Conference Notes with Sharath Jois: KPJAYI, 12 August 2012

Today’s conference was packed with information about Sūrya Namaskāra, Śīrṣāsana, failure and falling, and the real meaning behind Guruji’s 99% practice quote. Sharath began by talking about the beginning of our āsana practice. Our Sūrya Namaskāra A and B was added by Pattabhi Jois for two reasons. To pray to the sun god each morning would insure good health. We, like other plants and animals, need sunlight for a strong body (and, therefore, a strong mind). Because most of us cannot correctly understand the svara, the up and down proper pronunciation of vedic chants, we should not recite them. The Sūrya Namaskāra A and B is an easier prayer or “salute” to the sun god. Also, the Sūrya Namaskāra is used in our practice, from the earliest beginner to the most advanced practitioner, to create heat in the body and help us do other postures. This is an internally created heat, not artificial.

We were lucky to be blessed with a demo from Sharath today.  He wanted to talk about the Śīrṣāsana (headstand) we do in our closing postures. When done properly it benefits us by improving our circulation and helping to draw our Amṛta Bindu, these golden drops of nectar that, over time, fall down into our digestive fire, back into the head.  It drops as we age, and keeping it from burning away will keep us looking youthful and bright. Many students have trouble in the Śīrṣāsana posture and fall out of it due to instability and the inability to relax.  He explained that our hands and forearms form a tripod.  Our hands should be neither locked too tightly nor linked loosely.  The fingers should be tight but the palms of the hands should not touch.  Our head should not take too much weight.  Our exit from Śīrṣāsana should be slow, and we should move into rest without lifting the head or moving around too much.  With the entrance and exit it is important not to rush and to be patient as we try to stay up longer. Perfection in āsana only means stability.  Stability means we are comfortable and relaxed.  Sharath quoted Guruji as saying an āsana must be done 1000 times in order to be perfect.  In the posture we should have a stable mind and body.  He reminds us to not be so aggressive in our postures and to relax.  When asked about starting Śīrṣāsana for the first time, Sharath warned about the use of props.  Using a wall when there is no help from a teacher is not a bad idea but introducing things to prop us up leads to trouble.  If there is pain in the neck, be patient and wait to begin the posture. There is no rush.  Also, we must learn to fall.  Whenever we fall in a posture, we learn.  As a baby learns to walk by falling, we will learn balance and stability by falling and failing.

Finally, a student asked Sharath when we should start to read texts such as the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali and the Bhagavad Gītā.   Sharath explained that we misinterpret Guruji’s 99% practice, 1% theory to mean āsana is 99% of this practice when, in fact, he meant Yoga is 99%.  Our practice is the Yamas and Niyamas, Āsana, how we treat others, how we treat our self.  The 99% should be our experience and behavior in āsana and in life.  We should read the texts and do as they say.  That is also our practice.  Finally, he ended by reminding us that it was not required that Sharath teach for Guruji just because he is his grandson — Sharath worked hard to get up early to read and study with Guruji.  Guruji was not related to T. Krishnamacharya, his teacher.  A good student, steeped in the teachings, can pass on this method, too.  He said, if we learn properly, even we can be a representative of this lineage.

By Megan Riley