Svastha Yoga – Personal Well-Being & Training Program

Last January I had the pleasure of participating in the “Personal Well-Being & Training Program” conducted by Svastha Yoga & Ayurveda (http://www.svastha.net/) in Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu. There were 55 students who came from every part of the world. The course was three weeks with Sundays off. We had class time between 9 & 5 with an hour and a half lunch break. With our evenings free we had an abundance of free time, which was something I was not used to in a training program. We didn’t actually have much asana practice despite learning a great deal about it. We had a short class almost every day but sometimes that was replaced by story time (a treat indeed).

The course was taught by A.G. Mohan, his wife Indra & their son, Dr. Ganesh Mohan. Mohanji was brilliant; his dedication to and vast knowledge of Yoga was obvious. However, his talks were unorganized and lacked structure despite his use of PowerPoint. I took the same approach as with my old philosophy teacher (Dr. T.S. Rukmani): you must sit quietly, listen patiently to your teacher and wait for gems to fall from their lips. Mohanji had plenty of gems. Unfortunately (for me at least), half way through the course we shifted away from philosophy in favour of more asana theory. Beforehand, we had lecture with Mohanji twice a day and that was cut to only once in the morning. It was briefly revived in the last few days of the course with a short afternoon Q & A session. I really enjoyed Mohanji’s lectures and his manner of speech but I can understand why some Westerners might find it difficult to follow. He is extremely knowledgeable and amusing as well. I hope to study with him in the future but preferably not in a group setting.

Ganesh Mohan taught the asana theory portion of the course. He, owing to his experience and background, was very structured in his approach. He was much more engaged with the students and was kind enough to spend individual time with me on a number of occasions. We can see in him the fruits of yogic immersion from an early age. He was blessed to have taken kids’ classes with Krishnamacharya.  Indra Mohan taught many of the asana practice classes as well as told a few stories taken from the ithihasas and the Bhagavata Purana. [As many of you already know, story telling is my preferred pedagogic technique (it worked for Jesus).]

If I am critical on one point it is that there was an absence of discipline, which was strongly felt by the students as it slacked even more as the course progressed. Discipline is one of the cornerstones of yoga but here students came and went from class as they pleased and there was no feeling that class attendance was a requirement. As an Indian, I also found some students extremely disrespectful to the teachers by consistent late class arrival and sleeping during lectures to say nothing of doing things that they were directly asked not to.  I suppose I more accustomed to courses in ashram where there is a rigorous schedule and lots of rules.

There were a few things and students that irritated me but as always that gave me the opportunity to work on myself. I learnt a great deal directly but even more so indirectly; I sat quietly in the back and learned so much through observation of the other students. With regard to the practice, many of the principals I was already practicing instinctively but being of a strong nature I had never practiced so gently and I must say that it is indeed a beautiful practice. One of the highlights for me was learning what is & how to practice uddiyana bandha (correctly that is). They also helped me to better understand and practice pranayama. I feel that my greatest gain in taking the course was being introduced to chanting. Every day after lunch we had a short chanting session with Ganesh. We covered the second chapter (Sadhana Pada) of the Yogasutras, which has left me with a desire to study even more. I have a new project for this winter: memorize the Yogasutras.

I had a very positive experience and met some remarkable people. I would really like the opportunity to study further with the Mohans. One of the greatest compliments to me as a student I witnessed in the fact that at the start of the course, Mohanji did not allow me to touch his feet but he did when I took my leave of him. At the end of the course the effect was not so apparent but with a few months distance I can look back and confidently say that I took away so much from the course that has enriched my life, practice and teaching (all the same thing, right?).

Can you spot the only Indian student?
Hint: I’m wearing a Habs t-shirt!

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. simona
    Sep 14, 2012 @ 15:27:00

    Thank you Sacha! I’ve been waiting for this post for many months, and here it is! you kept your promise you made when you finish the program, but a long time passed since then and I thought you forgot about it… You didn’t! 🙂 Thank you. Your feedback is very valuable for me, as I was considering taking this program myself, and there is very little information about it online. Enjoy your trip! your posts are always inspiring.

    Reply

  2. John Karpat
    Sep 16, 2012 @ 13:27:52

    Shantidas thank-you for your sharing of your travels . Good to see that you are writing again. It is always interesting to read. Keep on writing !!
    Vishnu.

    Reply

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