Finished talking? I can wait if you want to talk.  Says Sharath at 4:05 PM -shala time, which is 15 minutes ahead of real time- as we begin the conference today. About 350 people in the room, some in the foyer, about three (or three hundred?) children can be heard in the audience.  Feels like family.

Sharath: Many times I've told you that by doing asanas, yamas and niyamas are also very important to follow to bring meaning ot the practice. If we want the practice to be complete asana is not enough.  Asana is the beginning not the end, asana is the begining of the spiritual practice.

The Yamas and Niyamas (observances and restraints) together with all other limbs are important.  In the Hatha Yoga Pradipika we are told that first we do asanas and we follow that with yamas and niyamas.

A discomfort in the audience, by the foyer, interrupts the conference. Can you move? There is more room here, he says, and points to the front of the stage on which he sits, on a chair which is half leaning on top of a cleaning rug.  We all move a little, there is really not that much room.  I get to be a bit farther apart from James and closer to the stage.  Better for note taking I suppose.

He continues: So if you are able to do all asanas beautifully, if you do for example handstand which is the common thing everyone wants to show... I don't know where this habit comes from.  What is this? After Surya Namaskar, dwi, trini, (two, three) and handstand.  (He is refering to people who include handstand into the sun salutations as a way of showing off, but something that is clearly not supposed to be there in the salutations, see Pattabhi Jois' book Suryanamaskara).  He continues I don't know why, it seems to attract people, but for a real yogi the transformation happens within.

Cannot find where to buy the book
these days, anyone knows?
The reason why we are doing asanas is to purify the body and the mind.  It means that change will happen within us, in how we react to things, how we behave.  It will change our attitude, if you show aggression (which sometimes can be brought about by asanas) if you go and be crazy outside, for example, by the coconut stand in front of everyone, and then you start doing headstand -laughter- that does not mean you are doing yoga, you are building your ego.  That is against yoga.

So whatever you do outside matters.  You may have a beautiful asana practice but outside if you do not understand how to calm and control your mind then you are just doing an aerobics class.  A lot of people confuse ashtanga yoga with aerobics, that is because they do not know the real benefit, they only see the surface.

It is like the sea, you can only see the beauty of it once you dive inside, then you see a whole new world in the ocean.  I have not been to the ocean, I am scared of it, I am from South India and there is no sea here.  We do not learn to swim but I have dived in the spiritual practice and experienced beautiful things.
Like diving into the ocean
So many times people practice but do not understand the meaning of it, sometimes they are even practicing for 20 years but not understanding the reason behind. Then it is of no use.  We keep chanting but if our mind and body are not there, if the chanting does not come from the heart then we are not generating positive energy.

When we involve ourselves completely then we can generate positive energy. Why do chanting? We do it to generate positive energy in us, and around us, just like with the asana practice, we put mind and body together, we bring everything together and then positive energy is generated.

In daily life, ahimsha, non-violence, means not to hurt anyone.  Last night someone asked me if we are hurting ourselves when we practice asana.  But we are not hurting ourselves we are getting rid of karma through our pains.  Many times knowingly or unknowingly we hurts others by words or thoughts.  Once we think bad of others mentally then negative energy is generated.

In India we are always careful with negative energy.  So in new houses outside we put signals. We put pumpkins.  You also call your boyfriend or girlfriend pumpkin -laughter-.  We put the pumpkin in front so that the bad energy is taken away, people will look at it and smile and not have negative energy.

James tells me that they use of the pumpkin is a drishti pariharam, he searches for it on the internet as I type and here is the google explanation.
Hope it takes away the bad energies
Sometimes people have good or bad intentions. Mostly bad. In society there are hundreds of different people and jealous people cannot keep it inside, they have to show it to others: Oh that person has lots of money!  Everywhere we go there are people with positive and people with negative energy.

So first I have to generate positive energy then ahimsha, satya, once we follow them in our daily life then we can be true to ourselves and others, then asteya (non stealing) then bramahcarya (celibacy), aparigraha (detachment from wanting).

Yogis in the past all followed a certain discipline which made them positive.  Once you practice non violence and telling the truth then automatically nothing will bother you.

When you do something wrong it will bother your mind, karma will be generated.  Karma is important, what we do sometimes can hurt someone, or if we do a sin knowingly or unknowingly, we have to pay for that .  So I should not hurt others or I am hurting myself.  If I lie, I am lying to myself.  Then, when we practice this our energy becomes positive.

This is the change within us that we are looking for, Until when this change happens we are not spiritual.  There is no "Oh I do yoga for 3 years"! That is not yoga, yoga happens wherever you go, the change happens within us.

