When I teach in Mysore, India, I see about 2,000 students over six months. On tour, I see twice as many people from all over the world. And not only old students come. There are many new students who have never experienced yoga. I correct their asana and help them build a foundation. I encourage these students to take up yoga. It’s not just two hours of practicing on your mat. It’s the way you live, the way you conduct yourself in daily life. Ashtanga yoga is a way of living. Without a sound structure and foundation the building won’t be strong.
In yoga, it is very important to have a guru to guide you. It’s like when a baby learns to walk. The baby gets encouragement to take a step forward. If he/she falls, someone is there to pick them up. After the baby learns to walk, the act itself becomes second nature and he/she no longer needs the same encouragement. Also in yoga, we need encouragement and inspiration in the beginning to take the first steps. When old and new students practice together, they inspire one another. Later on, in higher levels of yoga, you don’t need encouragement. Like walking, it happens naturally.
Yoga sadhana, however, is an individual affair. It is through your own effort, education and understanding that will lead you in a spiritual direction. At the same time, you need guidance. A guru gives students a broader perspective on yoga. People strive to know what they don’t know. Strive to know what yoga is; what spirituality is; what is the ultimate meaning of this; what is the purpose of doing this? We are all trying to know that. What is the purpose of this life? What is the purpose of spirituality? How we can gain this, how we make ourselves live better in whatever time we have in this world?
We have to find a way to go deeper inside, deeper in the practice. We are not stuck in a group of people just talking about asana and trying to explain how to do handstand and how to do back-bending. That knowledge is very limited and it’s unnecessary knowledge you are gaining. What you need to know is how to prepare yourself to gain greater knowledge. This is what yoga practice is about. Yoga is just an idea, like consciousness, and higher consciousness. It is also like a tool. A guru gives tools to students. A guru shows how to use them to discover this brighter lightness, which is called nana. The asana is only part of it. We have to come together and practice and go towards this. If students don’t know how to use the tools it will be a disaster.
It’s only through a guru, your teacher, that any knowledge is transferred. Many people put up yoga videos on You Tube, but they don’t connect with people. Everyone wants to copy each other. Many people today want to write a book. They copy pieces from other books and paste it into their own book. They copy and paste that’s all. People live a copy-and-paste life. There is no experience in that. They want to copy someone else’s life because it looks good or sounds nice, and paste it into their life. They watch videos to see how to do asana, but they do not experience the teaching or energy of their guru. They do not experience real life. If energy is not developed with your guru, you don’t have the connection. Many things are lost. Many things are diluted. Without this, you don’t get to experience the real yoga.
On tour, I try to give students insight into an authentic practice in the way I know. I try to present it in my own way. It is important even if it helps just a few of them to take up yoga and know what this practice is all about. It is my hope that everyone experiences for themselves real yoga.