Studio co-owner Aadil Palkhivala recently opened up about his experience witnessing the near-death experience of his wife, Savitri, in an article in Yoga Journal , posted below:
“Patanjali notes that each klesha (obstacles to the path of yoga) can be overcome through meditation. Abhinivesha (the fear of death) is the last klesha, and it’s one that can be particularly difficult to conquer. I struggled with abhinivesha on a cold night in 1993, when my beloved wife, Savitri, was dying of a chronic illness. All her systems were failing, and doctors had given up hope. I sat beside her bed, holding her head in my hands. A deep inner fear started to seize me. I prayed. I prayed hard. She could barely speak a word, her breath was failing, her skin was turning blue, her eyelids were fluttering, and her limbs were as limp as wet rags. Was she really going to die at age 30, in the prime of her youth? No, I thought, redoubling my efforts to hold on to her tightly.
She took a sharp breath and groaned in a labored whisper. I bent close to her mouth to hear her soft words. In an agonizing attempt to speak, she moaned, “Let … me … go. Love … me … let … me … go.”
Let her go? My ego was suffering. I was completely averse to the idea of letting go of control. Would she die if I let her go? I started to meditate deeply. Abhinivesha crept in. I continued meditating. Then, I slowly realized that I had no control. Conquering death was beyond my grasp. With a heavy heart, I took some deep breaths and gently pulled away from her. She was right. I had to let go of my arrogance—my attachment to her.
After a tangible eternity, her breath jerked. She was coming back! It was not in a glorious rush, but rather slow and painstaking. It took weeks for Savitri to fully return, but she did. It was a miracle.
The obstacles to the path of yoga (klesha) were taught to me by Savitri that night: Avidya (my ignorance), asmita (my ego), rāga (my attachment to her), dvesha (my aversion to letting go of her), and abhinivesha (the fear of her death). I had to learn to surrender my ego’s desire to make things happen my way. It had to be surrendered to the true owner of the body: the Spirit. My wife says that the way to bring the Spirit into the body is to connect with your Pillar of Light, the sushumna . Using Heartfull Meditation techniques that she had created, such as Mental Centering (in which you focus your thoughts and senses, offering them to the Light in your heart), she saved her life. She said that after I let go, she was able to connect more freely with her Pillar of Light, and her Spirit chose to return to her body. But it had to be her decision. It could not be my decision based on my own attachment.
When I asked her about the experience of nearly dying that night, she told me that the only thing that kept her alive was her own Light. What’s more, not only did all of my attachment, fear, and worry do nothing to help the situation, it actually blocked Savitri from uniting with her Light, preventing her soul from deciding its story. “The energy of the room needed to be filled with true, genuine love—not with fear and attachment,” she told me.”
Aadil Palkhivala was first introduced to yoga when he was still inside his mother’s womb. “My mother could not get pregnant,” said Palkhivala. “She tried for seven years.” It wasn’t until Palkhivala’s mother started practicing yoga with the renowned B.K.S. Iyengar that she finally was able to conceive. “My first experience (with yoga) was in the womb hearing Iyengar’s voice.” Today, Palkhivala is known worldwide as a yoga master and one of the foremost “teachers of teachers.” He has spent a lifetime mastering yoga, and today shares his gift with his students across the globe and at his Bellevue yoga studio, Alive and Shine Center , which celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2017. We spoke with Palkhivala to learn more about his approach to yoga and what it was like opening Bellevue’s first yoga studio 25 years ago.
When did you first start practicing yoga?
I started observing the great B.K.S. Iyengar teaching my parents when I was about 3 years old. I would do art class downstairs, and then I’d climb up the stairs and sit and watch while Iyengar taught a few students. In those days, he was not famous. And I watched, and I did not pay much attention to it. I just had the feeling of what they were doing. And then at the age of 7, I was allowed to join.
What was it like studying under B.K.S. Iyengar?
I did not want to do it. And the reason was because B.K.S. Iyengar was the world’s greatest asana master, and he would jump on me and push me and pull me and make me cry and make me hurt … But I kept going because in India you don’t defy your parents. You trust them. And so, because of the trust I had for my parents and that they knew what was best for me, I continued going.
When did you transition from student to teacher?
My principal asked me to teach yoga to my colleagues, so I asked Iyengar and said, “Guruji, they want me to teach in school. Should I teach?” And he said, “Yes, teach!” And so I started teaching about the age of 15.
What brought you from India to the United States?
