Sharath started by talking about Surya Namaskara.
He said everyday when we practice, whether it is primary intermediate, or advanced we always start with Surya Namaskara. This is because it is very good for health.
Surya means the sun and the sun is the God of Health.
the Vedic chant that explains how the sun gives us good health. Sharath quoted one of the most famous Vedic Hymns in praise of the Sun God:
aum bhadram karnebhih shrunuyaama devaah
sthirairangaistushhtuvaansastanuubhirvyashema devahitam yadaayuh
svasti na indro vriddhashravaah svasti nah puushhaa vishvavedaah
svasti nastaarkshyo arishhtanemih svasti no brihaspatirdadhaatu
aum shaantih shaantih shaantih
Om! O Devas, may we hear with our ears what is auspicious; May we see with our eyes what is auspicious, O ye worthy of worship! May we enjoy the term of life allotted by the Devas, Praising them with our body and limbs steady! May the glorious Indra bless us! May the all-knowing Sun bless us! May Garuda, the thunderbolt for evil, bless us! May Brihaspati grant us well-being!
Om! Peace, Peace, Peace!
Sharath said our body should be strong and healthy and we get that from the Sun God.
This is why we start with Surya Namaskara. He mentioned that many different yoga people do different styles of Surya Namaskara but ours is scientific because of the breathing. Surya Namaskara A has nine vinyasas and B has 17. Sharath noted that doing 108 Sun Salutations is not necessary. We should do max 7 of A and 5 of B if we have the time (not in the KPAYI shala in January!) or 5 of A and 3 of B is also okay. He mentioned that there is a puja where one goes around the fire doing 108 Sun Salutations but that is if someone is sick.
The sun is so important, Sharath said, that in India when a baby is born the mother or grandmother brings it out on it's 3rd or 4th day at sun rise to get the rays from the sun for good health.
The other reason that Surya Namaskara is so important is that it warms up the body.
Sharath said he knows that many students think they are going to a competition and stretch themselves before practice. He warned that you can injure yourself this way
, especially those doing hanumanasana pre practice and reminded us that it is not necessary.
Sharath told the story of the origin of Surya Namaskara which came from Guruji.
Guruji studied many manuscripts and by piecing them together came up with Surya Namasakara. He showed what he put together to Krishnamacharya and it was approved. Sharath noted that both men were scholars and that the process of creating something like this Surya Namaskara can only be valid when multiple scholars are in agreement.
The importance of health was a major theme in conference. Sharath reminded us that bad health is one of the obstacles to progressing in ones spiritual practice.
(The others are inertia, doubt, inattentiveness, lack of energy, proneness to sensuality, mistaken views, not being able to maintain the progress attained, unsteadiness in progression.) (Patanjali's Yoga Sutras Verse 1.30) Also, we should realize that just strength doesn't mean you are healthy. Health means full physical and mental health.
Yoga balances us. It works our physical health and makes our mind stable.
Sharath warned that western countries have so many options it is easy to get distracted. So many options creates confusion. This is true for the west's yoga offerings as well. We should understand that yoga is not something that comes in 15 days. It takes 15 years to know what yoga is.
It takes a very long time to stabilize the mind and the body.
Fast coming will fast go. Slow coming will last forever.
When we start yoga we experience many things physically and mentally. For six months we might be extremely focused and then suddenly we don't want to do yoga. Nothing is happening. There are many ups and downs in the practice. Sometimes all the asanas are easy. Sometimes pain comes and suddenly we don't enjoy practice. When you become wiser in your practice where there is pain you will enjoy that also. It is sweet pain.
Going back to his point about the practice bringing us mental stability, Sharath compared our minds to Lombard Street in San Francisco or to Off-roading. He said the mind goes through different terrains. Sometimes it is smooth like an expressway and sometimes it goes off road through rocks, sand dunes, hills, etc. Sharath compared yoga to a four-wheel drive land cruiser. He said if you do yoga properly it becomes terrain management for the mind. This is why it is very important not to stop practicing whether we have a flexible day or a tight day. We should take both equally and definitely not stand around the coconut stand talking about our "bad practice".
Sharath spoke about life, saying that we have good and bad experiences. We can't always have good. We must have bad times also, but this is what shows us the value of the good. He said that how we keep ourselves stable and straight minded through these extremes is what is important.
Then he quoted the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2, Sloka 38.
Sukah dukha same kritva labha alabho jaya ajayau
Tatah yuddhaya yujasva na evam papam avapsyasi
Treating alike pain & pleasure, gain & loss, victory & defeat, engage yourself in battle. Thus you will incur no sin.
Sharath pointed out the words for profit and loss, again saying how important it is to take all things equally:
What I'm telling you now, your bending your body is not all yoga. How you manage your emotions, everything, that is yoga. I'm not going to say how you bend is not important. It is important. But that itself is not the final stage of yoga.
Next Sharath took questions. I'll recap a few points from the Q & A:
If you have fever you should take a day's rest. If you have a cold you can take self practice at home and do some breathing techniques which clear the congestion.
When jumping into Chaturanga Dandasana one should jump straight into Catuari position, not jump back and lower down.
Don't stretch before practice. You can get injured. You can also get injured by going to unexperienced teachers. Adjusting correctly takes research. If you want to be a teacher you should train for 15 years with one teacher. You do not learn by teacher training but by doing your Sadhana and dedicating yourself to the practice for many years. There is no way around this folks! (my note) Sharath quoted this Gita again and spoke about our responsibility to protecting the truth.
In further response to a question about teacher training, Sharath spoke about the energy in the shala. He noted that he knows he can't please everybody, but said surely everyone has had a real experience. He said everyone here must acknowledge they have felt the energy of what Guruji created and once one has had that experience he/she knows parapara (the passing down of knowledge through a teacher-disciple lineage). He encouraged us to come back annually to grow our physical and spiritual practices.
When asked about the future Sharath said that future generations should be guided properly. The meaning of yoga has already changed and if we don't teach as we learned it will change all the more so in 100 years.
Yoga should be for self transformation. It is nothing else.
(Only) how it can take you to greater levels of consciousness.
You will go through many things in your life and in your practice and then you will know the true meaning of 'Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodhah'