Dharma Q&A

If you’ve ever asked Yogarupa or one of our Certified ParaYoga teachers a question and received a potent response that could help others during their journey with ParaYoga, feel free to send it our way and we’ll add it to this page!

On Finding a Teacher

Q: How should one pick a teacher? And how should it develop?

A: My first teacher was Kavi Yogiraj Mani Finger. We met through a series of strange and almost unavoidable circumstances. It would be impossible to say that there is only one way the relationship should manifest. When you feel as though you’ve met someone who is qualified (preferably someone who was a disciple to a living master), has students you respect, and has integrity and you find that something in his or her gaze tells you that you are home, then you can consider moving forward and calling this person your teacher or Guru.

Both share responsibilities. The student to respect, follow the directions, and not become emotionally dependent on the teacher, the teacher to support and build strength and independence in the student, and of course to not carry out or use the student for the teacher’s own persona agenda. In short, it’s a relationship based on both––teacher and student––thriving in love and respect for each other.

Q: I’m wondering how I can grow as a student of yours and only see you once or twice a year?

A: As to how we can stay close and you can continue to stay in the heart of the teachings, I’ll share with you what I’ve said many times when asked the similar question. I have never lived in the same city as my teacher but I made an effort to see them at least once a year. The key is personal practice. If you’ve been initiated, then each time you practice you link -to not only your teacher, but the teachings. That is the eternal gift that is not dependent on seeing or being with any one person.

Q: How does one find a teacher? Does one need a teacher? What’s the process?

A: First of all, it depends on what you mean by teacher. A teacher/guide is the greatest treasure for a yogi, if that guide is part of an authentic lineage. Also, the teacher must have our best interests at heart. If it’s that kind of teacher, then we must do everything in our power to become their student. Finding such a teacher is not easy. There are very few worthy of being such a teacher.

On Teaching

Q: I was curious about the way you field questions from your students and workshop attendees. I thought that I noticed you having a specific method for approaching questions and problems. Am I right? And if so may I ask what it is?

A: I am not sure that I have one single strategy about how I respond to students, but I can tell you that I do have an overall goal. It is to help students learn to become more independent and self-reliant. This is not as simple as it sounds. Many people are independent, but not necessarily clear. The goal of the teacher should be much more exquisite and luminous than just “personal independence”. My highest role as a teacher is to help students develop a relationship with their inner teacher–the true teacher. If you see that in the answers that I give then you, as a student, and me as your teacher, are both doing our jobs.

Q: My doctor suggested I should stop teaching because of my chronic back injury. What shoudl I do?

A: I know you well enough to tell you to disregard the doctor’s advice regarding your professional or career choices. You love teaching. Follow that. I can’t comment whether or not you have a chronic issue in your lower back, but here’s what I do know, you should be able to teach Yoga even if you were disabled. If you are hurting your back when you teach, teach differently. Recently, I watched you move for a weeklong seminar. You have great understanding of your body and the correct way to move. What you know could be of great value to those who have similar issues, whether or not you are able to demonstrate every pose.   Keep building lower back stability through modified forms of Salabhasana (Locust Pose). Maha Mudra should be part of your regular practice. The Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra contains within it miraculous powers for healing. This would be a great mantra for your body as well as to help you build your inner (mental and spiritual) strength. This mantra can help you heal tissue, and provide the kind of strength you need to move forward.

Q: I am curious how you wound up being a successful teacher. What precisely were the steps?

A: I can’t give you a formula for how I wound up where I am professionally. I simply committed myself to what mattered most, to what inspired me. I learnt as much as I could and then built upon what I had learnt day after day. It probably helped that I found great joy in sharing what I was learning and how I had benefited from yoga. But it was completely dependent on the teachers I had and my willingness to be taught by them and practice what they taught me. In other words, follow your inspiration.

Q: Is there one thing that stands out for you about teaching?

A: No, there is not one thing–there are several things: the joy of teaching is sharing, seeing the impact and change it has on student’s lives. And just as significant is being able to look back and see that I have helped spread the light of my teachers’ wisdom, knowledge, and love.

Q: I feel so connected to the teachings. They’ve already touched me, and improved my life immeasurably. I know I want to teach and share all that you and the tradition have given me. But then fear and doubt creep in. how can I stop floundering and vascillating between the two? 

