My early years teaching yoga were devoid of the ancient sacred yoga texts. My first 200 hour yoga teacher training emphasized the physical practice, anatomy, cueing alignment, self-inquiry, personal growth and leadership development. I often shared inspirational quotes from modern authors like Melody Beattie (“Wisdom of the Heart”), poems by Rumi and Maya Angelou, and passages from “Peace is Every Step” by Thich Nhat Hanh. All wonderful teachings yet yoga texts such as the Bhagavad Gita escaped my yoga repertoire. As a student I wasn’t exposed to it during group vinyasa classes and in my yoga teacher trainings it seemed like the ancient texts were either glossed over, totally absent, or I slept through it..somehow I missed that content in my teacher training. When I was invited to study yoga philosophy more in depth, during a meditation teacher training, I initially felt overwhelmed by the lofty philosophical teachings and had a mental block feeling overwhelmed by Sanskrit names and words. “What does this have to do with yoga?” I asked myself. It was like me feeling like I don’t need to understand calculus since I get by fine with basic algebra. The fallacy in my thinking is that I didn’t understand the Gita actually did offer basic wisdom I could apply in my every day life. At the time, I just didn’t know any better. It wasn’t clear to me that I was participating in cultural appropriation by ignoring the origins of yoga, dismissing the importance of the ancient sacred texts and neglecting to acknowledge the lineage of my yoga teachers.
To quote Maya Angelou “When you know better, you do better.”
Almost ten years since my first 200 hour YTT I’ve discovered the Gita and the Yoga Sutras, not just to study it as a yoga teacher, but, to apply the teachings in my life. And, because I teach it in my yoga school. The best way to learn something is to teach it. I wanted to teach what I felt was missing in my own yoga teacher training. Through teachers like Swami Chidananda, who teaches the Bhagavad Gita in a relatable way applied to modern life, I’ve discovered it helps to study the Gita with a knowledgeable guide. I’m intrigued by the Gita’s guidance to higher consciousness and divine connection by studying the story about the charioteer, Krishna, guiding Arjuna, as he faces obstacles on the battlefield of life.
In my interview with Swami Chidananda, he shared about his journey from India to working as a Wall Street investment banker to following the path as a spiritual monk. He also answered these questions:
- What is the Bhagavad Gita?
- Why is it important for yoga teachers and students to study the Gita?
- For teachers who hear “I can’t practice yoga because I’m Christian [or another religion]” – what is a good response? (spoiler alert: the teachings of yoga do not ask you to worship deities.)
- Is yoga a religion?
- What is Hinduism and how does it relate to yoga?
- When did asana (physical practice) become part of yoga?
- What is the meaning of the various titles such as Rishi, Swami, and Paramahansa?
- And, what do the face drawings signify?
Swami also shared about Kriya Yoga and Atma Kriya Yoga which he is one of three spiritual teachers to offer this initiation.
Atma Kriya Yoga Initiation w/ Swami Chidananda
Kriya in sanskrit is translated as ‘action with awareness.’ Atma Kriya Yoga is an ancient meditation technique that helps us to perform our duties (dharma) without becoming entangled and attached to the outcomes.
In addition, the Kriya techniques will help to awaken and circulate subtle energies, increase life force, purify, heal and strengthen your body and mind and to unfold your complete human potential.
At the end of the retreat a fire ceremony will be performed on behalf of the students and one will receive the sacred Kriya Yoga initiation by Swami Chidananda which awakens Divine Love within through the Grace of the Kriya Yoga masters.
Swami Chidananda comes from an ancient lineage of Kriya Yoga masters, and has received the grace to initiate practitioners in to the lineage.
Atma Kriya Yoga Lineage: Mahavatar Kriya Babaji -> Paramahamsa Swami Vishwananda -> Swami Chidananda
To paraphrase Swami Chidananda: “If you are sincere about teaching the yoga path to discovering your Atma, your soul’s true essence, then study the Gita and Kriya Yoga, and offer it to your students.”
This interview is for anyone interested in understanding yoga beyond the physical postures. I highly recommend it for yoga teachers and students wanting to deepen their understanding about the origins of yoga.
At the end of the interview Swami shares his three tips for staying spiritually fit:
- Seva – selfless service
- Sangha – seek a community which supports you on your path
- Sadhana – daily meditation, rituals
Click here to learn more about his teachings on:
I’d love to hear what you thought about this interview. Swami shares many nuggets of wisdom. Comment below or to the youtube video shared above.
Much love and blessings,
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