Interview • Russian Yoga Journal
Q Please tell us your incredible story of how yoga first came into your life.
It is said when one first asks questions such as “who am I” or “where was I before I came here,” the journey begins. These questions set me on the path of self-reflection, self-enquiry by age 7. It was my inner passion, my greatest desire to realize the purpose of this cosmic play and “why was I here?”
After 12 years of self-enquiry, I asked the ultimate question for myself in July 1975. After several eventful experiences, one late evening I sat down in the middle of the room and asked, “What is the source of happiness?” I had always been happy, but had never thought about the source of the highest happiness. As soon as I asked the question, kuṇḍaliṇī awoke. The energy flowed from the base of spine directly to the head then returned to the base and repeated this pattern in a continuous movement. Each time it reached the crown, a union took place resulting in blissful consciousness. This continued for 12 hours. There are no words to describe it. It was the union of energy and consciousness. It is said that kuṇḍaliṇī is the source of happiness, the reservoir of universal energy that we can tap into, that can flow on its own, through us, by the grace of our karma, and of our dharma. I was unaware of kuṇḍaliṇī until this moment. What a great introduction!
Q What happened after that? How did your relationship with yoga evolve?
After the kuṇḍaliṇī awakening, the next auspicious event took place on January 5, 1980. It was Saturday evening and two friends/students came over for meditation class. I announced, “For meditation tonight we will visualize the light of kuṇḍaliṇī at the base of the spine. And as we inhale the energy light will travel to the crown.” I was moved to try this particular meditation, recalling the 12-hour experience from four years earlier. With the first visualization I began to experience kriyāvatī—the spontaneous flow of kuṇḍaliṇī revealing yoga sādhanā without thought.
Immediately present was the trinity of yoga postures (āsana) accompanied by hand gestures to focus (mudrā) and a steady, rhythmic breath (prāṇāyāma). As mudrās flowed, āsanas
simultaneously began to move. It was clear that the trinity of yogāsana, prāṇāyāma, and mudrā was being guided by a cosmic energy. Up to this point, I had not known that kuṇḍaliṇī could move the body through yoga sādhanāspontaneously. Over the next two and a half hours, this trinity flowed forth effortlessly through my body. Kriyāvatī has continued to flow in the same manner through this present day.
Q How did you meet your teacher?
Through these direct experiences, cosmic energy took the form of kuṇḍaliṇī and spontaneously revealed TriYoga sādhanā through my body and mind. Teacher, guru, is knowledge. It can take any form. I felt from an early age to seek inside for Truth—to feel what resonates deep where soul consciousness resides, effulgent, reflecting the great sun, the source. As a young child, I would sit alone feeling the presence of those in subtle forms. Throughout the school years, I could not be drawn into academics. Rather, I was immersed in the subtle realms seeking to sit with friends in silence in the hope of communication with beings not in physical form. Mystical experiences resulted that kept my mind focused within. This led me to age 20 when kuṇḍaliṇī revealed Itself.
Q What is yoga for you?
Yoga is the expansion of knowledge. Not only what has been revealed in yoga scripture but the jñāna that is all-encompassing to the present day.
All information, even that found in yoga scriptures, needs to be questioned for accuracy. Anytime knowledge is passed it bears the chance of misinterpretation. Thus, although initially inspired by scripture, one must use their power of discrimination to discover the clarity of truth within. Knowledge has been limited on Earth for thousands of years and so one must be resourceful in determining the relevance of knowledge found in books or the lectures of others. For knowledge to be universal, ageless, it must have its root in the now. Look to space for answers…inner space will reveal the outer space and seeking what is happening in outer space will reveal more of the inner space. Knowledge, like everything else, travels in waves. Be a clear antenna and intuit the wave of ageless truth… Live it. Be it. This is yoga.
Q How important is spontaneity in asana practice?
There is always the quest to be in the present. Whatever the art or act of concentration, to let go of the doer and let the creative energy flow spontaneously is the connection with the universal intelligence we seek. To feel the universal flow inspire the movement, āsana, should be the essence of haṭhayoga. In TriYoga this is called TriYoga Prasāra ~~~ to flow without thought. Movement from within by the power and grace of the creative energy reveals the most direct path to prepare for further awakening.
There are stages in experiencing the spontaneous flow. This requires one to feel what their body, breath, and mind need in order to relax, calm, and expand. Listen to the inherent body wisdom. Just like it speaks when hungry or tired, the message is present for other needs as well. As prāṇa begins to increase, one can feel the intuitive flow emerging. The intelligence guides in harmony with the principles of TriYoga. This leads to awakening of kuṇḍaliṇī.
Until the prāṇa guides from inside out, it is important to maintain a systematic yoga practice. When prāṇakriyās emerge for a spontaneous yoga flow, the principles of TriYoga will be present. Whether you flow outside in or inside out…the TriYoga Prasāra is transformational.
Q What did yoga teach you?
What has it not revealed? Yoga is the expansion of consciousness. When the new knowledge replaces the old knowledge, an awakening begins. Developing a yoga lifestyle allows one to evolve from only attending a yoga class to viewing all of life as an opportunity to live in yoga.
