to be stable and strong without blocking the flow of energy, so heart rate does not necessarily needs to increase but you get warm.
Commonly what modern people think, one have to improve circulation and they say, you should increase your heart rate. But those processes are quite separate, you can increase circulation without increasing your heart rate, without sweating.
 
Here is an example, if two runners run speeding race and they end up this race at the same time. Who is the fittest one? The fittest one in this case - is the runner with the lower heart rate, who is breathing less. And this is the type of yoga I’m trying to teach - we do stuff but we’re trying to do it in the most relaxed way possible.
 
Mainly you are describing a body work and approach in yoga. Do you perceive yoga to be a spiritual practice?
 
Yoga is the ultimate spiritual practice. Iyengar once told us, his students, and I carry this expression ever since, he said: «Yoga is when you make every cell of the body sing the song of the soul.» That’s sounds like spirituality to me. A soul doesn’t reside in just one place, it resides in every cell of the body - every cell has a soul. So in my yoga practice I’m trying to connect with every cell. We are trying to make energy, information, prana and chitta move to every cell. And this body is being a temple. This makes spirituality.
 
The ultimate spirituality that I understand, is that there is a some source-field, which creates all matter, all energy, a consciousness, some unified field. You can connect with this field within yourself and appreciate it, I think this is one step closer to unifying yourself with the universal consciousness, which is this one field. This field is undiscovered by an orthodox regular science but this one unifying field is a generator for everything else. I believe yoga brings us one step closer to understanding this. Some cultures call this God, it doesn’t matter what you call it, the spirituality is the understanding that we are all connected - everything is connected to everything else. And what we do effects someone else.
 
 
Some people come in for yoga only to become more fit. Do you think those people need the spiritual path you can give them?
 
Definitely! You see, the problem is that often what students need is not what they want. If you want to encourage a student you have to have them coming back to your classes. So if you see a person, who might need a spirituality but they’ve come to have some fitness, you give them some fitness in order they come to your classes long enough for you to have time to give them spirituality as well.
 
Generally people come to feel good, so you give them 95% of what they want and 5% of what they need at the moment. All people need spirituality, but they also want to become strong and fit and to lose weight. An intelligent teacher gives his students, what they want while showing them little by little a path to spirituality.
 
You clime that you’ve got lots of benefits from yoga practice. What are they?
 
Number one - I’m a better father... I think. And hopefully, I’m a better husband.
 
You was not a father and a husband before practicing yoga, how can you know? ;)
 
I just know, it’s true. I know that in the relationships with my previous girlfriends I was not such a good partner as I’m with my wife now. She might disagree, but she doesn’t know, how bad I was before. :)
 
My understanding of yogic relationship I import within myself: my mind relating to my soul, my mind relating to my body, my consciousness relating within. These relations within myself I enforced into my asana practice and this helped me to form a better relations with outer world.
Now when I relate to my wife I think I can do it with more Ishvarapranidhana, more Ahimsa and less violent approach. More Tapas - I try harder to help her, rather than to irritate her. And I’m happy with how she is - not trying to change her too much. So these are the principles that I apply to my own body, I also apply them to my wife.
 
I think asanas are a model of our life. All things in life come just like postures - we think, all right, I’m gonna handle it and I’m gonna stay relaxed. This person is screaming at me and I’m not going to scream back, I’m going to listen quietly and react appropriately afterwards."
 
So, these are the benefits I see primarily. And I only have to look at the physical level to see how my friends are, who are the same age as me. Some are in a good shape, but many are not, especially the ones who didn’t do yoga. I’m 52 this year and I’ve seen many of my friends, sadly a lot of them had died, a lot of them are sick - chronically ill, having problems with joints at their 40s, different types of internal organs problems, cancer. And they are all very stiff - they won’t be able to sit on the floor cross-legged.
 
I love going to dance parties and I’m happy to dance with the 17s and 21s years olds and have a really good time. That’s a benefit. Dance is an ultimate yoga, it’s free movement, postures, the energy flows with the movement.
 
And on the energy level I know that I’m doing better not only than the same age people, but most younger people as well. Cause I can move more freely, I can do more things, I have much more energy. I don't eat that much generally - my first solid meal would be probably at 10pm. I usually work till late night and wake up at about 3-4 in the morning. Because of my yoga practice I don't have to eat and sleep that much, which means I can do more things and that's one more important benefit.
 
