I spoke to Indu about her philosophy and teaching. She has an uncanny ability to condense seemingly complex ideas and explain them in a way that is accessible, with many “aha” moments of understanding. As she said: “Truths are simple and basic, we just make it too complicated. We think that something we learn has to challenge the intellect but really truth is very simple.”
Thank you, Indu, for your genuine love of sharing what you've learned with other seekers on this yoga journey.
Q: What is your mission as a teacher?
A: My first purpose is to educate myself, to know myself, to work on myself. For only if I can take responsibility of my thoughts, actions and words can I have any capacity to be a teacher. My intention as a seeker on the same path as my fellow practitioners is to pass on this message to them. Don't run away from yourself. Don't run at all. Take one step at a time. After all, that is the realistic thing to do. Yoga is not a run, a chase, it is a state that we embody when we are ready. Nothing but you, nowhere but within, is where it all lies. Nothing has the greatest power to heal, but Self.
Q: You travel extensively and teach in many countries. Is the practice of yoga very different here in comparison? My thought is that we Westerners tend to focus more on asana.
A: No matter where you go in the world, the definition of Yoga is still samadhi. It still means union. It is still a state of mind-- of being free of it. Yoga is a work-in, it is never meant to be a work-out. You are right that in many parts of the world the work-out aspect has gained importance and priority and even has become the goal. However, there is no rush. We all start from where we are and we are guided to the next steps when we are ready. There is a certain readiness that comes from within. I would also like to add that just like we are picky about what we eat, for example that it to be organic, compatible and nourishing, we have to be careful with the teachers we choose.
Q: Do we need a guru?
A: A guide, a Guru, a teacher is a must in every field that one would like to master. When someone has taken the path, they can guide us where not to go and how smoothly one can reach a certain place. The most important work that a Guru does is to allow us to meet our inner Guru. Now, there is a difference in being simply independent and self-seekers and finding the inner light. When we are simply independent without a clear intention, without having worked on our emotions, our self-guided paths may lead to fake ego, unnecessary challenges and at times even leave us scattered. So an external Guru helps us to gather our scattered mind, breath and emotions. The external Guru helps us get in touch with our self, our inner light and our inner master, and also teaches us to listen to this inner guidance.
To find a Guru: Only when there is a deep yearning and a burning desire, one becomes a seeker and finds a true Master! Not from a poster or an advertisement. It is from one heart to the other heart. If you are ready so is the Master. From within the Guru arises. As pure as your desire! First, you need to seek in order to find. In order to seek we need to know what are we seeking and why we are seeking it, and know it with absolute clarity. Then Guru appears.
Q: When you spoke of your newest book Mudra: The Sacred Secret, you said that whatever we do, and whatever we do not do, we are practicing mudras. So it only makes sense to understand what it is that we are doing. If we learn what we are doing we could access so much more--That is the sacred secret! You will teach a session on mudra and the energetic and physiological response in us when hand gestures are performed. Is this a practical, everyday technique to well-being or is there more to that?
A: Yoga, in its ultimate stage, is nothing but a Mudra of mind, body, breath and emotion. Mind wise it is dhyana (meditation), body wise it is asana (firm, steady, meditative pose), breath wise it is pranayama (stilling of the turbulence of inhalation and exhalation) and emotions wise it is shanti (peace). Mudra is a practical, easy, approachable, therapeutic tool to achieve these above-mentioned states. It has been almost missing in the current Yoga practitioners’ community, trainings and programs. Once you learn it or start learning it, the eyes really open up to a different reality. You start watching yourself in a way you have not done before. I wish to offer practitioners a new pair of glasses to see their practice and the subject matter of Yoga.
Q: Is this the same for Pranayama--That we are always breathing so we might as well do it in a way that benefits us?
A: Yes and no. Pranayama is what happens when the body stills and relaxes. Pranayama is the expansion of prana. If by pranayama you mean techniques, then the answer is "no". It is not in the practice of alternating breath in nostrils or breathing through the mouth that pranayama is attained. It is when all these techniques remove the existing friction (vikruti and vikalpas) that one is naturally established in Pranayama. It is a consequence of the techniques and not the technique itself. Diluting or condensing everything into techniques is not the road map to Yoga. May we adopt the path of sadhana (daily spiritual practice) to understand the meaning of Yoga.
Some techniques can be used to bring about a specific therapeutic influence on the bodily doshas and mental gunas but application of those is not the goal of Yoga philosophy. Every step is practiced so that we may come closer to the Self and it peels off one more layer of illusion. At times the balance is not in creation but dissolution.
Q: You will teach a session on Yoga Nidra, another tool towards the path to union. Can you explain the benefits of Yoga Nidra, and some might also wonder how those benefits are different than those of regular practice of savasana at the end of yoga class?
A: Yoga Nidra is not Yogic sleep but rather yogic awakening. Yoga Nidra is an extremely powerful tool! Use it to replace negative tendencies and thoughts. Release habits and conditionings. Rewrite your story and use it to strengthen or know your Dharma! Shavasana is putting to rest the uneasiness of the body, mind and breath that were triggered with the practice, you may say it is like suturing the body after the surgery with the practice. Yoga Nidra on the other hands is like going deeper and opening ourselves to the core. Unveiling all that is veiled.