It had nothing to do with yoga. This was plain and simple love. I fell in love with a lady. The most beautiful girl in the world, of course, and she lived in the States, and I lived in India, so we had a long-range romance for four years. I wrote her hundreds and hundreds of letters — one letter every day, sometimes two. And then I asked my teacher (Iyengar), I said, “She lives there, I live here — I would love to go there. What do you think?” And Iyengar said, “Don’t worry. I’ll arrange it for you.” And so he arranged a worldwide tour. I was in America for about seven months, then I went to Canada for two (months), then I was in Europe for about four months. I traveled around the world spreading his message, and the traditional, very formal, very rigorous, authentic style of asana.
You eventually planted roots in Bellevue. What inspired you to open your own yoga center?
I started teaching on the Eastside in 1986. I was teaching at the Pro Club, and then started teaching at the Washington Athletic Club in Seattle, and then I started teaching at the Little Gym out here — I was teaching at different locations all over the city. And one of my students said, “Why don’t you open your own center?” And at that time, I was also traveling around the world teaching, so I said, “Find a place close to my house. If you find a place within five minutes of my house, I’ll do it.” And she did! She found this location, and so we started our center in 1992.
You opened Alive and Shine Center 25 years ago. When it opened, it was the first yoga studio in Bellevue. How has yoga changed in the past 25 years?
The word started to get around, studies started getting published, and so yoga studios started to spring up around the city. As people started to experience the yoga that we taught, they expected the same thing out of the studios that were closer to their homes because people would drive from everywhere to come here. And so slowly, over time, the competition, if you will, started to increase. At one time we counted, and there were more than 36 yoga studios around our area in Bellevue, including classes at the Y — not just actual studios — but places where yoga was taught.
How has an abundance in yoga classes changed the way people do yoga?
(People) don’t know the difference, and so they just jump into anything that’s cheap. And that’s what has happened to yoga now. It’s become cheap. And so the quality, of course, has gone down the drain. You can’t get great teaching when you haven’t had great study.
At Alive and Shine Center, you teach Purna Yoga. What is it?
Our yoga (Purna Yoga) is the only yoga that has all of yoga in it … (it’s) the physical, the spirit work with Heartfull Meditation, the applied philosophy, and the nutrition and lifestyle. Those are the four major petals of Purna Yoga.
Your wife, Savitri, is a meditation master. She developed the Heartful Meditation that you incorporate into Purna Yoga. What is Heartfull Meditation?
Savitri developed Heartfull Meditation to cultivate the light in your heart, which is where you feel love. You don’t feel love in your mind; you feel love in your heart. And so she developed this technique of Heartfull Meditation. It’s the only meditation that has techniques where you actually move the energy with your hands — you actually move it, rather than just sit around.
Why should people incorporate yoga as a regular practice in their daily lives?
If you practice (yoga) regularly, if you do the correct things, then yoga will actually help you deal with the stress in your life. Yoga will help you deal with the aches and pains in your body. Yoga will help you keep your mind fresh and alert. Yoga will help you with backaches. Yoga will help you with your relationships … there are mental benefits, physical benefits, and the big one: the reduction of stress.
Reposted from article at https://seattleyoganews.com/great-yoga-teacher-aadil-palkhivala/
Aadil Palkhivala has been teaching yoga for over 35 years and he has been recognized as the yoga teacher of the year during the 2016 edition of the Seattle Yoga Awards hosted by Seattle Yoga News. We decided to ask him a few questions about teaching yoga and what makes a great yoga teacher. Here is what he had to say:
Seattle Yoga News : What is it about becoming a yoga teacher that has made it such a popular thing to do these days?
Aadil Palkhivala : I would like to believe that the real reason for the popularity of becoming a yoga teacher is each human being’s inner need to serve others and be of value in the world. It is being part of a movement of growth and self – knowledge and evolution. True yoga also helps us connect with our Spirit and, as we help others connect with their Spirit a deep satisfaction and happiness fills us. This creates a feeling of fulfillment as we teach real yoga. Therefore, a true yoga teacher who understands the deeper yoga feels valuable and of service to humanity.
Seattle Yoga News : What do you think are the key characteristics of great yoga teachers?
Aadil Palkhivala : Great yoga teachers know their subject inside out and have lived their yoga rather than merely practice asana. Great yoga teachers are connected with the Spirit within them and use their decades of experience as a backdrop for the Spirit’s call of the moment. This means that every class is different, unique. Every class is tailored to the students in front of the teacher. When a student takes a class with a great yoga teacher, the student feels that the class was customized just for him or her!
Also, great yoga teachers have Clarity, Confidence and Compassion. Above all, great yoga teachers are always studying with other great yoga teachers. A great yoga teacher is humble and never stops learning. A great yoga teacher is first and foremost a great yoga student.
