Interview with Yogi Ashokananda - London Wellbeing Festival
Yogi Ashokananda was raised in India and has been practicing yoga since early childhood when his Grandfather was his first teacher. Over the last 20 years Yogi has been fortunate to develop his teaching and own experience and education of yoga under some of the great Indian masters.
Tell us a bit about yourself - where are you from, what are three things you absolutely love and what's the one thing you'd love to tell the world?
I am from India, from a village in the north.
Three things I love:1. Nature and finding beauty in nature, I get fascinated by the harmony of nature.
2. I love serving, both in the form of doing charity activities, either related to giving clothing or food or anything to do with humanity and in the form of my students. I love cooking for people and feeding them and seeing their pleasure and joy in being nourished.
3. I love discovering the beauty of God in creation and in the matrix of the mind, how everything works together, I love the complexity of the mind despite it also being so simple.
The thing I would love to tell the world – stop abusing the harmony of nature because it is a reflection of your abuse that you do to yourself throughout life, either mentally or psychologically or physically. Do something about your own state, don’t just talk about it, and make it a subject of talk, make it a subject of action.
Do you have one particularly great story about some work you have done that you would love to share? Say a client that especially benefitted from your work, or something that truly moved your heart?
I have many stories, some of them I cannot disclose due to confidentiality. But generally seeing people coming from a state where they are not even able to function on a day to day level. Gradually, they have changed and now enjoy life
Your grandfather taught you yoga to begin with. What was it like being taught by your grandfather?
It was a nice feeling, very caring but sometimes it was quite intense. At times it felt like I was living in a monastery because his views on life and spirituality were very strong. Outside, what other kids were doing, was very different to me. I wondered why there was such a contrast between my life and their life. Now I can see what the contrast is.
Do you think children of today would need more spiritual teachings earlier on in life? Maybe not religious, but rather spiritual? Where they learn a practice that encompasses the mind, body and spirit?
Yes children do need the engagement of spirituality and freedom to let them choose their own concept of their religion without being influenced by the education system, or by the parents. They should be supported but let them find out for themselves. You can take them a temple or a mosque or a church but don’t tell them what your definition is of it. Being religious is not a problem neither religion is a problem, it is the control behind it and the attachment of the mind and proving that my religion is higher or lower than someone else’s. We make religion, or say religion is for a higher existence but it should not be classified as something which is unattainable. Religion and spirituality is to feel the sensitivity inside you or make you vulnerable to flourish the love inside. Without that you are just a rock, or doing an act of ritual.
What do you believe is the essence of yoga?
I believe it is humanity. Yoga teaches us to become a human fully, not to become a god, but you have to become fully human first. Everyone wants to be extra ordinary. Yoga teaches you the separation and makes you aware of the separation you have inside you. You can fill that gap with pain or sorrow or with joy or love or laughter or with your self- awareness. It depends how you want to fill it. Then you can experience God.
You practice Himalayan Hatha Yoga, did you grow up in the Himalayas? And what's the difference between this kind of yoga and normal Hatha yoga?
I teach other styles of yoga which are my own too. HHY takes as its base a traditional yoga practice. It is not a hybrid, but loyal to the ancient system of yoga as a complete health care system in and of itself.
The sequencing is unique, it affects the endocrine system and central nervous system of the body. The sequence came to me and the awareness when I was living in the Himalayas and practicing there. My teachers spent a lot of time there too. Its different to normal hatha yoga, it is a very strong form of yoga, but with body and breath awareness, application of correct counterforce and counter postures within the sequence, makes it unique.
Yoga has become very popular these days. Do you believe this is an overall great thing, or do you think many people misuse yoga by not practicing it properly - mind, body and spirit? And can that lead to negative consequences?
If yoga is not practiced correctly physically it can cause long term damage. Yoga works on all levels, if it is not practiced correctly physically then it negatively affects your nervous system and central nervous system. If you push yourself physically when your mind is not ready then it will create instability in body and mind. Being flexible is not yoga, or bendy. How the mind connects to you internally and what happens to when you practice is yoga, not how it looks on the outside or if the posture looks beautiful – we are too attached to this appearance now. If you start on the path of yoga, you have to be patient with it and yourself, they use it as an escape from reality rather than facing themselves.
Come along to Yogis 'The Power of Prana Kriya Yoga and Yoganidra' workshop on Friday 29th April at the London Wellbeing Festival from 3.30 - 5.45pm. Buy tickets.
For the full workshop schedule visit our website.Book tickets for the festival and download the festival programme to find out who’s on, what’s on and when.