Three and a half month before I fell from the three meters and injured myself badly - broke my radius, my arm, I torn my triceps and had an operation to fix all this. The doctor said that it was unlikely I would be able to straiten my arm. But you see I can make it straight and even do some minor balances like majurasana. So I think I heal a lot faster than most people do, even the doctor was surprised.
Funny thing about this injury - so many people said to me that it must be very frustrating and difficult experience for me, because normally I would do about twenty handstands during a day. But I was not depressed and actually I'm felling fine. We talk in yoga about non attachment. It's easy to be non attached to your iPad or a wallet, when it's stolen. But not to be attached to your body is a little bit harder. I was pleased and surprised, that although I've lost something and even was told by the doctor that I would never get it back, it didn't bother me that much to make me frustrated or depressed.
So physical and energetic benefits are good, but in the end the most important benefits are psychological ones.
 
And now, because my own elbow was broken I can help people with elbow problems, wrists or shoulders problems. I've been lucky to broke almost every joint in my body during lifetime. I've sprained my ankles and now I'm really good in fixing ankles. I've dislocated both my knees, now I can help people with dislocated knees. The same I can say about lower and upper back, neck, hips, shoulders. It makes a huge difference, when you've injured yourself and than fixed yourself up, you can help so much more to someone else.
 
Do you think yoga gives everyone the same benefits?
 
I think people get, what is appropriate for them at the time they come in for yoga. And I believe that everyone could do yoga, if they get what they want at the time they come to make them feel good. In the end, after getting what they've wanted they start getting what they really need. So everyone in the end can get the same benefits from yoga. And those benefits go fare beyond from what I've mentioned, they also include siddhis like ability to levitate or to heal at the distance. I believe, those things are possible.
 
Do you believe siddhis to be important?
 
Well, the one important is ability to help other people. I know a few people, who have such powers but they do not tend to show it openly. For example Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois and my current teacher Zhen Hua Young they all show some qualities which we may call siddhis. They wouldn't say it or say they are enlightened, but they've done things unexplainable in terms of science. So it's a kind of supernatural power.
 
Do you believe that supernatural qualities could be achieved by yoga practice?
 
My first aim, when I meet my students, is to take their normal bodies if they are not natural, and take them one step closer to being natural. And than, once they are eventually natural - it might take a life time, than we can work on supernatural (which is the siddhis).
But most of the people come to yoga with average bodies, which are quite fare from being natural, and they start trying to do supernatural things.
 
Do you believe there are enlightened people?
 
I think there are, but usually they say they aren't and those who say, they are - they usually aren't. A wise man once said that the one who is enlightened would never admit it.
 
They would never show off.
 
Exactly. But I know lots of people who say they are enlightened. If I were, I wouldn't say that.
My wife is an ultimate guru in my life. If I would eve say I'm enlightened, she will put me straight back down. Having such teachers as I do, seeing their level, I see that I'm somewhere under beginner compared to them.
 
What is harmony for you?
 
Harmony is a peaceful functional relations with people around you, also relations with yourself and within your body. If your physical body is in harmony, you will never feel your joints, your hips and back or shoulders when they move. And it's only when you start to experience pain somewhere in your body, you start to consider that you have to do something with your body. Many people never start any healthier regime until they are sick. Why to bother? I think it takes a kind of enlightened person to start doing yoga when you are not sick :)
 
Quite often healthy life advocates do not look very healthy and people think: well, he/ she doesn't look better than me. But there is an obvious explanation, those health life advocates are or were just sick people trying to get healthy!
 
I believe in Ishvarapranidhana concept, one of the translations of it and the best one is love. And this love has to start from love to yourself. Your mind and soul have to have relations like parent and a child.
People often say, you don't know a true love until you have a child. And the love you feel for that child sometimes is a love that you never have felt for any other person.
And this relationship between a parent and a child can be a relationship that we create in yoga between our mind and our soul. So our mind is like a parent and a soul is like a child. And all of us have been children, so we all had parents. And we know that our souls should receive love from our mind. But only when you become a parent, you know what mind should be trying to do to your soul. There are some people more enlightened than me, who are not parents but appreciate this understanding already. As for me, I had to become a parent to understand what is love and to understand, how it works on the level of mind and soul relations.
 
All the universe if filled with love and kindness and this is harmony.
 
Do you think that yoga is for everyone? Or it is for people, who cannot stay away from practicing - like you?
 
If we are talking about physical yoga as it is usually taught today - it is for very few people. But if you define it like I do - when your body goes as far as it can without feeling pain or discomfort, main principle is lengthen and relax, move naturally from manipura chakra center, breath naturally, tense less, stress less. This type of yoga is pretty much good for any person, but even though, there are some people, who would better go for something else, like relaxed walking, a jog or surf. In the end yoga is physical but it is for the mind. Many people better achieve yogic state of mind by doing simple daily activities like walking, running, doing the dishes. Doing dishes is good yoga for some people. And other people are better to sit so that their mind relax.
 