Most often people think of Yoga Nidra as rest, sleep and rejuvenation. Only sleep can substitute sleep. No medicine, relaxation, mantra, herb, oil or practice can do the job of sleep. Yoga Nidra can reduce the number of hours taken by the mind and body to be rejuvenated relaxed and refreshed. Yoga Nidra was not devised for combating sleep issues, however it can help a person to solve some of the issues that cause sleep problems. Why do you want to replace sleep at all? It is a blessing! Every single day it gives us the chance to forget all the pains, all the stories and brings the taste of freedom, the glimpse if at all of the lowest level of Samadhi. The outer and the inner both worlds dissolve and become one. The taste of nothingness is the nectar we drink every day to feel alive. Substitutions have led to supplements becoming food and electronics becoming relationships. Let us acknowledge that not everything can and should be substituted. Yoga Nidra is not a substitution for anything, it is introduction to our inner world or outer world howsoever you may wish to perceive it.
Q: Why are many of us resistant to “going inward” as we do in Yoga Nidra or forms of meditation?
A: Because we all need magic capsules, potions and formulas to become free from all physical, mental and emotion suffering. Who wants to change in order to become that? Change is hard, it requires courage, acknowledgement of our weakness, a shift in our attitude, a change in our lenses through which we see ourselves and others, and the ability to look into our own eyes with absolute readiness to see within. We are often taught about short cuts more than real paths. We are taught about the value of being fast, efficient, and multi- tasking instead of slow, steady and one step at a time. With such deep conditionings, it is difficult to question self and start a journey to re-vision. Change is inevitable, either we are changing for good or not, either we are moving towards growth or not. Once we know that, we can choose our paths with more “respons-ability” (responsibility) than resistance.
Q: Your Friday intensive will be “Practical Components of Ayurveda”. Can you give us a sneak-peek summary of what we will learn that day? Is it appropriate for all-levels?
A: Basic Ayurveda is for all and benefits everyone. It is one of the most important, practical tool that adds value, life and lightness to everyday life. The practical components of Ayurveda are tangible tools that can be used by everyone who seeks to bring balance and health to everyone’s life. Ayurveda is the wisdom of life itself. It is not just about food, herbs, massage and panchkarma. It is not a chase, a run, a fad. It is the need of the hour. It is bigger than any treatment. It lays down the principles of living and loving. It is through the study of Self and its relationship with the cosmic rhythms that we start to understand Ayurveda. Health is simply a starting point and not the goal itself. Through health we gain the potential to walk on the path of paurush-artha (Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha). Ayurveda leads the pathway to a meaningful life. What one will learn from this session will be how to introduce some practice in your daily routine (especially morning and before bed) to be healthy and to stay healthy. This is a session not to miss for practical application of the philosophy of Ayurveda and Yoga.
Q: The festival changed its name to include “Oneness," the Midwest Yoga and Oneness Festival. I would like to know your thoughts on the concept of oneness.
A: Oneness is beautiful because we all try to understand each other based on similarities and differences. When we see similarities, we feel connected. When we see differences, at times, we feel inspired, or, at times, we feel scared because we don’t understand these differences. When we speak in terms of Yoga, oneness is a different kind. When we add, one plus one, for example, it is an addition, it’s a form of union to become a new number, a completely new identity. But in yogic terms one plus one is equal to none. Which means there is no separation. It is about “dissolution” a complete fading of boundaries and everything becomes one, which means everything becomes none.
This is something I can relate to. For example, I come from India and travel and teach many different places. People ask me how things are different in India, or other comparisons. I focus on the commonalities not the differences. When I travel there may be differences; Different languages, different cultures. But if I peel off the different layers it is still the same human being that desires to connect to something genuine, to be loved, and feel love. That is the same everywhere.
Again, if we draw this into the aspect of yoga, no matter which tools we use, it draws us into the same state. The first step is connecting to yourself and then connecting to everything and everyone else by the noneness, not the state of oneness. So we have to see oneness in a different light.
Q: You will teach many of these tools during the festival. Any advice for people who come?
A: Bring your appetite. The various methods are different ways, different tools that need to be understood in a completely different light but it’s beautiful to see how it comes together, how one leads to another, one becomes the other. And it’s not that one tool is better than another, for example, that meditation is higher than asana or asana is better than kriya. Everything leads to the same state. We just need to understand it in a different light. So all we need is our readiness, our appetite, our sincerity and we learn. Maybe this prayer or affirmation may be helpful to seekers of yoga be it teachers or students, we all are ultimately students.
My practice is not one on the mat or off the mat
My practice is neither for few minutes or in the early morning hours
I free myself from the bonds of time and space
My practice is my whole life
From the first moment I became aware, to the last moment of awareness, it shall be
When life becomes clarity
Each moment becomes Dharana (completely focused in the present moment)
The being becomes Sadhaka (spiritually adept) and the journey becomes
Sadhana (a spiritual way of life)
Don’t miss the early bird registration period! Learn more about Indu Arora on her website at www.yogsadhna.com
Karen Kramer is a yoga instructor and festival blogger.