Seattle Yoga News : What are some practical tips new yoga teachers can follow to improve their teaching of yoga over time?
Aadil Palkhivala : Study, study, study. Never stop learning. Practice asana every day. Practice Heartfull™ Meditation every day. Watch your choices. Do you speak kind words? Do you listen to uplifting music? Do you only see movies without foul language or violence? By uplifting your energy you uplift your teaching. Eat only organic food. Wear happy colors. Make your lifestyle that of a true yogi. Live the yama and niyama all the time. It is only when you are living yoga that you can improve your teaching. A real yoga teacher is less interested in the shape of his or her body and more interested in the quality of his or her life.
Seattle Yoga News : What is your approach to teaching yoga when leading a new group of students through a class or a workshop?
Aadil Palkhivala : My signature approach is helping new students realize that yoga is far, far, far more than physical postures. I teach new students that even though physical asana is necessary, it is not important. I tell them that asana is like brushing your teeth. You must do it every day but you don’t live for teeth brushing! New students are taught by me to make their life worthwhile and uplifting. How to open their hearts and bring love into their life. How to appreciate their physical body. How to live at the highest level of their current awareness.
That being said, the practice of asana has to be done with great care and precision to avoid injuries. Beginners must be taught the fundamental principles of alignment and action. Basics must be repeated and clarified. The teacher must have the eyes of a hawk to scan the room for mistakes that could lead to injuries.
Seattle Yoga News : Who are some of the key people who have influenced you to become the teacher you are today?
Aadil Palkhivala : Savitri, creator of Heartfull ™ Meditation , The Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Sri Aurobindo, my close personal family, my great asana teacher B.K.S. Iyengar, the Indian singer – saint Dilip Kumar Roy and his disciple Indira Devi and the countless interactions with students in the past 51 years of yoga practice. Also, watching “popular” teachers teach at large conferences and reading Manuals of other Teacher Training programs continuously remind me how important quality in teaching is, and hence we are constantly improving our program in teaching Purna Yoga™.
Seattle Yoga News : Anything else you’d like to add?
Aadil Palkhivala : The popularity of yoga has led to its dilution and distortion and, unless its essence is brought back, may lead to its demise. It is sad that people associate yoga not with truth and light and purity but with hot rooms and contortionism. My purpose continues to be to bring the essence of yoga from the past and merge it with the work of Sri Aurobindo, The Mother and Savitri to move yoga into a more luminous future.
Aadil Palkhivala’s Bio:
With degrees in law, physics and mathematics, Aadil is one of the world’s top yoga teachers and, for over 35 years, has had the reputation as the “teacher of teachers,” since the world’s finest teachers study with him. His passion is to create health, wealth and happiness in the lives of his students who truly embrace Purna Yoga’s teachings and lifestyle.
He began his studies with B.K.S. Iyengar at the age of 7, and was the youngest person to be awarded the Advanced Yoga Teacher’s Certificate from Iyengar at the age of 22. He has been training yoga teachers in India, Asia, Europe and the United States since 1976. Aadil writes for Yoga Journal Magazine and been an “Asana Expert” for both the magazine and website. He is frequently a keynote speaker internationally. Aadil is the author of three Teacher Training manuals and Fire of Love , the book that seeks to restore the essence of yoga. Aadil is a Certified Shiatsu and Swedish Bodyworker and a Clinical Hypnotherapist and has extensively studied alternative health and Ayurveda. Aadil is the co-founder and co-director of internationally – renowned Alive and Shine Center in Bellevue , Washington and Purna Yoga College, a 200-hour, 500-hour, 2,000-hour, and 5,000+ hour Teacher Training program. For more information go to www.aadil.com
With degrees in law, physics and mathematics, Aadil Palkhivala is one of the world’s top yoga teachers and, for over 35 years, has had the reputation as the “teacher of teachers,” since the world’s finest teachers study with him*. He has completed over 51 years of yoga practice!
Aadil’s experience of holistic healing was originally prenatal, as his mother could not conceive for 7 years and, only after practicing yoga with B.K.S. Iyengar, did she conceive her first child: Aadil! Aadil began observing Iyengar’s classes at the age of three, commenced formal study at the age of seven, and was the youngest person to be awarded the Advanced Yoga Teacher’s Certificate at the age of twenty-two!