Not stealing (asteya) including postures (laugher again).  It is a strange thing, many people say "I am a yogi" but do not do what their teacher teaches them, they steal from other teachers, they take from Iyengar, Ashtanga, Sivananda.  Now every day there is a new yoga...

Swami Sivananda
Bramacharya is very important. Be true to your partner.

And so in the spiritual practice by following these we create an energy within us. A positive energy.

Aparigraha (non attachment). There is greed. We want more.  There are people who are so greedy, that would do anything to acquire more and more things, wealth, popularity.

If you get a yoga magazine you see people saying "yeah yeah yeah, I taught this and done this and done this for so many years", a real yogi would never say that.  Our practice is a very private thing, we do not need to show it to others.

He quotes some scripture in Sanskrit that escapes my knowledge, he translates as: "by following the eight limbs we can get rid of the impurities and spiritual knowledge will glow from within, we become very wise" .  We might do asana for 30 years and still not have a spiritual practice.

I was in an American tour once and a senior student, someone that has been practicing for over 25 years came to me and said that anyone that was coming to my workshop had come to visit him first.  Fine, I said, so what? -  I am a senior teacher, the student said.  I felt sad.  Instead of anger I felt sadness because after 25 years of practicing he still did not understand the meaning of yoga.

Nobody is great, there are many things that we do not know.

When you say you know everything it means you know nothing and when you admit you don't know anything then any real knowledge may start to come.

So you could be doing primary series or half of primary series and feel the energy of transformation within.  Once we bring calmness into the practice many things start to happen.

Saucha or cleanliness is of two kinds: (1) internal, in mind, by keeping it pure and also in body which happens internally when we do asanas or poses, the body is cleansed, but also (2) external in the sense of taking a shower before practice .  Some people come to practice and I cannot help because I would go unconscious -laughter-  The skin accumulates dust, when you take a shower you take the dust and dirt away, and also when you take a hot shower your muscles relax.  Also external cleanliness in the sense of keeping your house and environment clean.

Santosha or contentment is also important. Be happy, but not happy like this [he demonstrates a forced smile]. and then says that this is the kind that has a hidden agenda.  Not like that.

Some people have everything and still are unhappy. A wise man told me once that the animal has one agenda, food, and once it is obtained then the animal is happy. For humans once food is obtained then 100% of the problems start.

To be happy if you go to parts of Africa or even India in Mumbai, even Mysore and see the slums, there are people who are hungry, people who have very little to eat, who struggle to feed their children, but they are happy.  A rich person with meals for the whole week is unhappy.

A Mumbai Slum
Tapas or austerities means we follow a strict life, we wake up at 6 and do our practice, then we eat, not eat all the time, just when it is time.  We do not party all the time.  A strict life is important to any sadhana (spiritual practice) and involves leaving many things and being careful in what we do.

If you meet people with bad energy then that bad energy comes into you and you start acting like them.

Yogis used to go to the Himalayans because they wanted to keep the purity with them.  It can be lost easily if the mind is not stable, if we do not think about what it is we are doing.

I have two children and a wife so I cannot go to the Himalayas.  But we can still do it here in daily life, and the positive energy will build within us.

Svadhyaya or self study is often misunderstood  as "I do my own yoga which I created myself".  But Svadhyaya means we discover through the guide of a guru.  For example your mother is the first teacher and she shows you how to eat, how to put food in your mouth, she can show you but that does not feed your stomach you need to put the food in your mouth.  I teach asana and tell you it should be practice like this and you do it, you think about it, then you discover it.

I show you asana but you have to be on your mat, try to discover the spirituality in your practice.  Self study, when taken to a certain level totally submerges us.  We think about Ganesha or Krishna or Jesus or whoever you like, Ala, whoever you are connected to.  Everyone has a Deity in their life. I like Krishna, which to me is the biggest yogi ever born so I connect to that deity.

Then once we connect Ishwara Pranidhana (the last Niyama or surrender) happens.  This is very important, once you surrender you become God.  When practiced properly Iswara Pranidama can lead to samadhi (liberation freedom).

For example in the Ramayama, Rama wanted to show what a real devotee is, what kind of devotion is showed by a real devotee so he fights with his number one devotee, the greatest devotee of all, Hanumanan.  Can you imagine that?  Fighting your own master? And Rama throws all his powers and weapons but Hanumanan keeps repeating: Rama Rama Rama and nothing happens to him, that is because he becomes Rama.

