Airdate: April 3, 2013
Join Ramdesh for a discussion with popular Kundalini and Ashtanga yoga teacher Akasha. You may know him from his wonderful DVDs, as well as from his inspiring classes at Sat Nam Fest (he’ll be at Sat Nam Fest West this week!)
Where and when did it all begin? Akasha met Yogi Bhajan at a White Tantric Yoga session he attended with his father when he was just ten years old. Yogi Bhajan noticed the boy and offered him a 40-day meditation to do (Ardas Bhaee). From then on, every time Akasha encountered Yogi Bhajan, he recalls, the master of Kundalini yoga would give him another meditation! “I felt like I was destined to meet Yogi Bhajan and practice this yoga,” Akasha says. In fact, hooked on Star Wars as a little boy, Akasha admits he had always wanted to be a Jedi knight. “Yogi Bhajan, Akasha confides, “became like my 200-pound Yoda…He was like Superman to me! I wanted to aspire to be something like him.”
How do you inspire children to become involved in yoga? Akasha says that Yogi Bhajan knew Akasha was into football and sports, and told him that meditation would help make him a better football player. “I tasted the sweetness of yoga and what it had to offer,” says Akasha, “and saw that it gave me a certain amount of peace.” He tries to encourage his own son to do yoga (he is 15) but it doesn’t work to force it. Younger kids may want to do yoga because they want to hang out with their parents. When kids get older parents may have to be a little craftier to get them involved!
Why did Akasha go to India to study Ashtanga yoga? Due to the many sports in which he was involved, Akasha experienced some physical injuries and wanted to heal his knee, back, hip and other areas of his body damaged through contact sports. He began studying Ayurvedic medicine with Dr. Vasant Lad, changed his diet and began to learn about his basic constitution (he is a Pitta personality). After meeting yoga teacher Alan Finger who introduced him to a tape of Richard Freeman practicing Ashtanga yoga he realized that this practice was right for him. He traveled to India where Kundalini yoga teacher Gurmukh led him to Pattabhi Jois, the master of Ashtanga yoga. Akasha ended up studying with Pattabhi Jois’s nephew Viswanatha, and ultimately his injuries were healed through the daily practice of Ashtanga. Akasha has been a practitioner of Ashtanga yoga for about twenty years, and of Kundalini yoga for thirty: this extraordinary yogi maintains a deep devotion to each path.
Ashtanga yoga is a difficult physical practice but one can start yoga at any age, says Akasha. He’s taught a lot of elderly people who do well with the basic spinal series from Kundalini yoga. They can even practice in their chairs, and modifications can always be used to build up a practice. The beauty of Ashtanga, he says, is that the movement of the breath becomes your mantra; “In Ashtanga the primary focus is to go inward toward your breath and let the breath move your body and it becomes like a dance.”
Listen to “Sunlight” from Pilgrimage by MC Yogi, one of Akasha’s favorite yoga tunes, and then he’ll discuss the bhandas, or locks within the body. He also talks about the daily practice of sadhana: “It leaves me so fresh and so ready to open up to the world.” Through sadhana you keep the mind clean just like a shower cleanses the body. So many great thinkers agree–even Thomas Jefferson, Ramdesh points out. Give two and a half hours to a daily spiritual practice and the returns will be great.
The podcast plays out to “Aad Guray Namay” by Jai-Jagdeesh from I Am Thine. Enjoy this beautiful song and if you have a chance to take a class with this incredible teacher–at Sat Nam Fest, at Akasha’s yoga studio (Birmingham Yoga), or anywhere else–go for it! He is indeed an inspiring yogi Jedi knight!