Since birth, one has been most likely subjected to wrong knowledge so limited awareness resulted. As one travels successfully along the yoga journey, self-knowledge emerges allowing one to cleanse mentally and emotionally, giving space for higher knowledge to pervade. Taking the steps of right action, questioning, seeking, and realizing leads to the state of universal mind, mahat. In the beginning are glimpses of intuition. With a focus on yoga lifestyle, the thinking mind is transcended and one accesses the universal mind. Fluid knowledge is present and appears as needed. One has arrived to yoga being revealed from within. All knowledge is accessible in the universal mind. There is nothing that yoga siddhis, accomplishments, cannot reveal.
Q What are the main characteristics of TriYoga?
It is a living yoga gifted by universal energy. It awakens the flow of prāṇa in those who practice this complete, pūrṇa, yoga. TriYoga is complete as all facets of the personality are brought together in a cohesive way. The three bodies (physical, subtle, causal) that the soul travels in are brought into harmony. TriYoga is the most refined movement, connecting āsanas into a seamless flow energized by rhythmic breathing and powerful mudrās.
The characteristics of TriYoga are expressed in āsana, prāṇāyāma and mudrā. Wave-like movement, relaxation-in-action, rhythmic pace and economy of motion flow together to increase energy, prāṇa. TriYoga includes a complete meditation method, Prāṇa Vidyā, to flow breath, concentration, and meditation together.
TriYoga emerged from the universal flow; thus, flow permeates all aspects of the practice. The TriYogi flows into sat cit ānanda: realization of self, realization of wisdom, realization of unconditional love. This is the goal of TriYoga—the ultimate characteristic.
Q What is the most important thing for a yoga teacher?
There are teachers for all levels. If the teacher inspires the student to yoga, to regular practice—this is the most important thing. If a teacher lives and breathes yoga then they will inspire others as they share the ageless truth.
Q What qualities should he/she have?
Live the yoga life of ahiṃsā. A teacher aims to live life as prescribed in the first limb of Sage Patañjali’s eight limb path. Ahiṃsā is non-harming of oneself or other beings whether in human or animal form. Insects also want to live so we must do our best to honor their lives. Though their bodies are small, our compassion should be far reaching. When someone requests that I meet a “yogi,” my first response is always “what is their diet?” This reveals their commitment to ahiṃsā.
We must control our tongue whether it be through speech or food. Expressing foolishly or enjoying the fleeting pleasures of the taste buds are both short-lived. Yet, the harm lasts longer. Always question before bringing harm.
In summary, in seeking a yoga teacher, ask about their diet. We are living in a time that demands vegan diet for ecology and health. Vegan diet has always been the voice for animal rights. It is ancient, present, and future wisdom. The choice of diet will reveal at least if the teacher is following the first step in yoga, ahiṃsā.
Q How to practice yoga consistently, without getting bored or quitting?
I think it is impossible to get bored in yoga! 🙂 Either you believe in yoga or not. If you want to improve and excel during this visit to Earth, yoga is the superhighway. To achieve a better self, we must practice toward this goal without thought of boredom. Boredom is not something on the outside. It is self-made. The mind has become filled with stagnating thoughts, feeling bored because the excitement has been wrung out. Without excitement or passion for yoga practice, it becomes almost impossible to do on a regular basis. We must look at what we feel yoga is to us and be willing to use willpower to persevere through days when the energy isn’t the brightest. Only by moving through this can one achieve success. Yoga requires regular practice. There is no time to be using boredom as a reason for not practicing. Yoga increases the creative energy. With energy flowing, boredom is replaced with creativity in every moment, from the way we think to what we create whether in mind or through life and art.
In TriYoga, prāṇa flows from the beginning ~~~ thoughts of boredom do not arise. It is impossible to be bored if you are really immersed in yoga. Ride the wave into ānanda, joy.
Q How can we determine our success in yoga?
By the level of peace you are at with yourself. Success is when the mind calms, allowing wisdom to guide intuitively.
Q What are the criteria?
We eat in harmony with Earth (vegan), perform the best action (kriyā), offer without expectation (karma), harmonize our breath (prāṇāyāma), maintain a focused mind (dhāraṇā), sit daily to expand (dhyāna), explore higher knowledge (jñāna)…
There are various doors to enter yoga. Many enter due to pain so they start with a haṭha yoga practice to relieve back pain. Others enter with a quest for knowledge, or to share in a positive community. From seeking to remove pain to seeking liberation, the doors open. One must be willing to look inside and make the necessary changes to progress. As one progresses, they feel inspired to continue. We cannot stand still. We either go forward or backward out the door again.
It is an immeasurable blessing to discover yoga. It is an even greater blessing to act upon this inherent gift and become the radiant star you are. Many feel overcome by darkness but this is the world of duality. Both sides are contained in the Light. Aim to discover your real self and your connection to the universal knowledge. A thirst for knowledge is the main criteria for practicing yoga. Yoga is knowledge.