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
by Karen Kramer, Dubuque Yoga & Oneness Festival Blogger
The longest night of the year approaches with the Winter Solstice on December 21st. This is the time of stillness as the sun comes to its lowest point in the sky and appears to stop. The Latin word solstice is derived from the words sol, meaning ‘sun’, and sistere, meaning ‘to stand’, ‘to stop’. This longer period of darkness provides the perfect time for reflection on the previous year and to lay the groundwork for what we hope to achieve or manifest in the year ahead as we anticipate the returning light.
Let’s each reflect on what our yoga practice means to us and the gifts we have been given this year by our mentors, teachers, students, and fellow class members. Let us be grateful for the connections we’ve made with others and ourselves in mind, body and spirit. Many of us have been led in vastly new areas as doors of awareness open and our practice expands to be a part of our life on and off the mat.
The festival committee is currently laying the groundwork for 2017 as we anticipate the announcements of our fabulously diverse and knowledgeable presenters. We anticipate the gradual lengthening of light and the light that will come in the form of learning from these various teachers, the energy and awakening that occurs when like-minded souls come together for greater good, and we reflect on the gifts of oneness that will be ours.
In this time of stillness and reflection, let’s hold this common intention for the festival gathering: That all of us will benefit from the gifts of oneness –these gifts we offer each other, that we create together. And, equally important, reflect on the contrast of what we will see versus what we won’t.
*Community and Connection vs. Isolation
*Acceptance of Self vs. Self-Doubt
*Understanding and Acceptance of Others vs. Exclusion
*Cooperation vs. Competition
*Love vs. Fear
We all belong! Let’s embrace who we are. Celebrate the freedom to be uniquely ourselves, and the freedom to explore and expand your practice, to discover and grow. The natural by-product of self- acceptance is acceptance of others…love and inclusion!
There is a style for everyone and great opportunity for growth by trying something new at this yoga and oneness celebration. Here is a chance to broaden our base of knowledge with confidence because we can’t get it wrong. We all learn from each other as we share this great energy of cooperation and collaboration.
“Only through our connectedness to others can we really know and enhance the self. And only through working on the self can we begin to enhance our connectedness to others.” – Harriet Goldhor Lerner
Join the conversation by sharing your reflections in the comments. What are you grateful for in the past year and what do you anticipate in 2017? What are other gifts of oneness that we can celebrate together?
by Karen Kramer, Dubuque Yoga & Oneness Festival Blogger
Welcome to the 2017 Dubuque Yoga & Oneness Festival! We are so excited to celebrate another festival filled with great presenters, awesome yoga, and connection with like-minded people. We are especially delighted about the evolution of this event to include the element of ONENESS…We Are One!
Scott and Julia Theisen are owners of Body & Soul Wellness Center and Salon Spa, founders of Heart-Centered Yoga Teacher Training & Personal Transformation in Dubuque, and are the visionaries and co-producers of the festival. It’s evident that their commitment to building safe and sacred community, celebrating diversity, and trusting divine inspiration has been their guiding force. As Julia points out, the festival began as a clear message that “just dropped in” in the early morning hours in the fall of 2014. She knew it was the right thing to do as several big names, like Sadie Nardini and Max Strom, seamlessly came on board as festival presenters.
Now, in this third year, the Theisens felt that divine guidance was asking them to “play a little bigger” as Scott described it, and “be a bigger source of light”. Recently, I had a chance to talk to them about the focus for the 2017 festival. The couple discussed the importance of “oneness” and how they were inspired to rename the event the Dubuque Yoga & Oneness Festival.
What does the term “oneness” mean? How did it become a part of the yoga festival name?
Scott: “Our definition of oneness is the energy of love that connects everything and everyone. It lies within each of us and connects us to each other.”
Julia: “We have always had the very strong component of ‘sangha’ at the festival which means “safe, sacred community”. Sangha and oneness intersect completely. Sangha really is a deep expression of love. We knew that we would dedicate this year’s festival to the theme of “oneness” and felt guided that we needed to make it a very explicit part of the name.”
Scott: “This feels like more of a reflection of who we are and what we’re about. We have always been dedicated to personal transformation. Now the Dubuque Yoga & Oneness Festival incorporates personal growth beyond yoga. It empowers and welcomes in those people who are interested in the opportunity to experience powerful personal and spiritual growth and to raise consciousness. The yoga festival has always been about celebrating diversity and being inclusive no matter what the experience level, age, color, or size. Now, with this expanded view, we are drawing in those who never thought that a yoga festival was for them.”
Julia: “There are even yoga practitioners who don’t see themselves as one who could go to a yoga festival. It’s an eye-opener for people drawn into the experience to realize that this yoga festival truly is for everybody! Everyone belongs and it’s right for all yogis and everybody interested in personal transformation…and maybe the people who come for the personal growth will try a bit of yoga.”
How will we see “oneness” represented at the festival this year?
Julia: “It’s represented in who we ask to be a part of the event. It starts with the conversations that we have with them and everyone who will be involved in any way. Several of our yoga presenters will teach sessions built around the concept of oneness, and there will be at least one workshop per session regarding this theme. The concept and intention is in our website and it’s a part of all our information. Then everyone involved will naturally hold this vibration of love—sangha and oneness—so those who decide to come to the festival are tapping into that energy. With this great vibe there is an expansion of light. We will feel that at the festival and then we all take that back with us from the event. Really, nothing else needs to happen!”
Scott: “At the festival we will embrace and embody oneness and sangha through the sessions offered, the entertainment, and the opening and closing ritual. They all serve to elevate that energy. In some ways, it seems separation has taken center stage in our world right now. We can come together and celebrate our diversity as a community. We can celebrate our connection. All people belong and are welcome. Part of the draw is that you can come and be with like-minded people who are committed to oneness and living more compassionately and being more aware. We believe there is an awakening happening-- of realizing our oneness-- and this festival is an expression of that. “
Be a part of the awakening. Early bird registration begins January 11 through March 1, 2017. Like our website, join us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for updates and announcements of presenters beginning December 26th. We are one!
Karen Kramer is a yoga instructor and festival blogger.