These things are very important.  We can change not just ourselves but also our environment, our society. Yoga is a very powerful tool and we need to know how to use it.  It is like an Apple computer if we don't know how to use it... disaster! But if we do we can create miracles.  Yoga is like that, we need to know how to use it through the guide of our teacher.

It can generate miracles...  
I chant the mantra to the guru with the intention of transformation to happen, to be led from ignorance to brightness. Knowledge should glow within us.

Once we have this knolwedge shining within us then if someone does something bad to us it means nothing, it is nonsense, we realize is childish, like the story of that student that came to me in America, we realize they are like a baby, crawling into yoga practice.

When spiritual knowledge grows stronger we should focus on that, not as I have said many times, on certification which is just something to put in the wall of our house.  A real certificate is the glow within you and it is not physical.  The more practice we do the more we understand.


He did not take questions this time, said we can have 7 days to think of questions.

He finished by saying: Bring your cards tomorrow so I know your name and when your end date is.  And also I noticed Korean and Japanese and Russian students who are shy, or don't speak English, then pick a student and pass along sensible questions so they can ask for you, don't be shy.  I only speak English but I try to do my best to teach yoga.

Notes from the Conference on January 29th 2012.



  1. Nice bit at the end about the Korean, Japanese and Russian students

  2. Thanks for this conference notes Claudia . I like this quote of Sharath :"A real certificate is the glow within you and it is not physical."
    I feel Yoga is both on the mat as well as Off the mat and we need to nurture and develop expertise in both .It is very difficult balancing our lives both on and off the mat but I feel that is where real yoga is .

  3. Claudia, this is one of the best posts I have read on developing a philosophy of a personal operating system. I am in week 12, can you remember when every day of practice was a discovery of new body parts? Or is it still like that in Mysore? I'm eternally grateful to you. Travel safe and wonderful.

  4. Thanks for the detailed notes, Claudia. Very insightful. I see that Sharath is using the analogy of diving into the ocean again to describe the practice, as he did a few weeks ago. I wonder if anybody will ask him about sharks in the ocean next week? :-)

  5. I like this post a lot--it makes me respect Sharath. I like the part where he says that a true yoga doesn't need to talk about how long he/she's practiced and doesn't need to show the practice. My practice is certainly not pretty, nor flashy, but sometimes teachers who have not practiced 1/4 as long will talk down to me. I choose to keep quiet, and wonder about this. Should I speak my truth? But something quietens me. Perhaps I don't want to be anyone's worst nightmare--that you can practice this long and have such an "average" practice. Perhaps I feel like it would be bragging. I'm not sure--but it feels right to keep these things to myself. Anyway--this is a very detailed post and seems to be one of the best I've read. Perhaps I'll come to Mysore one day. I have a fund, but truthfully, I am scared to go to India. I'd have to cart an entire family, but at least it sounds like I wouldn't be alone in that. Love your blog.

  6. "When you say you know everything it means you know nothing and when you admit you don't know anything then any real knowledge may start to come."

    I love this quote from Sharath.

  7. Krishna, I like that one too, he had a few that were really inspired yesterday. Thanks for the comment.

    Thanks David, it is TOTALLY like that, exactly like that yet, and still and probably will forever be so, I discover new things still within the context of primary every day, in awe at the practice. 12 weeks, you go!

    Nobel, good point, the shark question, we must remember! only this time he did not take questions, he left us marinating for a week and requested "sensible" types of questions, wonder how one might go around including the sharks sensibly... hee hee

    Thank you Anon. I find that the privacy as you are treating it is a good policy, it follows the yoga sutras after all of not getting involved in arguments with wicked people (i.e.: the person that tries to put you down) guess Sharath points it out as well when he mentions how it is important to keep our own positive and pure energy... as per Mysore, it is a taugh decision, lots of things have to fall into place, I hope the best outcome comes to you, maybe we will have chai here sometime :-)

    DTW, I love that one too, I think it was Socrates that said it first? I only know that I know nothing? I remember hearing that from my dad at the age of 4? or 5? and getting really annoyed refuting it by saying that I did know that I knew things... wonder if that has changed, hope it has, matter of fact, I do actually know that I know nothing these days... :-)

  8. Thank you so much for sharing Claudia.


    1. you are welcome Julia :-) thanks for the comment

  9. I love this post, Claudia
    It arrived just when I needed to hear all that:)
    Thank you for sharing, you've done a great job.

    P.S. half way through your book! I'm not totally a beginner and yet enjoying it so much.

