We came from East-Asia, China, the Middle East, Europe, North and South America, different parts of India…. We were told we were the most international TTP group ever. From all corners of the globe, we gathered together in the sadhaka grama, a village of spiritual aspirants in Rishikesh, to learn about ourselves by delving deep into the dimensions of our body, prana and mind and the Centre of Consciousness at the core of our very being.
Gently pushed by the breezes of the guru-mind, the individual destinies of some 25 people came together to spend two amazing weeks of work, laughter and transformation.
It seemed the gods were with us from the very beginning. The course started when the momentum of the Yoga Nidra seminar was slowly winding down. As part of this program, one evening the renowned Vedic scholar David Frawley was scheduled to speak on pratyahara. He showed us how pratyahara, the 5th limb of yoga according to Patanjali, was an ongoing practice in all yogic disciplines. Without always using this term, during the course, all our teachers would constantly remind us how we have to center our awareness in the here and now as the psychological adhara (ground) for asana, pranayama and meditation to unfold.
On the night before the kick off, Swami Veda presented us with the cosmological background of yoga nidra .True yoga nidra is partaking in the wakeful cosmic sleep of the Divine when the universe goes back into the non-manifest state.
Listening to Swami Veda always broadens the mind to encompass to whatever degree the vastness of the tradition we are trying to emulate.…
And so, one fine Monday morning at 5AM, the course started.
As we were to learn soon from Swami Veda, paradoxically, TTP is not about becoming a teacher. It is about getting to know ourselves better, learning to live skillfully, joyfully and with a compassionate heart, and by doing so alleviating the stress and suffering of all living beings we come across.
The daily schedule was strenuous. From the morning prayers until the evening prayers at about 9 PM or later, we had to sit through about 2 hours of meditation, 2 to 6 hours of joints & glands/ hatha practice and theory, classes on breathing, purification practices, yoga psychology, Sanskrit, Vedic scriptures, the fine art of teaching asana, relaxation, meditation etc… There was never a dull moment! Even meal time became a sadhana of learning to recite the 15th chapter from the Bhagavad Gita and eating slowly, consciously and in complete silence.
Luckily, my warm water boiler was not working. I had no choice but to wake up by a shower of cold water in the cool Rishikesh pre-dawn!
Right from the very first day, although most of us were strangers to each other, Peter Fabian asked us to select a person to work with. Drop all defenses, attitudes of separateness and get going! Not being a hatha yoga champion, this was to me one of the toughest lessons to cope with.
But the miracle happened. In the beginning, most of us were living on their own private territories. But already by the end of the first week, we felt like one family, intimately connected to each other on the level of the heart.
To a great extent, this was due to the presence and the skills of all our teachers.Their ways of presenting the experiential teachings of Swami Rama and Swami Veda facilitated our coming together.
It is impossible to present in an adequate way the content of their classes as well as their style of teaching. All of them were the living proof that one can never imbibe spiritual teachings from books. One needs a living guide who is breathing life into the subtleties of the teachings by her or his day to day practice.
And so, I am only able to provide a few observations.
Chuck introduced us to the art of journaling as a tool to explore and befriend our own minds. In the beginning of the two weeks, in these early morning hours, he led us in a very gently manner through the joints & glands exercises. He created a very fine platform to glide effortlessly into the one hour meditation at 7:30 AM.
However, to follow the classes of Peter Fabian, one had to be wide awake!
He guided us through the labyrinthine pathways of our gross and subtle physiologies.He made us explore the influences of joints & glands exercises and asanas on our body-mind and the other way around.
By his clear and at times forceful guidance, he made me aware of muscles, ligaments, strains and stiffness in certain body parts that I was hardly aware of. Luckily he made us discover certain pranic flows we may never have felt before as well. To him, as well as to the other teachers, the body is a shrine, a temple which has to be kept clean and strong in order for the Divine to shine through.
Asutosh, our very able Hatha yoga guide, builded upon the foundations Peter had lain.Asutosh showed us what it meant to make a posture sukham and sthiram: stable and pleasant.
By the tone of his voice, his crystal clear instructions, and mostly by his mere presence, he created the magical space in which we could start to feel the true impact of certain postures. By creating these sacred spaces, more often than not, his sense of time seemed to dissolve as well. So, the sevaks in the kitchen had to be quite flexible in the timing of our lunches!
Marilou showed us graphically and experientially the art of diaphragmatic breathing. In her own inimitable style, she guides us through some of the purification pranayamas and kriyas.
I could never have imagined putting a rubber thread through my nostrils and observing it coming out through my throat!
As my personal mentor, she kept a watchful eye on me, many times gently correcting my postures or guiding me into alternatives which were less demanding.
She and the other teachers clearly showed us what ahimsa means in doing postures and in guiding other people through certain practices. To practice ahimsa, one has to be aware of the specific needs and limits of each and everyone, including ourselves.
Dr. Stoma Parker made us look at our own minds in terms of the categories of yoga psychology. Skillfully, he could weave this knowledge into systematically building up the steps of relaxation and meditation.
Pandit Chandramani taught us to discover the Sanskrit sounds in our mouth, throat and nose. He was really challenging us to enter by our own efforts into the intricacies of the Sanskrit alphabet. Like a sage of times gone by, he taught one of his classes outdoors which was very much appreciated.
Pandit Vishnu succeeded in presenting us with the fine flavors of the vast body of Vedic Knowledge. He opened our eyes to the tradition of the rishis to whom the Vedas were revealed.
Swami Ma Radha exuded the grace and stillness of the practices of contemplative walking, mantra repetition and meditation.
Almost every night, we were allowed to climb up the stairs to Swami Veda’s Initiation room. Meditating in his presence is always a very charged and intensive experience.Meditation is indeed the lifeblood of the Himalayan tradition.
At the end of the two weeks, we could gather together in the same room for blessing, pictures and Satsang with Swamiji
Maybe also because of the impending festival of colors, all of us were in a festive mood.
Maryon, the moderator- or should I say Mother of our group- was delighted to introduce each and everyone to Swamiji.
Answering a question on how to imbibe the teachings, Swami Veda’s main advice was: “Live the teachings, then the knowledge will unfold from within”.
And so the training has not ended, it has only just begun……
Editor’s note: For more information about the Himalayan Yoga Tradition – Teacher Training Program (HYT-TTP), please visit https://www.himalayanyogatradition.com/