When I arrived in Mysore for the Atmavikasa yoga Therapy course I was, to put it mildly, very tired and my nervous system felt strained and on edge. Whether it was from the pollution, the less than ideal nutrition, or simply the busyness of my schedule, London life had sapped me of my life force I was finding it difficult to see a way back from my discontented mind. I know this sounds bad coming from a yoga teacher, but the truth is I had forgotten to give myself time to just be, and had put teaching before my practice. When you need a coffee in order to get through teaching a yoga class you know that is something wrong.
After the course I can honestly say I hadn’t felt so good both mentally and physically for years. However, if you'd have asked me how I was doing halfway through the course, I would have told you I'm ready to pack my bags and leave. At that time, I was smack in the middle of the detox, and was not a happy fellow at all. Full of self flagellation and feeling physically weak, my mind and body were dealing with all the impurities that I had put off dealing with for far too long.
When I signed on for the course, I never imagined for a minute it was going to be so intense. Most of the course has been in silence, we have had strict dietary prohibitions which include no dairy, no wheat, gluten, or sweeteners of any kind. The suggestion had also been to eat only fruit for breakfast and dinner, and a light and healthy lunch. At 6:30 AM we began our day with yoga practice, followed by Banda and pranayama. In the afternoon we had philosophy, backbending, asana intelligence, and specific therapy techniques classes. We practised many Kriyas including swallowing 2 L of salt water to then throw it all up again.
Did this diet and exercise regime work? Well, when I arrived my body measurements were taken and they were also taken at the end. Have a look at the results and judge for yourself:
But these measurements are really a very superficial aspect of the changes I experienced. A word that Archarya Venkatesh used a lot during this course is "purity". I have to confess that initially I had an aversion to this word. Having studied post-modernism and gender at degree level, words that foster strong dualistic tendencies are not my favourites. But the truth is my mind and my body did (and still do) feel purer. I feel clean in my body and clean in my thoughts and it feels good. Having replaced the daily dose of British media and western entertainment with a daily dose of yogic philosophy and practice, I am once again experiencing clarity of mind and flow of energy (prana); enjoying the small things in life, and experiencing the subtleties of my mind and physiology.
Through Archarya Venkatesh's method I remembered what it means to just be and live simply. I discovered new techniques, that if practiced regularly, cannot fail to give the student more peace of mind, a deeper experience of life force, and higher levels of consciousness. Though the instructions coming from the teachers initially appeared as conservative and obstructive to my rebellious sense of free will, it is now clear to me that the methods weren't subtracting from my freedom but were in fact returning it to me. A distracted mind is imprisoned by itself. It cannot stay focused easily and is led by the senses. How can a mind such as this come to observe the subtle movement of life force in the body and thereby experience the bliss of stillness. It is only by disciplining the scattered mind that we can focus on what we choose and thus gain back the freedom of choice and the ability to experience contentment and what it means to be blissfully alive. Archarya Venkatesh's asana instruction takes you to this space like no other.
This journey of returning to stillness has been something that I have consciously been pursuing for 20 years. The methods I have learned here are perhaps one of the greatest blessings to have crossed my path.