Aadil and his wife, Savitri, moved to the Pacific Northwest from California (where he introduced Iyengar yoga to the original founders of Yoga Works in Santa Monica) in the 1980’s. Once his family moved to Bellevue, Aadil taught out of his home studio and several other places like the Washington Athletic Club, leaving his law practice to pursue yoga full-time. He opened the first yoga studio in Bellevue in 1992. As one of only 6 Advanced Iyengar teachers in the world, and as a part of the Iyengar Association, he was one of the only teachers offering teacher trainings in the area. He taught Beginning Teacher Trainings, Intermediate Teacher Trainings, Therapeutic Teacher Trainings, and multiple week-long asana immersions every year. After 25 years in business, we are the oldest yoga studio in Bellevue.
Aadil studied for over 14,000 hours with B.K.S. Iyengar and 5,000 of those hours were focused on yoga therapy. Aadil has worked with thousands of students therapeutically.
In 2004, Aadil’s teacher training officially became a state certified vocational school and with BKS Iyengar’s blessings, Aadil formally stepped away from the strict Iyengar curriculum to teach a more holistic yoga called Purna Yoga. Aadil and his wife, Savitri, are the founders of Purna Yoga, a holistic synthesis of yogic traditions based on the work of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. Aadil and Savitri are the founders and directors of Alive and Shine Center™ in Bellevue, Washington and Purna Yoga College™, a 200-hour, 500-hour, 2,000-hour and 4,000+hour Teacher Training program.
Aadil is the author of Fire of Love, a book that seeks to restore the rapidly fading essence of yoga. He has also co-authored three manuals with Savitri, which are used in his beginning, intermediate, and therapeutic teacher trainings. In addition, Aadil has written and filmed extensively for Yoga International and Yoga Journal as the “Asana Expert” for both the magazine and the website. He has served as advisor and board member to Prevention Magazine, Yoga Alliance, Yoga Journal and The Iyengar Yoga National Association of the United States. Aadil developed the use of short series and created the Opening Series, the Hip Series and the Spinal Rejuvenation Series (Reversing the Aging of the Spine Series). Aadil also refined the Morning Series and Classical Surya Namaskār to integrate principles of safety and alignment.
Aadil expanded Iyengar’s work with props to make yoga more accessible and therapeutic, by creating specific props and modifications that address the issues of our modern lifestyle. Aadil invented new systems and series using the wall ropes for relaxation, anti-aging, traction, āsana modifications, as well as therapeutic applications.
Therapeutic applications influence all of Aadil’s teachings. His ingenuity and constant inspiration to create benefit for his students and the world are at the forefront of his yoga teaching.
* Local teachers that have studied with Aadil: Ian Gray, Lisa Black, Liz Doyle, Jo Leffingwell, Theresa Elliot, Kathleen Hunt, Kitty Whittkower, Felicity Green, Karen Guzak, Richard Schactel, and Ana Forrest. National teachers: David Life and Sharron Gannon, Barron Baptist, Seane Corn, Maty Ezraty, Tias Little, David Swenson, Chuck Miller, Roger Cole, Joan White, Bryan Legere, Patricia Walden, John Schumacher, Natasha Rizopoulos, Annie Carpenter, Erich Schiffmann, Rod Striker, John Friend, Jason Crandell, Bo Forbes.
The Yoga of Balance
By Aadil Palkhivala, reposted from Yoga Journal
All our lives we hear of the importance of having a “balanced diet.” Yet, when viewed through yogic eyes, this popular conception (like most) proves to be, even on its best days, merely a half truth. What we require is not a balanced diet but a balancing diet. We require a diet that balances us, not itself.
In the same way, our personal asana practice should not be balanced but should balance us, and our asana classes should balance our students. Since most of our students are in varying states of imbalance, our classes, if rightly conceived, will often appear to be imbalanced to the untrained observer.
Health and yoga are all about finding balance. Effort and rest. Elimination and assimilation. Yang and yin. Day and night. Extreme action leads to death and so does extreme inaction. Finding balance leads to health.
I know many teachers who believe that they have failed as teachers if, at the end of class, their students are not drenched with sweat and exhausted. Yet, our goal should not be to further exhaust our students but to make them whole.
It’s a struggle to work against the notions that already exist in our society. We are taught to work hard and ignore the body’s pleas for rest, substituting coffee and stimulation for the nap or extra hour of sleep which would otherwise restore us. Because of this, our students usually come to class in varying states of exhaustion. Doing an entire practice of intense movement causes an exhausted nervous system to become thoroughly depleted. Of course, moving a student vigorously is important since most people don’t move enough in their daily lives of sitting in chairs all day, achy, and chronically stiff. Yet, we must find a balance in our teaching and make sure the student feels as whole as possible—rather than as exhausted as possible—when he leaves class. In stressful times such as these, perhaps it’s time for classes that emphasize restorative poses more.
