Pragmatic Yoga Influences
While I like to think of pragmatic yoga as my own way to convey the teachings and as an expression of my ever changing spiritual path I'm fully aware that I have not invented anything. Like most folks I have been and am currently influenced by countless great people of the past and the present.
While it would take a book just to mention all the people that I'm trying to emulate in some way or the other there are a few major influential teachers to whom I owe everything.
After a brief foray into the kriya yoga tradition of Paramahamsa Yogananada I met Swami Vishnu-devananada at the end of a month-long yoga teachers training course taking place in Kerala, South India, in January 1987.
As powerful and transformative as the course was, my first meeting with this great Master during the last few days of the course exceeded that by turning out to be life-changing in so many ways.
That meeting led me to join the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers as a staff member the following year and for the next 12 years I remained immersed full time in the models presented by Swami Vishnuji. This constitute the core of my training and the foundation of my yogic life.
Every other influence which have come before or after that period only comes as a supplement to Swamiji's approach and not as a replacement.
Swami Vishnu-devananda, like many genuine yoga masters, did not teach and serve in his own name. Everything he did, including naming the organization he founded, he did in the name of his own guru, i.e., Swami Sivananda Saraswati of Rishikesh. Swami Sivananda was one of the few yogis of the 20th century who contributed the most to the worldwide spreading of yoga.
Learning from Swami Vishnuji meant learning Swami Sivananda's approach sometimes summarized as the yoga of synthesis or integral yoga. Swami Vishnu's way would just put more emphasis on the tantric practices of hatha yoga as well as the purifying practice of service or karma yoga.
A very prolific writer and teacher Swami Sivananda authored over 200 books and saw to it that many of his close disciples blossom into great masters themselves.
Even my very first yoga teacher, André Van Lysebeth of Belgium, was a direct student of Swami Sivananda.
Although yoga is a very practical discipline it stands on the shoulders of the rich philosophical foundation of the Srutis, or Vedas. The Vedas are the authoritative body of scriptures giving rise to what is now called Hinduism. At the end of these vedas came the small but extremely meaningful Upanishads.
The Upanishads lay the philosophical foundation behind all yogic teachings. Over the centuries many schools of interpretation came out of these teachings. Swami Sivananda and Swami Vishnu-devananda embraced the pure non-dualistic views of Adi Sankara.
Sankara's commentaries of the principal Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Brahma Sutras argue that advaita, or non-dualism, is the highest understanding of the Upanishads and life in general. Using clear thinking, uncompromising logic, and a fearless attitude Sankara defeated all other schools of thoughts via his commentaries and in countless debates.
The concept of Oneness pervading all expressions of diversity is a popular one nowadays and we can trace this to Adi Sankara himself.
While I was in the SYVC organization I was fortunate enough to be there during the last 6 years of Swami Vishnu-devanandaji's life. This gave me ample opportunities to have satsang with him which was a true blessing.
My karma was to not receive the direct training from him but, as luck has it, I was trained by many of his senior disciples and swamis. I learned a ton from many of them but my favorite of them all was Sukadev.
His dynamic approach to yoga teaching and to the practice of karma yoga inspired me a great deal and I even was called once a 'little Sukadev'. LOL.
Anywho Sukadev is a great yoga teacher in too many ways to list here but if you want to see by yourself what I'm talking about just visit the extraordinary Bad Meinberg Yoga Vidya ashram.
Talking and thinking in high philosophical terms is all fine and dandy but it does the aspirant no good if the yogi or yogini can't make it come true in his or her daily life. Jnana yoga is supposed to achieve this but it's just not working for most who adopt this path. We'll develop on this in an upcoming post.
Come to the rescue the practicality of tantra which manipulates one's life force and awaken one's inner power called kundalini.
Just like Swami Vishnu-devananda, Swami Satyananda was a great master of kundalini yoga but while Swami Vishnuji was primarily using the traditional tools of hatha yoga Swami Satya also perfected the kundalini branch of kriya yoga. Besides his perfect mastery of this art and science all in one, he was expert at guiding thirsty aspirants through his crystal clear writings. Among his many written works you owe it to yourself to check out 'yoga nidra' and 'kundalini tantra'. These two books are chock-full of theoretical insights and easy practices to understand your mind and tap your inner potential.
I started incorporating some of these kriya yoga practices to my sadhana a few years ago and it has propelled my yoga to new heights which I was starting to doubt I would ever reach.
Yogani is a kundalini master who is unconventional to say the least. He's American and decided to spread the teachings to the masses while remaining anonymous. He started Internet lessons via a Yahoo group several years ago and the quality of his 'advanced yoga practices' lessons is such that the word of mouth did the rest.
Having studied yoga from many masters and groups he has synthesized and simplified the kundalini teachings in the most pragmatic way possible. His is a path to get maximum spiritual results for the minimum required amount of efforts. His writings are unpretentious, full of common sense, and represent to my mind the true scientific approach which is a hallmark of modern Western civilization and yes, the USA.
Many like to attach the 'science' or 'scientific' monikers to yoga but few walk the walk the way Yogani does.
Who Am I?
Whenever I say in this blog 'I', 'we', or 'pragmatic yoga' I never imply or pretend that any of the material presented is new or original. It borrows from the great teachers above and many more.
For those who object learning from teachers not belonging to one's main lineage on the basis of principle I would just say that this is not very pragmatic and I would rather prioritize making more and faster spiritual progress over following dogmas blindly. Does it take courage and create discomfort? Absolutely. Is it worth it? You bet!
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