Swami Vivekananda Saraswati On Teaching Yoga

swami vivekananda saraswatiBorn in 1962, Swami Vivekananda Saraswati is the brilliant exponent of a unique and modern trend of thinking in Yoga. Educated as an electrical engineer, he is a passionate and dedicated teacher of the true, ancient lines of Indian and Tibetan Yoga, rapidly becoming lost in today’s “spiritual marketplace.”

Although he does not deviate in spirit from the traditional teachings of ancient masters, he has found the resources to present spirituality not as something dogmatic and dead, but as a living science, based on common sense and joy, which at the same time fulfills the fundamental quest of man.

He first studied spiritual sciences at the age of 16 with his first spiritual mentor and, by the onset of university studies three years later, had begun intense yogic and tantric practice under the guidance of his first guru. During the Communist period of the 1980s, Romanian Yoga teachers suffered severe persecution (arrests, torture, beatings, etc.), and Swami was one of those who shared this fate. In 1990 he moved to Copenhagen where he founded NATHA, now Denmark’s largest Yoga school. In 1998, Swami Vivekananda – a gold medalist in the Physics Olympics who was also accepted for membership to Mensa International – took full sannyasa vows at the Kumbha Mela in India, at which time his diksha guru gave him his new and famous name representing discriminating insight. Subsequently, he spent four years in India, where he taught in Rishikesh, and was so well regarded that the Indian government found him best qualified to represent Yoga at its International Yoga Week!

While restrained by a modesty that prevents him from discussing it often, Swami Vivekananda has reached high states of spiritual realization and samadhi, and therefore can offer a proven path to spiritual accomplishment and does so in well-articulated concepts. He is one of the few Western tantric teachers well versed in Kundalini Yoga and Gnostic Christianity, and even specializing in the intensely spiritual Tantra Yoga of Kashmir Shaivism. His genius is in giving a coherent representation of world spirituality in an impeccably practical form.

In the middle of an intense teaching schedule, Swami is calm and tireless. One moment he is healing (he is a practitioner of chiropractic and other healing methods), another moment lecturing on subjects outside the courses or giving direct initiations to a class, sometimes demonstrating asanas or pranayama, other times discussing personal life problems with pupils, possibly in their own language (he speaks five). He inspires with his personal example, with examples from history, quoting uninterruptedly from scores of ancient texts and spiritual masters – and with a great sense of humor.

This exceptional man, who has dedicated his life to guiding others along this pure and true spiritual path, is regarded by his pupils as a highly realized, beloved Yoga master and gifted teacher.

What is yoga to you?

Yoga is the millenary science of union developed by the Yogis of India. It is first of all a method of healing, balancing and energizing the body. Secondly, it is a method of improving one’s quality of life by acquiring skills and abilities that can make one perform better in all aspects of life. Thirdly, it is a method which can lead the persevering practitioner to paranormal abilities of the mind by exploring energy and the subtle bodies. And, last but not least, it is a spiritual, non-religious path based on experiment and practice that can lead the few seekers who aspire after it to spiritual enlightenment or liberation.

How do you see yoga evolving in the next 5 – 10 years? 

I see Yoga becoming more and more split due to greed and selfishness, as well as to ignorance. A part of Yoga will go more and more into the fitness business, resulting in a soul-less practice with no “magic” to it. Another part will become some caste property with people erroneously believing that Yoga belongs somehow to their family, clan or group of initiates. Thirdly, there will be Yoga which will be hijacked by religious people who will turn it into cults, sects and other similar organizations. And finally, I dare hope that there will be still a few traditional schools of Yoga that will preserve it as a science of body/energy/emotions/mind/spirituality. I see these schools especially, as holding the key to the survival of Yoga in the long run, and I can see this authentic Yoga becoming more and more “married” to science and reason.

What inspired you to become a yoga teacher and with whom have you done your trainings?

I was inspired to become a Yoga teacher by the words of Krishna, who, at the end of the fundamental text the Bhagavad Gita, says: “Of all the spiritual practitioners, the dearest to me is he who teaches this ageless science of Yoga.” When I read that I knew that I would be a spiritual teacher.