A: The very way that the teachings have touched you is more than enough to give you a dynamic and fulfilling path to teaching. Now you just must commit to them and see yourself as those things. In my early formation as a Yogi, I “saw” myself as being able to transmit the teachings well before I really could. I just presumed and assumed that role based on my intention and wish. It’s not more complicated than that. Move forward with energy, vitality and commitment. Don’t look back, don’t doubt. Assume and presume.

Q: I have been having some difficulties. And the more I teach, the worse it gets. Although I am dedicated to Pure Yoga, I still teach “Hot Yoga” classes (I need to make a living). I “do” these classes while I teach, I feel like I’m getting burnt. Unable to sleep, when I am teaching I feel great. When I am not I am feeling depressed and frustrated. I watch my breath at my nostrils when I meditate for an hour a day. Can you give me some guidance? 

A: The red flag is that you need to stop practicing when you teach. When you teach, teach, when you practice, practice. When you do both at the same time, it invites all sorts of difficulties. If you’re going to keep over heating your system, you need to find ways to balance it.   If you do Pranayama, do Sitali, the cooling breath, through the mouth and tongue. I suggest a more focused form of meditation. Keeping your attention on your breath is fine, but keep it at the abdomen. Stay focused on the abdomen, and don’t allow your attention to wander from the movement or from the presence, either from the movement of the abdomen, just feeling it rise and fall on each breath, or on the feeling behind the abdomen, the inner presence. Let me know about the effect of those two practices. Do the Pranayama ten minutes twice a day and meditation no more than twenty minutes once or twice a day. And finally, take some time to consider how you can make a living in a manner than keeps you, not only more balanced, but happier.

On Practice

Q: Is Parayoga a form of Hatha? If so, how does it differ from other forms of Yoga?

A: Almost all forms of Yoga taught today are still simply versions of Hatha Yoga. However, Hatha as originally envisioned is part of a much larger system called Tantra in which deeper more subtle aspects of the Yoga science are involved. Parayoga is both a form of Hatha and a style that accesses these deeper teachings.

Q: I was hoping to complete your recommended reading before seeing you next time, but I don’t think there’ll be enough time.

A: That’s a lot of reading. Don’t worry about consuming so much written material. Ultimately the path into the teachings is lit by personal practice.

Q: I do headstand and/or shoulderstand daily. But my chiropractor wants me to stop because of serious cervical disc issues. I am torn because these poses are a part of my practice.

A: If inversions are creating stress or aggravating chronic disc issues, stop doing them. The fact that you may be actually hurting yourself is a sign you need to adjust your practice. Remember, the real aim of practice, the results we are looking for, are non-material. The asanas are a means rather than ends. Respect the deeper intent which is simply to enjoy life, and be as effective as possible while having a positive impact in the world. If you’re in pain or you’re hurting yourself, this will be more difficult. If it means no longer doing a few specific postures, accept it. Better yet, reflect on your attachment to those poses: what is it really about.

Q: I’ve heard you use two Sanskrit words describing the right approach to practice. Can you tell me what they are?

I’m fairly certain you’re asking about Abhyasa and Vairagya which essentially means practice–the consistent endeavor to be where you want to be–and non-attachment. Patanjali tells us that when these things are done with faith, consistency, and for a long time, we will reap the fruits of practice.

Q: I am pregnant. One thing I hope you can give me some guidance with my practice. I have read and heard so much conflicting information about what not to do, its very confusing. I have been overcautious as a result. Can you give me some guidelines to work with- especially when it comes to backbends, inversions, and vinyasa?

Throughout my 25 years, I have worked with women with varying levels of capacity, some new to Yoga and teachers who were pregnant. Here’s my general guidance- do what feels comfortable, don’t do what doesn’t.

Here are some practical guidelines:
The first trimester is not as critical, but if you want to be conservative, follow these rules from the beginning of your pregnancy:

  • No plow pose, no raising and lowering your legs while resting on your back, avoid lunges, including deep warrior 1 stretches.
  • Also avoid closed twisting (which means most sitting twists).
  • No Kapalabhati.
  • No breath retention.
  • No Uddiyana Bandha.

I’m also not a fan of headstand during pregnancy (I know many have done it, with no apparent problems, but I prefer the conservative approach). I’m also not thrilled about shoulder stand, particularly after the first trimester.

Those are some general guidelines. If you approach Yoga sensibly and don’t ask your body to do during your pregnancy what it wasn’t doing before your pregnancy, you and your baby should be fine. If you’re happy when you practice, your baby will be happy.

Q: Can you help explain the differences between Shiva and Shakti? Is one or both Divine? Which one should I experience when I meditate? Is one more important to know?

A: These are incredibly subtle concepts, initially “seen” by adepts who described their experiences, which then became specific teachings. My point is don’t get so concerned with them… but since you have asked I’ll share the theory: Shakti is everywhere. Shiva is its source. Shakti is the force of manifestation. Shiva is stillness, pure consciousness and emptiness–the Divine that watches manifestation unfold. Separately and combined, they are both entirely Divine. The advice from the sages is consistent. Don’t force, don’t try, don’t search. Just be. That is the source of all miracles as well as the treasures of success and happiness.

Q: I see students drinking coffee even before class. What gives? Is this good?

A: I’m not an advocate of drinking coffee. Caffeine is a drug, a stimulant. Generally Americans are over stimulated as it is. My recommendation for most people is to stay away or decrease your intake.

Q: Can you tell me more about how to breathe in Maha Mudra? 

A: Maha Mudra is a very strong posture and should only be attempted by those who have become stable and comfortable in their Asana practice. If you’re going to begin to modify your breath in the pose, the key is to remain comfortable while you’re challenging yourself. The point is to remain at ease while you increase your stamina and stability.
Normally we begin to hold the breath after exhale, and later add hold after inhale. Start by doing it not more than 1-2 minutes a side, eventually build it up to 5 minutes a side. That should be plenty to begin to build upon its powerful effects.

Q: After studying with you I’ve become inspired to do a regular practice. It’s hard for me to get to class more than two or three times a week. How often should I be doing it?

A: A lot depends on your goals. Twice a week is less than the ideal minimum to make a dent in one’s stress level. My experience is doing Yoga twice a week, while it’s better than nothing, is less than ideal to undo the significant amount of stress we all take on. 3 times a week generally is the minimum people require to begin to reduce the sum total of the stress they are experiencing. However, even twice a week can make a difference (I hope that doesn’t sound too contradictory). The fact is that everyone is under stress to a greater or lesser extent and would gain from taking some time out of their lives to address it. Bottom line is do it as much as you can, as often as you can, as consistently as you can. It also may be time to think about a personal practice. Twenty minutes a day may be better than an hour and half once a week.

Q: When it comes to asana, it’s just not as enjoyable as it used to be years ago. I no longer have a great pull to it. These days I do about 40 minutes of asana and then pranayama and meditation for about the same length of time. What do you think about my aversion to intense Asana practice?

A: Your consciousness is deepening and evolving. You may not have reached the point of mastery of Raja Yoga, but when you begin to taste the reward of meditation, then the pulls of the body and some of the pressures needed to be worked out of the body are reduced, making Asana less important. The scriptures actually address this. They say that, “when Raja Yoga has been achieved, what need is there for the other postures?” By Raja Yoga they are referring to a heightened level of clarity. When we have it, our body doesn’t hold as much stress. As a result we won’t have the same need for Asana. At this point, it’s less a desperate necessity and more of an adjuct toward a rewarding, beautiful and fulfilling life.

Q: I am in the process of figuring out whether I should sustain my current ashtanga practice of primary and a bit of second series on a daily basis. I have a feeling that I should scale back. Do you have any thoughts on this?

A: I can’t give you a direct answer whether or not you should stop doing Ashtanga on a daily basis. It may have at one time served you quite well. It is good to reflect whether or not your practice is supporting and enhancing your life, or whether or not it has become something you continue to do out of attachment. The Yoga Sutras say that one of the reasons we suffer is we continue to do things that, at one time, brought us success even though we have outgrown them.
It’s great to ask ourselves, at least once a year, whether or not our practice is serving us. Practice should be a bridge to realizing the highest meaning and purpose of our life. Ask yourself from a practical perspective: is my practice, given the specifics about my age, time, and needs right now, helping.
Once you know what you really want (in life), only then can you be clear if your practice is supporting or hindering you.