I believe that principle of mental and physical yoga can be found for every person. And probably any person already has a type of yoga, which keeps them sound and concentrated. You know, my father was the most focused person I've known, he could read a hundreds of manuscript pages just looking for grammatical errors. That takes a lot of concentration and it is really a mental yoga. Some people are just good at doing their job - that's the yoga as well. And that's for everyone. It's also good, when you can do it not only for your mind but for your body as well. So I am primarily trying to teach physical yoga for body which gives the same effect - peace in your mind, energy to your body, relaxation in the process of doing it. And when you finish the practice you have a feeling of having a good rest, a good sleep and a good meal, so you shouldn't feel tired and hungry in the end of your practice. If you're hungry and tired in the end this is not yoga, it is burning out.
 
Do you mix methods while teaching - using not only yoga but dancing for example etc?
 
Yes. During some of my classes I give people free dance after I taught them more free and relaxed movement of the body. And they usually dance much better than they usually did. I teach them how to walk, run or do any other daily movements in a more relaxed and natural way.
We restrict ourselves thinking that yoga postures are only this and this. But for example, by simply walking you do a little bit of twist and a little bit of a side bends. The same principle works for swimming. And when you understand the principle of spinal movements you can incorporate it into a daily life movements, than yoga postures appear in every movement you do. It is good to realize it.
Marshal arts is another example - you apply yoga principles in marshal arts, it works both ways actually. If you understand yoga, marshal arts comes very easily, but if you learn marshal arts first than often yoga comes with a lot of tension and hardness.
 
There are internal and external marshal arts. Sometimes tai chi is perceived as an internal one, karate as an external one. The force in external marshal arts comes on an exhalation, so you exhale to generate a force. In internal marshal arts the force is generated on inhalation. So you punch on an inhalation. And this is much more powerful punch when it's learned. So yoga traditionally, I mean like Pattabhi Joice's, Krishnamacharia's, was taught like an internal marshal art - all of the force generating poses are synchronized with inhalation. Those postures of course could be done on exhalation but it comes with much more tension. When you learn how to derive power on inhalation, it's much more powerful and relaxed.
My current teacher is very good in marshal arts he is very powerful.
 
What is he teaching you exactly?
 
He is teaching me yoga. The other day I was asking him, master, can you show me some marshal arts? He says, no, you practice yoga, you don't need marshal arts. So internal marshal arts is a natural extension of good yoga. I understand this more now than previously.
 
25 years ago I was doing hands stands, but I only weight 60 kilos - its not that clever to put 60 kilos in the air. Now I can simply put my arms on the floor relax and inhale, and the same power that relaxes you also can lift you up to the handstand, and it takes no more effort than breathing in. That was a revelation to me - that I don't need strain to put myself to a hand stand.
 
Once I have got a class in Japan, in the end of the class most of the group lifted up to a handstand and I thought that it was a really strong group. But after class most of the people come to me bowed and thanked me for the very first handstand in their life. They have listened and applied what I explained, It's amazing, how Japanese people can listen to what you say. Because most westerners don't listen with such attention. So usually I use a lot of visual instructions. When people follow visual instructions they turn off the left side of the brain, which is an analytical one and they turn on the right side which is more creative. It gives more balance, because most people are mainly using their left side of the brain.
 
What do you value most in your life?
 
My kids and my family. That's easy :) On a personal level health is also important.
 
Let's imagine you've become almighty, what would you change in the world?
 
Nothing! Everything is perfect. Even the concrete the nuclear power, the pollution I'm sure it has a purpose. It's like if you say if you come back to your life and change something in your life. For I've made mistakes, but I'm sure that every mistake has taught me something. Every thing I've done had lead me to where I'm here and now, and I'm happy with where I'm now.
And if you say you're not happy with what you have in your life it's a kind of miss-projection in your life. I'd rather find my happiness where I am, than search elsewhere. It's much more powerful thing to be content with what you've got, than to be frustrated and always trying to find something better.
 
Do you think this principle is applicable in yoga practice?
 
Yes, sure! This principle can be described with Yama and niyamas:
Ahimsa - without aggression and violence towards yourself or others,
Tapas - do your best to get the best possible results,
Santosha - be happy with the outcome, be happy with the way it ended up.
 
All people have this switcher in their brain, which turns on the state of happiness. But most of them either don't know it exists or they are trying to control their happiness. And some just choose not to be happy. It's ok sometimes to be unhappy or miserable but only as long as you know that you're choosing it.
 
Doesn't it make a person lazy - always to be content with the results of your actions?
 
Complacency is different to content. You see, if you take any Yama or Niyama by itself, they are too much.
For example, ahimsa by itself is just an apathy - I think if I get up from bed I may step on an ant, oh, i would rather stay in bed :)
And with tapas if you do your best, always strive for the best result you may over strive and it inevitably leads to damaging yourself or something else. And with santosha you can do lots of bad things and than somebody comes and says be happy with what you've got, you may not even think about possible better things to do...
 