Teachers are always asking me whether both sides of a pose should be held for an equal length of time. Not only must the practice as a whole be balancing, but each pose must also be balancing. Usually a student is stiffer on one side than another, and staying for an equal length of time on both sides does not balance the student. Instruct the student to say a coupled of extra breaths on the side on which they are stiffer and their body will slowly move back into balance.
Some students can do magnificent backbends but can hardly begin a forward bend. As yoga teachers , we easily recognize that this imbalance is unhealthy. Yet, other, less recognizable imbalances can be unhealthy too–imbalances in the student’s constitution. Because a student’s condition is inherently one-sided, we must help him use asana to balance his condition.
A student whose physical nature is kapha (lethargic, sluggish, overweight, loyal, stable, loving) in the Aryuvedic system must generally practice more vigorously to balance his or her dosha (condition). The kapha nature is like an elephant that doesn’t move quickly but can work all day. People with a predominantly kapha condition tend to have low blood pressure. For kapha, the practice should generally involve more jumping and more movement, and moving through poses without holding them too long. The practice should include backbends, inversions, and arm balances, and de-emphasize long holds in poses except restoratives and Savasana.
A student who is pitta (hot, angry, fiery, goal oriented, focused, and a high achiever) is a like cheetah who can run extremely fast but can’t sustain the pace for long. Such a person generally needs a more calming practice. Work such students briefly and vigorously to release that pent-up pitta energy and then have them hold their poses longer. Encourage a more internal focus and fewer jumps. Do soft backbends, short holds in Sirsasana, and long holds in Sarvangasana. Generally, a pitta has high blood pressure, so Sirsasana and backbends are not as beneficial as for the kapha person. Forward bends are especially good for pitta types. Have such students stay a long time in restoratives and Savasana, preferably with an eye bag and perhaps even blocks around their heads to hold in the fiery energy of the brain.
A student with a vatta condition (airy, unfocused, fickle, creative, exuberant, and charismatic) is like a bird, always flying into the sky. Such a student needs a grounding practice to bring them down to earth. Standing poses are ideal. Vatta students should hold poses for a long time. Since a vatta student loves to jump from pose to pose, work to balance this condition by having a practice with less dynamic movement. Focus on rooting in all poses, especially in standing poses and inversions. Backbends are also good, though vattas tend to get dizzy doing them.
Now we approach the question you are probably already asking yourselves. In a class format, how can we simultaneously address different people with different constitutions and conditions? It’s not easy. In fact, this magical balancing act is the hallmark of a great teacher. In classes where there are dozens of students, it is, at best, difficult, and, at worst, impossible to teach each individual student according to his condition. Further, all students must hold the poses for the same length of time on each side. However, as you get to know the conditions of the students you can approach them one at a time and teach them how to individualize their practice using the modalities of breath, intention, and method.
In terms of breath, a student with a kapha condition should be asked to breathe faster while a student with a pitta condition should be asked to breathe more slowly. A vata student should focus on the exhalations, moving their energy down and rooting into the earth.
The kapha student’s intention should be to focus on lifting the energy of the pelvis upward, creating more fire in the body. The pitta student’s intention should be to cool down the nervous system, doing poses with a less powerful lift and a greater sense of widening to facilitate the element of water. The vata student’s intention should be to create downward movement in all poses, a grounding action.
Similarly, the three different conditions can be balanced by three different methods of practicing. For example, in standing poses, teach the kapha student to lift the energy of the arches up the inner legs and up the central axis. The pitta student’s method is to expand the heart center into the hands and widen the pelvis. The method for the vata student is to plant the heels and the toe mounds into the earth to root.
Through these methods, one student at a time, we can create an appropriate practice using breath, intention, and method, even though everyone in the class appears to be doing the same poses at the same time.
It is a cosmic principle that we either live in imbalance or act to create balance. Though we may be comfortable in imbalance (which we often perceive as balance), we cannot grow in such a state. It is through shining light on that which we are not—our opposite—that we illuminate the road to progress.
Recognized as one of the world’s top yoga teachers, Aadil Palkhivala began studying yoga at the age of seven with B.K.S. Iyengar and was introduced to Sri Aurobindo’s yoga three years later. He received the Advanced Yoga Teacher’s Certificate at the age of 22 and is the founder-director of internationally renowned Yoga Centers in Bellevue, Washington. Aadil is also a federally certified Naturopath, a certified Ayurvedic Health Science Practitioner, a clinical hypnotherapist, a certified Shiatsu and Swedish bodywork therapist, a lawyer, and an internationally sponsored public speaker on the mind-body-energy connection.
