For Aadil Palkhivala, yoga has been a life-long practice. Born in Bombay, India, he began observing yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar’s classes at the age of three, started his formal study at the age of seven, and was awarded his Advanced Yoga Teacher’s Certificate at the age of twenty-two. Nearly thirty years later, Aadil and his wife Savitri are co-founders and co-directors of Yoga Centers and The College of Purna Yoga in Bellevue, Washington and have taught some of the top yoga instructors from around the world. Here’s more from Aadil:
Jennifer Haupt: How can practicing yoga help to transform stress into positive energy?
Aadil Palkhivala: Yoga is about the union of the mind, body, emotions, and the spirit. This integration of all four aspects of energy is extremely powerful and transformational in many ways, including calming our thoughts and creating energy that heals and nurtures and bringing us closer to our Spirit.
JH: How much control do we really have over feeling stressed out versus approaching the same circumstances with clarity and calmness?
AP: We have total control once we have paid our dues. This includes spending time in meditation getting to know who you are. This also includes learning the techniques for quieting the mind’s incessant jabber and then applying them so that the mind is your slave rather than you being the slave of the mind. Indeed, all stress is in the mind. Once we control that we are empowered.
JH: What is a daily ritual that’s helpful in reducing stress and increasing positive energy?
AP: The first step is to eliminate all dark colors, especially black, from your wardrobe as well as from your home. Dark colors induce depression and stress, and eliminating this is something easy that anyone can do.
JH: How big a role does the simple act of breathing play in turning stress into positive energy?
AP: Breathing is our link to the nervous system. By controlling our breath we control the nervous system’s response to stress. After all, there is no actual stress, only perceived stress. The same situation can be accepted calmly by a relaxed nervous system, which would be a frenetic stress-filled situation for someone whose nervous system is agitated. By doing yogic breathing, as taught in Purna Yoga, we learn to use the exhalations to remove the stress of the past and the inhalations to bring in life force, which regenerates the nervous system and helps us handle stress more easily or, even better, not feel the stress at all.
JH: What is Purna Yoga, and what differentiates it from other types of yoga practice?
AP: Purna Yoga is a holistic approach to yoga. It leaves nothing out since the great yoga master, Sri Aurobindo, said, “All life is yoga.” Thus, Purna yoga has four distinct yet interwoven branches: mediation (as taught by Savitri), asana and pranayama, applied philosophy, nutrition and lifestyle. Unlike practitioners of other styles of yoga, which focus either only on the physical asana or on the spiritual aspects, the practitioner of Purna Yoga gets everything they need in this one comprehensive system. The work of Purna Yoga is based on the teaching of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, as interpreted by Savitri and Aadil Palkhivala.
JH: We all know that meditation can be an essential tool in reducing stress, but time can be a major deterrent. How much time does one need to spend meditating in order for it to be effective?
AP: Purna Yoga Meditation, which is what my wife Savitri practices and teaches, is a practical approach to meditation based on using the gifts of the mind to go into the heart chakra and connect with the Pillar of Light, the soul in the physical body.
While classical meditation requires about one hour twice a day, this is not feasible for most people. Fortunately, Savitri has condensed the effects of an hour long meditation into two-three minute techniques which involve the breath, visualizations, and the use of the hands to calm and focus the mind. She calls these techniques “meditation snacks” and in just a few minutes you can get the same effects as over an hour of meditation. Many of our students take time to do these techniques throughout the day, and it’s very powerful in overcoming stress.
JH: What is a meditation snack that busy people can use to slow down their minds and create more positive energy?
AP: Centering, as taught by Savitri, is a very powerful tool for slowing down the mind. The technique is to use the hands to collect the scattered energy of the mind and bring it into center. Bring that centered mental energy down into the center of the chest using the hands so that the mind feels calm.
Another technique is to focus on your breath. Lie on your back on a flat, firm surface with the head slightly propped up with a folded blanket. Close your eyes and observe your breath in minute detail. On your inhalation, feel the breath touching your nostrils, going up into your sinuses, going down your throat, and filling up your lungs all the way to your diaphragm. On the exhalation reverse the observation. During the inhalation feel peace entering you, and release the tensions of the past. Make the breath slow and deep, listening to the sound of your breath. Repeat the breath for 18 cycles and you will feel calmer.
To learn more about Aadil Palkhivala buy his book, Fire of Love, visit his web site www.aadil.com or www.aadilandmirra.com, and check out his radio show www.alivewithaadil.com. To learn more about Yoga centers and the meditation classes offered there, visit www.yogacenters.com.