I have trained with several teachers and my studies culminated in taking the Sannyasa vows at the 1998 Maha Kumbh Mela with Swami Munishananda Saraswati.

What have been some of the biggest challenges in developing your teaching career and how did you overcome them?

The first major challenge was that I taught Yoga in communist Romania under the dictatorship of Ceausescu. Very few people know that Yoga was outlawed in Romania between 1982 and 1989 due to the country’s paranoid attitude and the Stalinist communist policies in those days. Teaching Yoga illegally, at the risk of one’s social position, freedom and very life, definitely made one evaluate very clearly how far one would go with Yoga and how far one was committed to being a Yogi for the rest of one’s life.

As the director of your schools teacher training programs, what is your overall goal and objective?

The goal of all Yoga is the emancipation of the human being and the attainment of a state of supramental consciousness which is called “Samadhi”. That goal was entrusted to us by the “founding fathers” of Yoga, and, therefore, always remains our fundamental goal. On a more mundane level, we want to make Agama Yoga a household name in the West as an alternative to teachings where Yoga is presented as fitness, gymnastics, stretching, calisthenics, contortionism or, conversely, as a Hindu cult. Agama Yoga gives such incredibly precise teachings concerning the body, energy, emotions, mind, etc. that it has been labeled by many of our TTC graduates as “the teacher of the teachers”. We think that every Yoga teacher in the world, whether they teach Yoga as a traditional spiritual science or simply in a gym for limited physical purposes, should become initiated in Agama Yoga since it is their duty as teachers to stay ahead of their pupils and have a complete picture of what they teach.

What do you feel is unique about your yoga teacher training programs versus other schools? Please tell us about your program.

Our Agama Yoga Teacher Training program is a 3-month, full-time course in Yoga, as inherited from Dhirendra Brahmachari. Our course involves over 500 hours ACTUALLY spent in the Yoga hall, without counting the additional hours engaged in self-study, morning ablutions, cooking vegetarian food, and other activities related to living a balanced Yogic lifestyle. In addition, we teach a form of Yoga which works on body-soul-mind-spirit that is taught with engineering-like precision without any artsy, new-age phantasmagoria added to it. For example, every Yoga technique is described not only physically but also in its action upon one’s etheric body, astral body, mental body and even causal body. There are not five training programs on the face of earth today that can do this and this has made some Agama TTC graduates praise it by paraphrasing a Carlsberg beer ad: “Agama Yoga …… – probably the best Yoga in the world!” Also, teachers-to-be learn about the invisible transfers of energy occurring in the Yoga hall during the Yoga class, about the importance of consecration to the Divine as a compulsory Karma Yoga action related to teaching and other elements indispensible to an authentic Yoga teacher. Finally, we also take pride in the fact that our trainees give several practice teaching classes during the TTC and receive a personal empowerment on the last day of the program, both of which make them capable of teaching Yoga the very day after they finish their training.

What type of students would best fit your programs?

We have found that both complete beginners and people that already hold a teaching degree from another Yoga training program fit perfectly in our program. The only thing which we require of our students is a heartfelt commitment and perseverance because a 500-hour training program is not a walk in the park. We are very gratified when we train people that are endowed with great spiritual aspiration.

What qualities do you feel make a good yoga teacher?

A good Yoga teacher must fearlessly set forth the truth as taught by the tradition of Yoga and not try to adapt it to one’s own selfish preferences or to the political correctness of the day. A good Yoga teacher must walk the talk and be the change that he wants to see in his own pupils. A Yoga teacher must have sincerity, integrity, love and aspiration.

Is there any advice you would offer to aspiring yoga teachers?

Being a Yoga teacher is not a ‘job’ like other casual occupations: tailoring, typist, computer programmer, etc. It is closer to being a medical doctor and, even, to being a priest. By teaching Yoga, one directly becomes the doctor of the body and soul of one’s pupils, the advocate, the priest and loving parent. Therefore, one needs to feel an attraction and a call towards becoming all those things for others.

To learn more about his school please visit Agama Yoga

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