Meet your next teacher, Aadil Palkhivala, Purna Yoga™ co-founder and mentor in Yoga Journal’s upcoming online Master Class course. Original article from July 2017 issue of Yoga Journal
“All life is yoga,” says Aadil Palkhivala , quoting one of his teachers, the Indian spiritual master Sri Aurobindo . It’s an apt tagline for someone who credits his birth to the practice. (Palkhivala’s mother struggled to get pregnant. But after she and Palkhivala’s father started practicing yoga with B.K.S. Iyengar , voilà, a son was born!) Palkhivala, a lifelong student of yoga, created a holistic healing system with his wife, Savitri, called Purna Yoga ™ . The Sanskrit term purna means “complete,” and Purna Yoga aims to provide students with tools and practices for living full, complete lives, such as alignment-based asana , Heartfull™ Meditation, applied philosophy, and nutrition and healthful lifestyle wisdom. On the following pages, Palkhivala shares his incredible story and an exclusive asana sequence to get you started on the Purna path—the focus of his online Master Class workshop with Yoga Journal, which launches this month.
My first experience with yoga was in my mother’s womb. For seven years she had been unable to conceive, then she found yoga. She and my father studied in India, directly with B.K.S. Iyengar. Thanks to yoga, I was born. When I was very young, I would watch them take class. Iyengar wouldn’t allow children to participate until they reached age seven. At that age, the mind connects with the body, he said.
While my memory of my first class (back in 1966) is a blur, I have a lifetime of memories with Iyengar. He was a great taskmaster. As the most famous yoga teacher in the world, he had no one to answer to but himself. I was his youngest student ever, and he wanted to be sure I would be an excellent practitioner. I became one of his star students and protégés. He pushed me very hard, which was both good and bad. Good because it taught me immense discipline, and bad because I incurred many injuries. At seven, when I first started practicing, he would sit on my back for 10 minutes in Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend) while I cried because it was so painful. But in India, you don’t say “no” to your teacher; there is a great respect for them, so I bore all the pain. The benefit of enduring pain was developing strength of character—today, I can handle difficult life situations with aplomb.
I stuck with the practice. When I was about 15 years old, school officials asked me to teach yoga to my peers. In keeping with tradition, the student must respectfully ask permission from his teacher. So, I asked Guruji (at that time we called him Iyengar Uncle), “May I teach?” He said with a smile, “Yes, go teach.” When I started, I realized that if I was going to teach yoga, I had to be serious about mastering it in my own body.
My practice intensified. In 1975, the Iyengar students of Bombay, where we lived, helped build Guruji’s famous institute in the nearby city of Pune. He invited me to spend time with him there. Sometimes we practiced eight hours a day: from 7:00 a.m. to noon, plus two more hours in the afternoon. The later practice was comprised of only two poses: Salamba Sirsasana (Supported Headstand) and Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported Shoulderstand). We’d hold Sirsasana for 45 minutes and Sarvangasana for an hour and a half, with variations. It was very intense so it was usually only Guruji and me, alone, face to face. Through my practice I developed the tenacity to hold on, to develop a nervous system with a buffer.
I continued working with Iyengar for more than 30 years. I chaired committees in the Iyengar Yoga National Association of the United States , but the politics were not appealing to me, so I stepped down and began to focus on other aspects of yoga. My family had been introduced to the Indian poet, yogi, philosopher, and spiritual giant Sri Aurobindo when I was about 10 years old. Later in life, my studies with Savitri (a meditation master in her own right) and my research on naturopathic healing and lifestyle changes led me to deeply embrace the yoga of Sri Aurobindo. Due to illnesses in my family, I also began studying nutrition, which was not a part of the Iyengar system. Eventually Savitri and I developed Purna Yoga, which strives to encompass the vastness of Sri Aurobindo’s vision.
There are many unique things about Purna Yoga. I developed asana practices based on what our bodies need—specifically for hips, lower back, shoulders, and upper back—with sequences for treating specific conditions. A student can do a single sequence or link them together to create a complete class. The asana are both diagnostic tools and remedies for physical and mental problems. Purna Yoga also uses ancient sequences, like classical Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation), but adds an alignment focus for safety. Because I had injured myself so many times in Iyengar Yoga , I set out to make the safest yoga practice possible. This doesn’t mean that no one ever gets injuries in Purna Yoga; rather there is careful emphasis on physiology and how the body works. Purna Yoga is really deep and careful work. That’s why we have 200-, 500-, 2000-, and 4000-hour teacher trainings.