My Practice

Practice is more than something I do. Today, it is such an essential part of my life that it is, in fact, a part of me. Practice is where I source strength, clarity, and inspiration. It provides me with stability in an ever-changing world, as well as, an appreciation for what is most precious in this life. I have been practicing daily for nearly thirty years. It has evolved and continues to change, sometimes day-to-day, but its one constant is meditation.

When I was in my twenties, I would often practice nearly three hours a day. Now, less of my practice time is devoted to asana and more for pranayama and meditation. When my schedule is more limited – which happens – I’ll shorten the amount of time for asana in order to always have at least 45 minutes for Pranayama and meditation.

I am fortunate that my intensive study of Yoga began under the guidance of true masters. They were the ones who helped me discover the profound and sweeping benefits of meditation. In those early years I was passionately committed to physical mastery of the postures. However, it was when – guided by my teachers – I began to meditate, that I saw my life and body truly change for the better. Meditation, not asana, was what had the most significant impact on me.

The heart of my meditation is japa (silent mantra repetition). My teachers have been the one to initiate and guide me into the specific mantra practices that were the most auspicious for me. Thanks to meditation practice and the guidance of my teachers, I’ve come to appreciate Yoga as nothing less than a path to the majestic world beyond body, mind, and even breath.

The two most important elements of practice may be: consistency and reverence or ritual. These days I am fortunate enough to have a room, in my home, whose sole purpose is yoga and meditation. I enter it around the same time every day, about 5:30 a.m. – just as I have been doing for nearly thirty years. The teachings have long praised these quiet hours of the day, before sunrise, as the most productive time to practice. It’s also the time when the rest of my house is still asleep, which means no worldly duties will call or interrupt my practice – my process of remembering deep and abiding peace.

The first thing I do upon entering the room is light a flame and pay homage to it. The flame connects me to the source of life and the teachings. I think of my teacher(s), the teachings, and offer them my gratitude before I “do” anything. Once I establish that connection, I turn my awareness to my inner teacher to guide me as I move into postures and the whole of my practice.

If I’m not home, I begin my practice by invoking that flame mentally. Within a few seconds I feel anchored in it. This is how consistency becomes its own reward. For the past ten years, teaching has led me to do a lot of traveling. I have traveled as many as 120-130 days in a year. With my surroundings constantly changing, it’s all the more important that I am able to access a place that feels like home even when it isn’t.

Clarity, strength, wisdom, and the sense of being guided are never far away. This extraordinary gift is revealed each time I practice. It is supported by my years of consistent effort and reverence for the teachings and my teachers. These are the times when I renew the connection to the best of myself.

The body and mind are constantly changing, affected by environmental circumstances, diet, and thoughts. Spirit remains constant – a boundless and mighty treasure. Physical and mental needs change; spiritual needs do not. For that reason, the physical (asana) and mental (pranayama) part of my practice changes day-to-day in response to my needs. The principles of Ayurveda and Tantra shed light on the effect and reach of different Asana and Pranayama practices. The changes in my daily practice come both spontaneously (in response to my inner teacher) and are informed by my knowledge of the principles of practice. On the road I may focus on more restorative or stabilizing practices. At home I often focus on techniques that are deeper and/or more challenging. Whether home or anywhere in the world, my japa practice remains the same.

I’ve made distinctions between Asana, pranayama and meditation in order to describe my personal practice. But from the larger view, they are part of a seamless tapestry. Together, all three serve the higher intent of remaining mindful of the greater meaning and purpose of my life and enlivening the forces that allow me to embody it.

The great sage Patanjali wrote that flawless perception and self-mastery can be ours when we distinguish between the true nature of soul and even the highest states of mind. I believe, and according to him, this ascendant plateau can only be attained yogically through meditation. Meditation is the heart of my practice. It has been and continues to be my most extraordinary and cherished ally in the journey that is my life.

