“Flexible Buddhist” is how Ellen Johansson jokingly describes herself. And “flexible Buddhism” is an excellent metaphor for the intersection between Buddhism and yoga.
Eileen was born in Norway and has been a yoga instructor for over 20 years. I encountered Ashtanga yoga in 1994 and have practiced ever since. In 2002, Eileen co-founded the primary Ashtanga studio in Oslo, Ashtanga Yoga Oslo, the place she was the lead instructor accountable for the Mysore programme.
Elaine’s curiosity in Buddhism first introduced Elaine to Bilakob, southern India, the place she spent three years dwelling in a Tibetan monastery. Then I moved to Kathmandu, the place, after finishing a course in Tibetan translation, I obtained a grasp’s diploma in Buddhist Research and Himalayan Languages from Kathmandu College.
BDG had the respect to interview Eileen and discuss her expertise with Buddhism and yoga.
BDG: The place is the file overlap Between Ashtanga Yoga and the Buddhist Path in Your Private Follow?
Elaine Johansson: I’ve labored with the physique my complete life: I have been an Ashtanga practitioner for over 27 years and earlier than that I have been an expert dancer. At first, this work was about self-discipline. I wasn’t dancing or doing yoga as a result of I beloved it however as a result of I wanted some sense of focus and alignment in what was my chaotic world.
I went from coaching considerably grueling trendy ballet/dance in London to finding out extra conceptual and bodily dance methods within the Netherlands. The latter strategy is anxious with reaching the physique with out imposing aesthetic patterns. You need to work with the forces that transfer the thing: gravity, lightness, velocity, and momentum. It usually took the type of dance improvisation, which is a bit like high-speed meditation: you not solely must really feel inside, however you additionally must make choices about when to reply and transfer with impulses, and when not. On this manner, it teaches your thoughts to separate consciousness and content material.
Since motion was my path to consciousness, I initially rejected Buddhism as a way. I believed, as many individuals do, that Buddhism was about sitting in meditation, whereas yoga was about motion.
Then, one yr I met an American Buddhist nun in Mysore and started finding out Diamond reducing instruments Sutra together with her. I instantly felt that it aligned so properly with the way in which I perceived the world. Furthermore, Buddhism has many sensible strategies to supply: it appears to work on the guts and feelings, and presents very direct methods to eliminate our ordinary preferences and dislikes. I preferred that Buddhism was very “radical” – extra like an inventive endeavor: sticking to a worldview during which you act out of altruism, not selfishness, was actually like swimming upstream and performing towards the norm.
This impressed me to go and stay at Namdroling Monastery* for 3 years. This implies experiencing what life may be like when a whole group of individuals stay in response to the Buddhist viewpoint and select to interact in its practices. I assumed probably the most memorable expertise was the demise of the abbot, Benor Rinpoche. ** For a couple of week, he sat in deep meditation, with none bodily indicators of vitality. There was a beautiful environment that pervaded your complete monastery.
After beginning the educational research of Buddhism, I started to surprise why Buddhism and yoga are historically seen as separate traditions after they clearly have rather a lot in frequent: yoga within the philosophical sense darshanawho holds The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (fifth century) As its foundational textual content, it’s involved with strategies of coaching the thoughts. It has many borrowings (or frequent ideas) from Buddhism Abhidharma From the identical period he’s speaking about dhyana (Meditation), the totally different phases of notion. The distinguishing function of each methods is that perception comes direct visualization By creating our senses.
Yoga within the sense of Hatha Yoga/Tantra (eighth century onwards) takes the physique under consideration, utilizing the winds and channels of the refined physique to transcend the mundane expertise. That is extensively practiced in Tantric Buddhism as we discover it within the Tibetan custom.
Patanjali yoga methods and Hatha yoga are shared between Buddhist and Hindu traditions. One scholar described yoga as “free software program” that was shared amongst many traditions: Buddhist, Brahmanical, Islamic, and Jain. The distinction lies in how and for what goal these faculties interact in practices. In Buddhism this was carried out with the intention of liberating all beings from struggling. There might be no Buddhist Tantra apply with out it Podesita*** as a foundation.
BDG: Which Buddhist lecturers have had probably the most affect in your non secular path?
E.J.: The Buddhist lecturers with whom I really feel most carefully linked are those that give attention to the refined physique and likewise dare to criticize their very own traditions: Dhamadipa, who all through his life practiced many Buddhist paths – Theravada, Yogakara and Zen – additionally emphasizes the significance of creating physique consciousness, recognizing that extreme sitting broken his physique. Due to this fact, he teaches qi gong and yoga throughout his retreats. For me, it’s a key to understanding many traditions, but in addition transcending them. My different instructor is Dolpo Tulku Rinpoche, who regardless of being an excellent scholar has an amazing curiosity in Indian Hatha yoga and pranayamaWho additionally teaches him in his secrets and techniques. I lately reached out to training researcher Ian Baker, who can also be a college member of my in-depth course. His best contribution to my research is his capacity to chop via the cultural scaffolding and hierarchy of Tibetan Buddhist practices, which might make them appear unusual to us, and current them as an efficient means of reworking our our bodies and minds.
BDG: Are you able to speak just a little bit about your in-depth course and the place Buddhist apply is positioned?
E.J.: Within the two-year in-depth course, I attempt to “repair the hole” between Buddhism and yoga. I believe it’s time to see yoga in a broader sense as a transnational and ever-evolving custom. Extra yoga lecturers than me nowadays are incorporating Buddhist practices into their educating as a result of they’ve been proven to be efficient and useful. One of many core practices in my course is Sustained Empathy Meditation. On this apply we construct a basis for meditation by seeing ourselves relational objects Surrounded by our community of care and help (associates, household, pets, mentors, and so on.). This visualization calms the nervous system, and permits us to be at dwelling in our our bodies and at peace of thoughts, earlier than we even attempt to “meditate.”
BDG: What’s crucial message you need to convey to your college students?
E.J.: What I need my college students to know is that we grow to be what we’re via processes, consciously or unconsciously. Principally we develop unconscious patterns via cultural and social conditioning. Yoga is strictly the way in which to beat this situation, each mentally and bodily: it teaches you to direct the method of transformation in direction of the optimum objective. For this we want a deep understanding of the chances of our bodily thoughts and the practices via which it may be achieved!
* The Namdroling Nyingmapa Monastery (Thjchog Namdrol Chedrup Dargi Ling) is the biggest instructional middle of the Nyingma dynasty of Tibetan Buddhism on the planet. It’s positioned in Bylakuppe, Mysuru District, within the Indian state of Karnataka.
** Kyabjé Drubwang Padma Norbu Rinpoche (1932–2009), was the eleventh throne holder of the Palyul Lineage of the Nyingma Faculty.
*** In Mahayana Buddhism, Podesita (Skt. Awakening thoughts) is the merciful aspiration to attain enlightenment for the advantage of all sentient beings, a bodhisattva high quality.
Associated Options of BDG
E-book overview: Tatiana Elle’s Girls’s Yoga: 45 Poses for Bodily, Emotional and Non secular Nicely-being
Tibetan Yoga, The Hidden Treasure of Tibetan Buddhism: An Interview with Ian A. Baker
Demystifying the Yoga of Bliss: Interview with Dr. Nida Chenagtsang, Half 1
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