In the Bhagavad Gita in the second chapter it says don't be attached to the fruits of your actions, don't be attached to either successes or failure and to laziness as well. Do your best without aggression or violence in your mind, but at the end be happy with the outcome. And this is the balance we call yoga.
I don't read too much but I love Bhagavad Gita, we even chant it sometimes.
 
Are there any other books you consider very useful for yoga practitioners, which you advice to your students?
 
"The applied anatomy and physiology of Hatha yoga " written by me :)
 
If you're doing physical yoga, especially if you're teaching others - you're dealing with other people's lives. You have to understand the physical body and know what you're doing. You also have to understand how your body is different compared to other people's bodies. And how our bodies are not the same compared to traditional Indian's. So learn physiology and anatomy - its an important part of svadhyaya, self study. Cause unless you know your body, you can damage it by doing asanas.
And going one step further, you have to understand the mind. So study some psychology and philosophy, cause good books are good teachers too.
 
Do you think it's important to go to India to find a true yoga Guru?
 
No, there are plenty of good teachers, who can teach yoga for an average modern body, in your own or nearest country. In India there is a really good culture and they are really good in doing postures, but they often don't understand western bodies. I've often heard about Indian teachers who never even thought that a western person never set cross legged on the floor in their life before and giving a lotus pose for such people is an extreme. So I think there are enough of good western teachers for a modern bodies, one don't have to search far away.
 
And if we talk about spiritual guidance?
 
We are fortunate enough to have plenty of good western spiritual gurus, who have learned a lot from the east and west. And there are plenty of good books. Some books as well as teachers are better than others. I try as much as possible to look for the common truth, self evident common truth from all the teachings. I love studying world religions, anthropology, and archeology. And when I see the same thing written over and over in different cultures, that sounds true to me, at least there is a higher probability that it is a true. But there are also many unconventional believes that I've adopted cause I so strongly believe that it is true.
 
For example?
 
I can speak in terms of science. I was trained as a genetic engineer and most of my friends from science believe that if you know enough of chemistry and biochemistry you can take a human body apart and than back again molecule by molecule. They believe that we're the sum of the parts of our body. But I do believe that there is something separate that exists with or without our body. This is not a common believe in the world where I came from - conventional science.
Than a central dogma of genetics states that our DNA is where everything starts from. While I believe that there is some sort of conscious field, which affects our DNA and our DNA is a sort of blueprints which are used to "build a house". But who is the actual architect? So I believe that our bodies are made by some sort of architect, who is outside of the DNA, there is something higher than our DNA.
 
Do you call it God for yourself?
 
I avoid the word God, because it puts you into boundaries of some monotheistic believes and separates you from the other two thirds of the world. I just talk about source field or consciousness, not God.
 
Do you perceive yourself a religious person?
 
I consider myself a religious but the word religion is as negative as well as the word God. I prefer to consider myself as appreciating the idea that the world is connected as one, everything is interrelated, and I'm trying to live my life harmonizing with that.
You see, religion is dogma.
I feel happy to sit and pray or do my visualizations, which might be the same as someone else's prays, I don't mind to pray, but to whom or what?
 
What do you teach your students when they come to you with the similar questions?
 
I don't want to cross those boundaries in the class in any way other than what I've said to you. Because as soon as you start putting the labels on people, you are going to antagonize some people. Rather than antagonizing students with different believes I teach them more obvious things and let them decide by themselves. I'm trying to show them that we are connected, that the body does relate to itself, that there are surprising things you wouldn't think you could do. And than I let them find the logical extension - like, what else is there that you didn't know. I let them eventually find their own path to spirituality.
I know from my previous experience, that as soon as you start imposing any religious believes, you're going to upset some people, so I keep it to myself.
 
One day someone asked Iyengar, would you teach me meditation? And he said, I can't teach a meditation. I can teach you what to do to approach a meditation. But a meditation is something you have to experience by yourself. The same thing is with the spirituality.
 
 
Your wishes to the readers of Wild Yogi magazine?
 
Find some type of yoga, which leaves you energized after practice, not hungry and not tired, peaceful while doing it, not stressed. And make an attempt to do a little of it everyday, even a few minutes, but everyday.
We often say to ourself that we haven't got time to be so selfish to practice yoga, but you can't express any sort of love and generosity to anyone else until you first give it to yourself. So it's not being selfish it's being selfless, to dedicate a little bit of time to some yoga practice. But it has to be a kind of practice not for flexibility or strength, but the one that makes you feeling good and happy physically and emotionally. Than you're going to spread this happiness and warmth all around you.
 
 
 
Site of "Yoga Synergy" in Australia yogasynergy.com.au
 
 
 

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