On Pranayama

Q: I’ve been having a lot of resistance toward Pranayama. When I sit to meditate, I feel good. My experience is very deep. I’m even feeling a strong sense of healing and I feel very vibrant when I’m done meditating. None of that happens when I do Pranayama.

Then don’t worry about Pranayama. My biggest concern is that you not force it, especially something like holding the breath. It’s important to remember to build Pranayama in stages. First, we develop equal inhale and exhale with no holds. The idea is to reach slow, complete breathing with both inhale and exhale the same length. Second stage, practice increasing the length of your exhale, building the breath into 1:2 ratio (exhale twice as long as inhale).
My suggestion is, become comfortable with those practices before you move to anything more challenging. Pranayama is extremely profound and speeds up transformation even in those accomplished at Asana and/or meditation. In the mean time it sounds like your meditation is giving you quite a bit. In the most
gentle way possible, see if you can add the mild forms of Pranayama without creating any resistance or discomfort.

Q: I recently began a simple pranayama practice. Can you describe the effect of holding the breath on the mind?

A: The mind’s first response to holding the breath is to speed up, to get more active. When Pranayama is done yogically (body stable, mind calm and at ease) then holding the breath internalizes the mind. Longer holds create more challenge for the mind to remain quiet. When you are sufficiently prepared for it longer holds are deeply transformative and meditative. The energetics of the holds change depending on if you’re holding after inhale, holding after exhale. 

Q: When I start low and breath up into my chest I tend to get a fuller breath. That’s the type of practice I normally do. When I start higher and move the breath lower, I seem to have a very difficult time moving the breath deeply into my lower diaphragm area. Should I force? Which is better?

A: Both breathing methodologies are valid. I recommend one that you’ve been practicing to help soothe and balance the system. The other approach is more energizing and is atomically more supportive during the practice of postures. 

Q: Can you explain about the significance of the specific ratios in Pranayama. What type of ratios create what type of effect?

Think of it as this way: a technique is either Brahmana or Langhana. “Brahmana” means “to accelerate, expand, empowered”.
The effect of Langhana is to reduce, slow down, quiet, and calm. The main thing to know is that when you inhale it’s Brahmana, and when you hold your breath after inhale it’s even more Brahmana. When you exhale it’s Langhana, and hold after exhale is even more Langhana.

Q: I use 1:2 breathing to help still my mind. How is it different from meditation?

A: The 1:2 breathing is a form of Pranayama, which is different than meditation. In Meditation as the mind becomes more and more quiet, the breath will naturally become equal. Inhale and exhale will both be extremely shallow, but equal. 1:2 breathing (where the exhale is 2 times slower) is a preparation for deeper states but is not the same thing.

On Mantra

Q: I find mantra practice challenging. When I do it with pranayama, it’s much easier. If I meditate without a mantra I can go right to that quiet place. Am I doing something wrong?

A: Many students often allow mantra to get in the way of meditation. I suggest that you first find that place of stillness and non-disturbance you can arrive at without the mantra. Settle into that quiet place. Hold the awareness of it, then begin to remember the mantra. The mantra should not overshadow the quiet place and the quiet place should not completely overshadow the sacred sound you have been given. When you feel that you can sustain both (the meditative state and remembrance if the mantra) slowly begin to pick up your japa–repetition of the mantra. The two–awareness and mantra–can then merge. First become anchored in stillness and then quietly allow the mantra to fill body, mind, and soul.

Q: I notice my mind either active or restless when I am going through the mantra. I find that I get caught up trying to understand the mantra intellectually. i.e. what is the success, the victory, the auspiciousness referring to? What am I meaning, what am I intending through these terms/definitions?

A: The short answer is that transformation in mantra practice occurs not so much because we understand it intellectually as our level of faith. Surrender, not intellect, is the bridge to the soul. One thing to consider is if you repeat the mantra too slowly or infrequently, the mind wanders aimlessly. If you do it too fast, it speeds up and activates the mind. Find the middle ground.
Arrive at a certain level of stillness, quietly open your heart, then just allow the word(s) to speak to your heart. It needn’t be anymore than that.

Q: Why does a mala have 108 beads and how many malas should I do during my daily practice?

