Regeesh Vattakandy [Part 2]: Asana - an obstacle in the path of yoga

Welcome to the episode #5 of the Good Karma interview series!

This is the second (and final) part of the interview I did with Regeesh. Here’s the first part of the interview, if you haven’t heard it yet.

The first part of our discussion focussed on his personal story and why he chose to become a yoga teacher. In this episode, we went deeper - to get Regeesh’s perspective on various aspects of yoga.

I think you’ll especially enjoy this episode, if you’ve been practicing yoga for a while now.

Here’s the recording:

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[Disclaimer: Aayana Yoga is a customer of the Good Karma CRM product.]

Summary of yoga journey

In his earlier days of practice, Regeesh would notice physical and mental changes in himself. As time progressed and his practice intensified, his focus shifted to “how” yoga works.

He observed common misconceptions about the practice, what’s changing in today’s world, what’s wrong with the traditional perspectives. All of this helped him to adapt his style of teaching, to adapt the the old with the new.

There’s not an hour that I don’t think about yoga. It has become a deep part of my thinking process.

He now has more clarity on what he calls the “body-mind complex”.

Here’s one of his interesting perspectives: “If there’s an aspect of your mind that you want to change or are uncomfortable with, why is it necessary to destabilize the body to fix that aspect of your mind? Why not work with the mind directly?”

Thought on various schools of yoga

Regeesh has been exposed and has experience in various forms of yoga: Hatha, Iyengar, Ashtanga Vinyasa, Hot Yoga, Yin Yoga - the list goes on.

He feels that every tradition brings something unique to the table and that the yoga community has benefited from each of these yoga forms. But he also felt these forms should not be credited with what they don’t offer.

For example, Iyengar yoga helps a lot with alignment using props. And Ashtanga Vinyasa is amazing - it teaches you how to move, be dynamic. But both of these forms are largely physical in their focus and their focus is on the body, according to him.

Yoga is a journey to feel oneness. Each style of yoga is a technique to reach that state of oneness.

He continued: “How far can any technique take you? If you want to go to the Himalayas, you can fly upto Dehra Dun. After that you take a taxi to a certain level. And then you’re on foot. You cannot expect the flight to take you all the way.”

Using the physical body for your spiritual evolution

Regeesh cautions us to be careful while we focus on getting better at asanas. While Hatha Yoga is a process to help us become more spiritual using asanas as one of the tools, this can also be very counter-productive.

The body is the lowest aspect of our existence, and what we’re doing with asanas is to bring our awareness to the most “gross” part of our existence.

It is the duty of the yoga teacher to take the awareness away from the body to the non-physical.

The paradox of Hatha Yoga is that your asana practice can become an obstacle in the path of yoga itself.

When identification with the body becomes very strong, it’s very difficult to take the practice beyond that. A good teacher is needed to go beyond the plateau.

So, while its important to keep the body flexible throughout our lives, we cannot expect that the body will take us to “yoga” or the “oneness” that we’re seeking.

Patanjali's asana vs Hatha Yoga asana

While asanas are central to Hatha Yoga, the word “asana” also finds a mention in the Raja Yoga tradition.

But the similarity ends there. While Hatha Yoga encourages us to use the body as a tool to delve deeper into ourselves using various asanas, Raja Yoga’s “asana” refers to the ability to sit comfortable and still for extended periods of time [to be able to meditate].

Hatha Yoga helps us balance our nadis and in turn bring a state of clarity in our mind. And once that happens, we’re ready to sit down to meditate and go deeper.

The body as the foundation

We’re born flexible. We’re already used to pain when growing up. And we’re inherently strong.

Over time though, we tend to ignore our bodies and instead focus on other aspects of our lives - living in a good house, driving a nice car, using the latest cellphone and so on.

And we expect to feel happy.

How can we expect to reach a natural state of happiness in an unnatural body?

This is one of the core principles of Hatha Yoga: to first build a strong foundation by focusing on the body. To make it stronger, more flexible, more resilient. And then to move the subtler aspects of ourselves - the breath, the mind.

Equally important though, is to ensure that we don’t increase our identification with our bodies as the foundation becomes stronger. As already mentioned, this is what usually results in a plateau, an impediment in our continued growth.

Shavasana and pranayama are good tools to move beyond the plateau, to help the mind to settle down.

Rapid fire questions :)

To conclude the interview, I asked Regeesh some rapid fire questions:

Tips for a new yoga practitioner?

“Start with the physical body. It has to be set right [Refer to the above sections for more information on this]. Do proper shavasana. Start pranayama after a few months.”

Tips for someone interested in teaching yoga?

“Commitment to practice is very very important. Yoga teachers are making good money today. But don’t let money distract you. Focus on your practice.”

Tips for someone interested in starting their own yoga center?

If you have something unique to offer to the world of yoga teaching, it can be a very rewarding experience. But it’s important to realize that yoga is very personal. It’s important to maintain that personal touch with customers.

It’s not like a restaurant, or any other business, where you make a lot of money. You cannot become a millionaire with this.

What should I have asked you that I did not?

Am I ready to give what I want to give to people? Am in a state to do that? That would be a good question.

And here’s my answer. Well, I started yoga because I wanted people to change. I wanted people to more happy, in a more balanced state.

Am I able to deliver that? Yes, but not in a regular class setting. There’s so much that yoga offers. It’s the most systematic, scientific process I’ve come across to make us more balanced. But I can’t give lectures in a regular class setting.

I can only go deeper with those people who want to receive.

What does it mean to go deeper?

What yoga offers is that “I can change”, “I can stop blaming people”.

We live in a “subjective” world. Each of us sees the world differently, through our filters.

And what are our filters? They are our nadis, koshas, chakras, Gunas and five elements

Through a combination of these filters, each of us has our own view of the world. We see the world differently based on how these filters work for us.

The good news is that we can change these filters. To see the world in a totally different way.

If we change these filters appropriately [to see positivity or impermanence in everything], life is going to be beautiful.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this interview with Regeesh. We could certainly have continued speaking for easily another couple of hours, and it still wouldn’t have been enough to showcase the depth and breadth of Regeesh’s understanding of yoga.

However, I hope that this has still helped you to accelerate your own yoga journey in someway.

How to contact Regeesh

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