This is Smt. Hansaji J. Yogendra and me. Hansaji is the Director of the Yoga Institute in Mumbai, India as well as the president of the International Board of Yoga. I was lucky enough to spend my entire Saturday with Hansaji and my fellow teacher training buddies at the Yoga Life Institute where I am getting my training under Dr. Bob, who himself trained at the Yoga Institute in Mumbai under Dr. Jayadeva and Hansaji herself.
For the first part of the morning, we stretched our extremeties with Dr. Shantaram Shetty, a yoga therapist who was also from the Yoga Institute in India. Dr. Shetty is also the chief research co-ordinator and secretary for the International Board of Yoga. He was simply the most adorable man I've ever seen. He showed us the stretches and breathing techniques in his pin-stripe button down and khaki pants. Afterward we all sat around Hansaji's feet as she told us stories. For the entire day we would stretch, listen to stories, stretch, listen to stories, dance and sing, listen to stories. (We also sat around and ate copious amounts of fruit and nuts and talked about how we each handle extreme emotions and how the idea of "samadhi" frightens us.) Hansaji recommended not giving in to emotions or giving in to crying too often. She told us that life is work, that people will always get angry and be rude, that major difficulties will come but that we must remain undisturbed by others and by the change. Change is constant, people will disappoint us, upset us and get angry but we must always first remain strong and balanced within our own selves. She told us our duty is to balance our mind and not give in to strong emotions. Her advice to not cry was a bit shocking to me, as I am someone who enjoys crying maybe a little too much.
Hansaji explained that many people think that "yoga" is only the asana poses that you see on fitness dvds and in workout classrooms in the gym. If you look at yoga as aerobic exercise only it is like looking at the tail of a dog and calling the tail the dog. Yoga is so much more than the poses and the physical stretches. Yoga literally means "union" of the mind and the body. Yoga can be practiced anywhere - and should be practiced everywhere and in every area of our lives if we are truly looking to find the most benefits from our practice. When we are at work and focusing on a task but thinking about how much we hate our job or hate our boss, we are missing a valuable opportunity to practice yoga. Yoga is skillful action and deep concentration. Yoga is not giving in to emotions of boredom, anger or sadness. Yoga is not letting the mind wander from the task at mind. When we are having a difficult time with a relationship in our lives, getting frustrated and angry at someone and losing our temper to them - or when they lose their temper to us - it is the perfect time to practice yoga. Yoga is the ability to NOT react to others emotions or even to our own emotions. Yoga is awareness of self, awareness of what truly makes us "tick" and what sets us off. When we see that yoga is so much more than the physical poses, we see that practicing yoga is something we can do at every moment of the day and especially while doing work.
Here are some memorable quotes from Hansaji from Saturday:
"Do your duty. Let go of the results."
"You have no right over the results. You only have the right to the action."
"Your duty is first to find balance within your own mind."
"Do not try to remove anger. Bring more joy."
"Yoga is concentration. Yoga is skill at work."
"Goodness will always win. You can trust in goodness."
"Life is work."
"The cause of all suffering is desire and expectation."
"Every man should treat every woman, besides his wife, as if she were his own mother."
And her particular, tailored advice which she gave to me after getting my picture with her,
"You are a sweet girl. Carry on."