I had the privilege of studying yoga philosophy this weekend with Greg Nardi. Here is his bio from his website, Ashtanga Yoga World Wide.
Greg Nardi, founder of Ashtanga Yoga Worldwide, has spent years of dedicated practice under the guidance of Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois in Mysore, India. In 2003, he was given authorization to teach from Pattabhi Jois, and in 2009, he completed a level 2 authorization course from Sharath Jois. He is currently learning the advanced series under Sharath’s guidance at the KPJAYI.
Greg perpetually studies and practices Yoga, Eastern Philosophy and Sanskrit mantra chanting. He participates in Georg Feuerstein’s Traditional Yoga Studies course and has studied with Vyaas Houston of the American Sanskrit Institute.
Greg founded Ashtanga Yoga Worldwide, a resource which strives to explore the traditions that give rise to modern Yoga methods, to maintiain the Ashtanga Yoga system as taught by Pattabhi Jois and Sharath Jois, and to make these traditions and methods intelligible to the Western practitioner.
Greg’s training is accessible and applicable to the life of a modern day yoga student. While he honors and speaks on the traditions of the East as a way to better understand what was going on historically , he used examples that are specific to the modern aspirant. During this training, we looked at the Bhagavad Gita and The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which are considered by many, to be two of the most important texts in yoga. It is impossible to fully cover these texts in 11 hours. Greg’s workshop provided a good framework for a basic understanding of both books and a jump off point for further study. We also looked at the Sanskrit alphabet in a simple way that would aid us in our chanting. Each session included meditation and chanting.
As promised, I will share a few notes from the training. I have pages and pages of notes but many of them can only be understood in the context of the workshop and the scriptures. I will not be typing out the Bhagavad Gita or the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali today…or ever….probably. The notes below are general statements, in my own words, that can be understood without having to reference a verse from the Sutras of Gita. For more information, please visit Ashtanga Yoga World Wide to view Greg’s teaching schedule and find out how you can study with him as well.
Greg read my notes! His corrections are in red! Thank you Greg!
- The Gita talks about the idea of renunciation not necessarily being the external practice of turning away from the world but the inner state of non-attachment. Being in the world but not of it.
- It is impossible to exist in society without taking on a role or duty. Whatever role we take, mother, teacher, CEO, we should do it to the best of our ability with integrity and purpose.
- Karma-No action is independent of the whole of creation. All acts have a consequence.
- Yoga is the path that leads to liberation from the cycle of Karma
- The Gita is the first full fledged yoga scripture. It is predated by other texts but they don’t directly talk about yoga.
- The Gita speaks on 3 types of yoga. These 3 types are states and qualities of a yoga practice. Tapas is necessary for the purification of the body and senses and gives us the sensitivity, clarity and focus for self study. The knowledge gained from study will flower into devotion and grace.
- Karma Yoga- yoga of action (tapas)
- Jnana Yoga-the yoga of wisdom (svadyaya)
- Bhakti Yoga-the yoga of devotion (bhakti)
- While the elements of yoga are present in the Gita, it is not systematized until the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
- Yoga is 24/7
- You can have a personal relationship with the divine without an intermediary
- The Gita incorporated the ideas arising within the Bhakti movement, such as the possibility for a personal relationship with the divine without need for an intermediary. The Gita certainly criticizes hollow vedic ritual, but still recommends the practice according to ones varna.
- The ego’s job is to create separation
- The Bhagavad Gita is part of a much larger book called the Mahabharata.
- The Bhagavad Gita is not condoning violence. By the time that Arjuna goes to war, they had exhausted all other options. The war was in the best interest of the future happiness of the kingdom. The war was a culmination of past actions. Once action or Karma is set into motion, we have to deal with the consequences. This was the consequence and there was no way to get around it at this point.
- Seeds that are sewn bear fruit and we have to deal with the fruit.
- Our nervous system has to be prepared to handle truth. Yoga prepares us for this.
- The Gita defines yoga as skill in action and equanimity.
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
- Yoga is meant to turn off our programming
- Non attachment does not mean apathy or not caring.
- False perception: mistaking mystical experiences for awakening
- Samadhi is a means towards liberation/Kaivalya. It is not liberation itself.
- Yoga powers/siddhis are an obstacle on the path of Kaivalya/liberation. Our practice should not be for maintaining power but for liberation.
- Samadhi practices burn samskaras or the mental grooves and patterns that we act from
- Vedanta and Yoga were two philosophical schools arising in ancient India. The systematization of philosophical schools was due to challenges from heterodox systems.
Even though the Yoga Sutras and Vedanta are similar and both lead to liberation in many of the same ways, there are a few things that are different. Many of the interpretations of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali were done by vedantic students which has caused confusion in the world of yoga. One of those confusions is that yoga means “union”. This is true of the vedantic schools but not of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Patanjali felt that union caused suffering. We suffer because we cannot see ourselves as separate from emotions, senses and objects and we grow attached. The attachment causes the suffering. Patanjali does not describe yoga as union.
- Pattabhi Jois was vedantic. Pattabhi Jois recommended to me that I should read the Bhagavad Gita, Shiva Samhita, Gheranda Samhita, and Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Yoga Yajñavalkya is a text that I personally felt interpreted the 8 limbed path in ways similar to how Pattabhi Jois talked about them in conferences. For example, Pattabhi Jois’s definition of Pratyahara as “everywhere you look you see God” and his division of the outer limbs to inner limbs as 4 and 4 as opposed to 5 and 3 as it is found in the Yoga Sutras.
- Non attachment is to take the mind back to stillness once you have lost it.
General Yoga Info
- There should be a silence after we om to represent the 4th state of om which is silence.
- Mantra means that which protects the mind. It takes us out of fixed patterns.
- The asana practice is for the nervous system. It prepares you for the higher limbs.
- Yoga is 4000-5000 years old
Picture by Wanda Koch Photography
Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.