Another unique aspect of this practice is the use of Heartfull Meditation , which was gifted to Savitri from great yoga and meditation masters. Savitri is a living master of meditation, and her techniques teach students how to bring light and love into their bodies and their lives. Purna Yoga also includes extensive education in ancient and modern nutrition and lifestyle. We are teaching students how to make lifestyle choices in order to be healthy. All things in life matter, not just practicing stretches on the mat. Your life off the mat is much more important. The asana have a purpose—they open up our bodies, making us strong and vibrant and prepared to receive life. But yoga is about how we use that strength and vitality. It is about how kind we are, how much we care about others, and how respectful we are to planet Earth. It is about living in integrity with your dharma.
Sri Aurobindo said, “All life is yoga.” That means yoga is about the thoughts you think, the words you speak, and the actions you take. It is about the person you are becoming each moment. This is the power of Purna Yoga. We use it all the time: in our relationships with others, in the way we interact with the world. It is our life experiences that count; the shape of our bodies is superficial. Unfortunately yoga has become very egocentric. Yoga is not about fitness. Our bodies are going to die, but our spirits, which we take with us from life to life, will live on forever.
I want people to focus on now. If we take care of the moment with integrity, the future will take care of itself. It’s high time yoga moved toward a holistic system of living and away from egotistic asana practices. Our spirit must flow in our lives, not our egos. Observe yourself throughout the day to determine if you are living in your highest integrity and highest ideals. Ask yourself, “Am I educating myself every day so my ideals grow?” We need to realize we are not here to play around. Yes, we must enjoy life, but we must also evolve and be of a kind, loving nature. I’m not talking about a woo-woo kind of love.
I’m talking about actually being of value to others and the planet. Purna Yoga is very real. It scares away some because it demands self-observation and change, but those who want more out of life love this magnificent system.
Try his practice now: The Yoga of Integrity: A Mind + Body Balancing Sequence
2,000 hour Purna Yoga Professional
Practicing Yoga since: 1995
Teaching at ASC since: 1998
Why do you love teaching yoga?
One of the reasons I love teaching yoga is I really enjoy connecting with people. We are all soooo different and yet so alike! Another reason I love teaching yoga is the ability to empower someone with health, strength, and flexibility. Because these qualities do not just rest in the muscles, when practicing yoga they become a part of your mental, emotional and psychological bodies as well. When humor is applied to this process, the body opens with joy, bringing an overall sense of well being along with a good sense of humor. 🙂
What is your favorite quote?
“Let Thy Light be in me like a Fire that makes all alive; let thy Divine Love penetrate me. I aspire with all my being for thy reign as sovereign and master of my mind and heart and body: let them be thy docile instuments and Thy faithful servitors.” – The Mother, from Prayers and Meditations: November 3,1912
I really enjoy this quote because the ignorance in me is turning to the wisdom in me asking for guidance, surrendering to wisdom instead of staying in ignorance.
If you could give one piece of advice to yourself as a new yoga student, what would it be?
Enjoy the process! When I feel gratitude, joy, a beautiful feeling, my body opens more quickly and allows me to live a happier life.
What benefits have you received from Purna Yoga?
The greatest benefit I have received from Purna Yoga™ and Heartfull™ Meditation is connecting with my Soul. This has brought a tremendous sense of renewal in my body, my life, and my relationships. I feel younger, more flexible, stronger, more emotionally balanced than I did when I first came. I know my life has changed because of Purna Yoga, Heartfull Meditation and Alive & Shine Center.
Co-Founder of Purna Yoga College & Alive & Shine Center
Practicing Yoga since: 1966
Teaching Yoga since: 1974
Why do you love teaching yoga?
I love teaching yoga because it is very rare to find something that works. Purna Yoga works. Having taught Iyengar yoga for almost 30 years, I realized the power of the physical body. But it is only in Purna Yoga that we found the total power of the mind, body, spirit connection.
What is your favorite quote?
“How you do anything is how you do everything”. – unknown
This quote teaches me to be present in every moment of my life.
If you could give one piece of advice to yourself as a new yoga student, what would it be?
Never give up! Come to classes regularly, rain or shine. No matter what, never give up. When it is difficult, you need it; when it is easy, enjoy it.
What benefits have your recieved from Purna Yoga?
I am able to be completely functional despite very severe injuries physically. I have a calm and focused mind and, even at 58, I am totally focused, clear, and able in my mind. Spiritually, Savitri’s Heartfull Meditation makes life worthwhile and meaningful. The work on yoga philosophy from Sri Aurobindo keeps me happy and smiling. Without Purna Yoga life would be a drudgery. With Purna Yoga it is a joy and an adventure!
