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Sharath Jois on Experiencing Yoga Beyond Goals

Setting goals in both life and yoga may not always improve your practice. Here's how changing your traditional way of thinking can lead to greater success with less effort.

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Yoga Master Paramaguru
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Many people believe that success is only how much money you’ve made and what you’ve created for yourself and your family. The thought process goes, ‘If I do this, I’ll get that’… with that being, ‘I’ll get wealthy’ or some other kind of reward. The reward becomes a target that you have to achieve within a certain amount of time.

However, imagine that you have gained happiness and prosperity, and then something terrible happens, causing you to lose everything. What is your state of mind then when your success or money is gone? You’ve spent all your time working toward that target. You break down. You get depressed. This is a tragedy. How do you keep your equanimity in times like this?

Yoga is different. Yoga is all about the experience. Experience has no agenda. Yoga has no agenda. Yogis don’t have a target. In fact, yogis are in a state of bliss because they are untouched by anything. When you enter the path of yoga, things change. In yoga, you aren’t looking for success. You are here to gain a higher consciousness within yourself. Something in which you can relish every day in this life. Because of the love yogis have for the spiritual, they are free. Spirituality doesn’t have any target. For the love to happen and the experience to happen, it’s not done all at once. These things happen stage-by-stage, like your yoga practice.

Over the past 25 years, the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute has grown slowly. First, it was a school, then it became an institution. I learned yogic knowledge from my grandfather, but I also had to learn a lot by myself. Guruji was there, but many things I had to organize on my own to make the institution grow. It’s not simply the intelligence of one person that made it develop into what it is today. I did things not to gain personally, but based my decisions on what is good to uphold this knowledge. That was how I thought. I was simply experiencing and doing. I didn’t have any personal agenda or desire for popularity. That’s why it grew so well.

Today, we are an international institution. If I had thought differently I might’ve gone away from this institute, created my own world, my own kingdom. But that was not my aim to do so. I have only wanted this parampara to grow. That is why it has become one of the biggest yoga institutions in the world.


Related: Sharath Jois on the Importance of Having a Yoga Teacher


Because I am in charge of the institute, many students think I can do whatever I want. But it’s not about me or how I uphold the tradition. It’s about learning. Seeking. You should have this seeking. When there is no seeking, you won’t love this practice. You won’t love this method.

Many people say what is ashtanga yoga? “Oh, it’s eight-step yoga,” they say, but they don’t know in depth what each step means. They don’t know how to realize each step. They have goals, like I want to have 100 students. If you have a goal or an agenda then this becomes your priority. And that priority will change just to have students.

Desiring popularity or having a target is what makes students lost. When they get a little popular, they are running behind. Teachers will ask themselves, how many students do I have? How many “likes” do I have? How many students do I want? They will lose their consciousness. It will be going very nicely but at a certain point, it will become difficult. I can go online and become more popular, but I don’t want to do that. I won’t be true. These basic principles will vanish. There will be no yoga left if that is your goal.

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Sometimes it’s difficult to cultivate lucidity during troubling times. Patanjali Yoga Sūtras offers 4 practices to help keep the mind steady: 
Friendship, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity. 
These four practices are also praised in various Buddhist suttas.
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