A: 108 is a number that is often used in the tradition. For one thing, it is the exact number of energy points in the body. There are many rituals associated to Gayatri and other mantras. Just practice sincerely, with your heart open and as you become more proficient, gradually increase the amount of malas you do daily. Don’t worry about the rituals. Life is complicated enough.

Q: I am starting to hear my Mantra throughout the day. Is this okay?

A: Once you’re practicing any mantra enough, then you’ll continue to hear it all the time. Do not hesitate to allow it to reverberate through your consciousness at any and all times.

Q: I am so happy to have received a mantra and be part of a lineage. Maybe I am over-excited or trying too much. It’s been only a week but I don’t feel connected to it yet.

A: Just do it work with innocence, openness, and a sense of longing to know the nature and the power of your mantra. Its presence will unfold perfectly.

Q: Can you tell me the definition of the Mantra?

A: Since the mantra I gave you is a Bija mantra, which means “seed”, it doesn’t actually have a meaning. More to the point, a Bija mantra awakens certain characteristics, giving us access to certain powers and potentials including healing, inspiration, and knowledge.

Q: The practice you gave me is starting to help. I feel more focused and personally stronger. But it seems like there should be more. Am I doing it right?

A: Mantra is an invocation of the supreme light. Mantra seats you in your true light. That light is the fire which is the force behind all change and evolution in the Universe––both internally and externally. I’m quite pleased that you feel a bit more focused and confident. Continue to honor yourself. As your focus increases, begin to make note of what elements of your self need nourishing and what elements you recognize you need to grow. The mantra will give you the clarity, the conviction, and the strength to make it possible. The most important thing is that the mantra now connects you to healing and empowerment, and helps you overcome any limitations from past issues and experience.

Q: When I do Japa I find that I have to mouth the words if I don’t want to get completely bogged down in it. Is this right? 

A: No, you do not have to mouth the words. Japa becomes more and more a purely mental technique. The mind continues to get quieter and the body stiller so that the listening becomes more and more effortless and deep.

On Yoga Nidra

Q: What is the difference between meditation and Yoga Nidra?

A: In Yoga Nidra, the emphasis is relaxation, complete detachment. In meditation, the emphasis is on connection. It is more a conscious process of merging while Yoga Nidra is a process of non-attachment.

Q: I have been struggling to create a goal or Sankalpa. Can you make a suggestion as to how I can do this?

A: As you go to sleep tonight write down the question as it pertains to “what is my Sankalpa?” Listen when you wake and throughout the day and your answer is there already, you only need to refine your listening. Remember… “A Sankalpa should be a short and positive statement, which addresses a deep and significant urge. Ask yourself what is the one thing that if I were to have or be, it would improve my whole life– what one thing or quality will have the greatest possible positive impact on your life and on the life of others. The Sankalpa should be stated in such a way as to reflect that what you want has already been achieved. It is often in the form of an “I am” or “I have” statement.

Q: Can you give me some general feedback on my Sankalpa?

A: In regard to the Sankalpa, it needs to be something less passive, less the thing about reaffirming the idea of worth and more a sense of something active. Something that actively you’re doing, enjoying, participating in, and/or experiencing. What would you be doing or experiencing or what would be happening in your life if you fully accepted this idea of your worth. Discover what that is and then write a clear, positive statement about it, one that you intend to fulfill.

Q: How much do we control our fate? Is it really possible to shape our destiny?

A: “A person can surmount any difficulties, achieve almost anything they want, if they can harness their powers”. That’s what Tantra tells us. My teachers have reinforced that same idea countless times: there is almost nothing you can not achieve if you set your mind to it. Be clear about what you want, be certain that 51% of you believe it’s possible, begin to see it, feel the positive feelings you have from what you want to accomplish, and then listen to your intuition, and operate with a sense of your full capacity, and whatever you want will come true.

Q: I’m wondering it it’s a good idea to do more than one Sankalpa at a time?

A: The answer is no–do until you achieve it. If you can combine your two Sankalpas in a way that’s organic and not too forced and not too much to remember, then you can bring these two things and coalesce them into one. But I wouldn’t dilute the power of Sankalpa by trying to take on too much at once.