    1. Thanks A Mummy, and I appreciate the kind words about the book too, so glad you are enjoying it :-)

  10. Sigh... I am at my worst I have been in a long time. Can you ask Sharath for me how to remain positive around people with good intentions, but lie, show extreme greed, focus life on material desires, and try super hard to convert you to one of them?

    1. Yyogini sorry to hear. I cannot promise to ask questions as I dont know how conference will flow next week... but I would volunteer if you dont mind me saying sutra 1.33 which says exactly how to deal with these kinds of people... it suggests ignoring them... so as not to waste precious energy on them.

    2. Thanks for the suggestion Claudia, I can't really ignore family, so I think I need to build enough mental strength to deal with them more intelligently.

    3. Yes, family is a special case. Ever since James wrote a post which he called "how to deal with crappy people" whenever he gives a talk he gets the question of what if the crappy person in your life is your mother or father, or sister, or even co-worker, someone you get to see all the time. I like how he answers that question he says it is always one of these people, because it is the closest to us that know how to push our buttons. I am not saying your family is crappy just re-telling what happens at talks... perhaps you may want to read that post, it has helped me many times, when it comes to family I think of "training them" on what behaviors I will respond to and which ones I would not...

      anyway, dont mean to go manifesto but here is the post if you are interested
      and the FAQ

      Hope things get better !

  11. Another thank you for transcribing and sharing this stuff- this Portland, OR based Ashtangi appreciates reading Sharath's insights. Cheers!

    1. Thanks for the kind words Max, :-). Cant wait to visit Portland, keep hearing amazing things about it.

  12. Beautiful, you really captured his spirit in this post, feels as if I was there with you in that crowded room. Been enjoying all your Mysore posts so far Claudia, there's something different to your tone compared to the notes from last year, must be a good thing :)

    1. Yes, got inspired by better writers than me... thank you.

      I like to leave it bare bones now so that the notes speak for themselves.... I feel like I could comment on things he says, parts I like, etc... I especially like his emphasis this year on how the asanas are worht nothing if we are subsequently mean to others... but that would be another post. Glad you like it.

  13. Thank you SO much for this, Claudia!!! Sometimes I feel so anxious and angry a few hours after I practice. I was starting to wonder if I should stop doing yoga, but from what you say above, I know its just the burning off of the stuff I need to get rid of and yoga makes me face it head on!

    1. I hear you, me too, and asana technically is the part that is supposed to calm us down... pranayama then wakes us up... so I thought the same many times... then again, at the rate of practice here I am left in a complete comma afterwards... and to think it is karmas being brunt off helps too... thanks for your comment Rebecca

  14. Thank you so much for posting this superb post , Claudia. Hope you are staying well.

  15. OCCUPY YOGA. Sharath is the 1%. We are the 99%.

    Ashtanga yoga blogs. They feel like they are written by dristi vampires, meaning they suck your focus. I know you have good intentions but when I read your interpretation of Sharath's lecture I focus on 3 things:

    Not stealing - Sharath needs to make sure nobody "steals" the posture combination his Father created. Feels like Bikram copyright system is coming.

    "I felt sad.  Instead of anger I felt sadness because after 25 years of practicing he still did not understand the meaning of yoga." - Sharath feels there are senior teachers that do not understand yoga like he does. Poor guy probably busted his but for 25 years and all he needed was a thank you or pat on back or a joke.

    "jealous people cannot keep it inside, they have to show it to others: Oh that person has lots of money!" - Sharath says we should be silent about the millionaires that teach us yoga or the millionaires supporting yoga schools. Or the 1% teaching us 99%.

    Sharath needs to copyright the postures so nobody steals his yoga, our senior teachers do not know as much as our young guru (there is a big difference between a person in 30s and 50s experience wise) and we should not be jealous that he is making millions from us.

    My point is this: If you practice without Sharath or without reading blogs then you focus on your breath etc. and all will come. Reading these blogs just adds more distraction from the point of practice. These things come up during practice.

    Or maybe this entry is just karma burning off and manifesting into negative energy because I am judging. I feel bad :(

    Best of luck with your trip.

    1. Hi Anon, well I see you see things very different. For me it is always a treat to read about conference, and there are many people who have written to me saying how it helps them to read. That is not the case with you, that is OK, I understand.

      And by the way, this is not my interpretation. This is word by word.

  16. I really enjoy Sharath's view on the deeper yoga practice, which is found within. He's truly grounded in his experience. Also glad that he's speaking up about the fixation some students and teachers have with gaining or having certificates. "A real certificate is the glow within you and it is not physical", this is a truism that many don't seem to take seriously or understand.

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