Savitri taught a beautiful Heartfull Meditation workshop at the NW Yoga Conference last month. The focus was on conquering loneliness by tapping into the “Master Chakra” in our hearts.
One of the workshop participants, Jacqueline Quattrocchi, wrote an article about the experience, including the technique called “Mental Centering.” Check out the full article here , and posted below!
From Peaceful Dumpling :
Why The Heart Is The Master Chakra & A Meditation to Conquer Loneliness
In this heart-centered season of February and March, I was so pleased to get the chance to take a “heart-focused” workshop at the 2017 Northwest Yoga Conference in Lynwood, WA last month. At the conference, Savitri (wife of Aadil Palkhivala and co-founder of Alive and Shine Center in Bellevue, WA) spoke about the heart chakra as a place in the body “designed to tap into our own cosmic intelligence.” Savitri pointed out, however, that many yoga gurus often have a lackluster attitude towards this access point in the body, favoring instead more popular areas like the head, pelvis, belly button, or root survival chakras.
We’re best served when we don’t ignore the heart chakra, though. Savitri says that accessing the heart chakra was her saving grace in handling life’s catastrophes, and she believes the meditations she’s devised around the heart helped cure the breast cancer she had in her twenties, as well as chronic fatigue and the effects of a severe head injury. On an emotional level, her focus on the heart helped her cope with the grief she felt after her only sister was murdered. It also helped her mourning process after the largest plane crash in history killed both of her parents when she was a teenager.
Savitri describes this chakra as the “ master chakra ” to combat the perpetual loneliness people feel today–a loneliness that’s indelibly shaped by modern living. She believes her meditations can also counter the numbing techniques people use to handle loneliness, such as food, cell phones, sugar, stimulants, music (that’s too loud), books, and violent TV programs.
“Cell phones are dangerous because you are immediately turning to others to not be lonely, “she says. As a teacher of yoga, I believe that yoga teaches us how to live life from the inside out, but numbing practices leave little room to be reflective or access the heart since our numbing vices are typically outwardly focused and external.
So what can you do to turn inward and explore the beautiful feeling of accessing your heart–your “Soul Energy” as Savitri describes? First, Savitri suggests that physical, mental and emotional pain are alarm systems created by the body to warn you that your soul is not guiding your life story. Savitri says to look at these alarms as “blessings” and appreciate them, so that we can better understand what feelings such as depression, loneliness, hate, anger and jealousy are telling us. All pain and these negative feelings are the universe indicating to us that we are going off course.
Second, we can practice heart-centered activities. As we commemorate the start of spring, we can direct our attention to the element of wood while cultivating heart-centered activities such as nurturing blooms, family, and friends through picnics and other activities. We can invite the spirit of spring into our homes as we open blinds and bring in light.
Finally, we can spend a few minutes of each day practicing the following meditation technique called Mental Centering™ created by Savitri. She has generously shared her Heartfull™ Meditation with Peaceful Dumpling.
- Sit erect with your eyes closed. With the middle finger of each hand touching the front of each armpit, trace a horizontal line to the center of your chest. With the middle finger of your right hand touching your skin, you will feel a sensitive area on your sternum. Massage gently for a few minutes. This is your Heart Chakra, the doorway to your Soul. Imagine light glowing lovingly in your Heart Chakra.
- Next, place your hands with the sides of your fingers together, slightly cupped, on the right and left sides of your head, facing your ears. Your hands should be approximately three inches away from your head.
- Exhaling, move your hands forward and together in Namasté, not more than one inch away from your face, with the tips of your thumbs at the same level as your eyebrows.
- Inhale. On the next exhalation, move your hands down slowly to your Heart Chakra. As you do this, imagine your mind following a straight line in the center of your body, and offer your mind to your heart.
- Say inwardly, “I offer my mind and senses to my loving Soul within.”
Do this technique three or more times and breathe slowly and peacefully. Benefits: Increases pratyāhāra (withdrawal of the senses), concentration and focus, enhances intuition, self-love, and respect while awakening your conscience. The increased awareness of your Soul’s presence brings calmness to your mind and body.
Notice that at the end of this technique, your hands end up in Namasté. Savitri explains that when this mudra is taken, your mind withdraws its ego perception of others and returns to the Soul self. Her suggestion is to do Mental Centering as often as you need throughout the day.
© Copyright 2017 Heartfull™ Meditation and technique trademarked by Savitri.