Q: I often suffer from the type of insomnia in which falling asleep is easy, but I will wake up during the night and have difficulty returning to sleep/sleep very lightly thereafter. I was hoping this Yoga Nidra CD might help me with this situation. The liner notes say not to practice it right before sleep. Is there a particular time of day you think might be most beneficial for me to practice, which might help me with the insomnia?

A: You can definitely practice it before sleeping. Follow the practice and it should lead you toward, if not sleep, the edge of sleep. If possible just before falling asleep, turn off the app or CD and relax into deep sleep. You can use it to fall back asleep whenever you wake up. Beside that, any time of day, practicing in the afternoon before dinner is very good.

On Life

Q: I’ve had so many powerful insights come up since I began practicing with you. But something keeps stopping me. To be honest, I’m inspired but fearful. How does a Yogi deal with fear?

A: Don’t let it stop you. Fear never goes away at any level of success. Don’t wait for someone to give you permission to succeed and achieve. Get yourself busy and do it. Don’t wait for someone to tell you how to do it. Take it upon yourself to figure it out. Don’t wait for just the right situation. Don’t count on being lucky. Do what it takes to make your own good fortune. Learn from others. Seek the advice, input, and feedback of those whose opinions you respect. But don’t depend on anyone or anything to do it for you. Make the best of fortunate situations, but don’t depend on luck or chance.
Depend on those things over which you have the most direct control–your own thoughts and actions, your ability to make the choices, which will lead to precisely where you have decided to go. Your destiny is in your hands. Think like it and act like it with each passing moment. Take hold of that destiny and make it the best it can possibly be.

Q: Rod, you’ve seen me struggle to make my relationship work for a few years now. Can you give me some advice about how or if to go on? I keep trying to work on myself, but things aren’t changing no matter what I do.

A: The ground of a relationship is trust and respect. It is built through honesty. I don’t think, no matter how hard you are willing to work on yourself, should you assume that you should be comfortable being intimate with someone who consistently lies and fails to treat you as an equal. True love requires it.
If a person is consistently dishonest, then they’re not treating you with respect. Why stay in a relationship in which you’re not being fully supported and not told the truth? Perhaps that’s where you need to look at yourself. It is important to ask how much does your fear of loneliness, (seeing yourself as incomplete without the relationship play a part in you staying in the relationship). These are the things that you should analyze and work on within yourself. The relationship must be supportive and fair to both of you, and from what you’ve told me in the past, it is not.

Q: My mother passed away last Christmas. It’s been a year and I find myself having the same feelings I had twelve months ago, perhaps even more so. 

A: Our culture (American or the modern Yogic) doesn’t make much room for grief. You have every right to feel a loss, especially around the holidays or the anniversary of her death. Grieving really only means that you cared and are alive to feel what that connection was and is and forever will be.

Q: My nephew recently died (he was only 22). The sadness I felt is going away even though I am practicing every day. 

A: Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the loss of your nephew. There is nothing that the depth of meditation reveals that prohibits us from shedding tears for great loss. The true sweetness of it reveals how we are all part of a great streaming mystery that is itself beauty, auspiciousness, and truth. To be in awe and touched by it to the point where it moves us to be more giving and compassionate is the true result of practice.

Yogarupa’s Picks: Recommended Reading

I am often asked for recommended reading material. I tell students that the scope of ParaYoga and its source of teaching, the science of Tantra Yoga, is a synthesis of a vast array of teaching and principles not contained in one literary source. The texts I suggest to each student depend on their level of experience and particular interests.ParaYoga is the confluence of three great rivers of spiritual teachings: Classical Yoga, Ayurveda, and the body of teachings of Tantra and the Vedas. The aspiring ParaYoga student or anyone interested in growing his or her knowledge of ParaYoga should have a grasp of all three streams of knowledge, briefly outlined below: Classical Yoga, Ayurveda, Tantra and the Vedas. (Note: You may also be interested in the required reading list for the ParaYoga Master Training Program

Classical Yoga: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra is the basis of what is known as Classical Yoga. It is also called Raja Yoga and was originally described as Ashtanga Yoga, which may create confusion, because of a now popular Hatha Yoga style of the same name. Patanjali’s philosophical teachings – he speaks hardly at all about Asana or physical practice – more than any other approach, defined what most yoga practitioners think of when they think of Yoga. Deeper study will demonstrate that the Yoga Sutras are not the whole of Yogic wisdom. Although not entirely distinct from Tantra, there is clearly a difference in emphasis of what is elaborated upon in the Tantric tradition versus in the Yoga Sutras. Nonetheless, Pure Yoga considers these teachings and disciplines as the essential foundation for its study and practice.

Patanjali’s brilliance produced a text that is uniquely precise, systematic, and non-religious in its approach. It also happens to be applicable universally to the human condition. In a single concise text, he provided perhaps the very clearest way of seeing into the nature of human suffering, the steps to overcoming it, as well as, how to reach beyond it into knowledge of the ultimate truths. Patanjali wrote in a terse style. His teachings are contained in 196 Sutras, some as short as a sentence, others as long as a paragraph. While translations of his actual writings don’t vary so much, it is in the interpretations or “commentaries” that different schools or traditions impose or share their insight into his teachings.

  • THE HEART OF YOGA by T. K. V. Desikachar
  • HOW TO KNOW GOD by Swami Prabhavanda and Christopher Isherwood
  • THE ROYAL PATH by Swami Rama
  • YOGA FOR WELLNESS by Gary Kraftsow
  • THE SECRET OF THE YOGA SUTRA by Panditji Rajmani Tigunait

Ayurveda, literally the “knowledge of life.” If Yoga is the science of spirituality, Ayurveda is the science of healing. It is said that in ancient times, before students were allowed to undertake the spiritual disciplines of Tantra and Yoga they first were required to be familiar with the principals of Ayurveda. By embodying Ayurvedic principals and practices into our lives and lifestyles we become the most capable of achieving the promise of Yoga and one’s greatest fate.

  • PERFECT HEALTH by Dr. Deepak Chopra
  • YOGA AND AYURVEDA by David Frawley
  • AYURVEDA AND THE MIND by Dr. David Frawley

Tantra is the nearly endless body of systematic spiritual practices and knowledge. It includes the teachings of the Vedas (the world’s oldest surviving spiritual texts), Upanishades, and Puranas, as well as, Sankya philosophy and other pertinent Yogic teachings. Tantra includes the inspired teachings and practices of Hatha, Tantric/Hatha, Kriya, Mantra, Yantra, Kundalini, Jnana, Laya, Bhakti, Swara, Laya, and Maithuna Yogas, as well as astrology, alchemy, gemology and a variety of so many other disciplines and teachings that it makes it almost impossible to offer a complete list.

Below please find links to the individual sections for each list of books I most often recommend. They do not include the required reading for Parayoga Certification.

A Final Thought: Reading can be a source of inspiration and a way of gathering more information, but its value is limited. True learning and development in this tradition is born from practice and in the direct exchange between teacher and student. Tantra is a Kavi tradition. Kavi is defined as “whispering wisdom,” meaning that the deepest Truth – whether theoretical or experiential – is only truly passed through the words and, most importantly, the presence of one who has directly experienced the light of those teachings and themselves been guided by a living master. Scholars can gather tremendous amounts of knowledge and theoretical understanding, but they remain outsiders to the real worth of the teachings, limited by the confines of intellect. The fact remains that reading about transformation is easier (and often more interesting) than being transformed. Even dedicated students find it preferable to read, think, or talk about change than do the actual work that creates it. That said, enjoy! There is much to be gained from heart-felt study and these amazing books.

  • TANTRA UNVEILED by Panditji Rajmani Tigunait
  • THE ELEVENTH HOUR by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait
  • FROM THE RIVER OF HEAVEN by Dr. David Frawley
  • TOOLS FOR TANTRA by Harish Johari
  • UPANISHADS by Eknat Eshwaran
  • BHAGAVAD GITA by Eknat Eshwaran
  • PATH OF FIRE AND LIGHT by Swami Rama
  • HATHA YOGA PRADIPIKA by Swami Mukhta Bodhananda
  • KUNDALINI TANTRA by Swami Satyananda Saraswati
  • SHIVA SUTRA  by Jaideva Singh
  • AGHORA–AT THE LEFT HAND OF GOD by Robert Svoboda
  • AGHORA 2 KUNDALINI by Robert Svoboda