by Sandra Radja
I've been a yoga whore in my time. I've done, if not all of the styles, pretty close to most of them. Some had the itchings of a one yoga stand, others I courted for a short time until the responsibility kicked in or I left town. I've fasted for days until I got dizzy standing up, cleaned my nose with a piece of rubber that came out of my mouth (gag at the memory), bounced the crap out of my kundalini, got constipated for a month (really) at a yoga ashram and told everyone I knew they were living wrong and I was right.
And my sciatic nerve was causing such intense sharp pains during my stairway to heaven I couldn't sit in a chair without doing bottom squeezes to relieve the pain. Oh poor me. It took Ayurveda to come in and stop the madness of achievement. My attitude was poison and I was living proof that "healthy living" didn't necessarily mean doing yoga.
All the best yogis I've ever met have had a wild ride. Madhuri is no exception. She creates and destroys better than any reincarnation of Kali I know. Life throws her curve balls, and there is no difference of curve balls in the Yoga industry, perhaps the balls just have the Om symbol displayed. But with each new reinvention comes a depth and grace that belies her stage in life. She has the wisdom of fortitude in her stride and you can feel it in her videos and books.
There is a real difference to the yoga teachers I have experienced that understand some Ayurveda. They have a sensitivity to their classes and look not only for the "correct posture" but whether the student is approaching the asana according to their body type and current state of health. Finally Yoga and Ayurveda are starting to merge together to make yoga work for the individual. And according to the Madhuri Method, you don't need expensive stretchy pants to get the best out of your session.
1. You're a long time yogi. Did you notice a difference in your practice incorporating Ayurveda?
Yes, I think I really did—mostly because I began to study and incorporate Ayurveda into my daily life and sadhana after getting extremely ill in India. It was an illness that lasted over seven years and inspired me to seek out healing after the doctors told me, “there is nothing we can do for you.”
Ayurveda wasn't a quick fix; it took time to build up my ojas and return to balance (and I still am vigilant about my self-care practices). The principles of Ayurveda make sense—returning to living in the flow of our naturalness resonates so deeply with me.
I remember when I began to study Ayurveda…I was often brought to tears of recognition when I was reading the textbooks as I felt the truth and love in the philosophy and the devotion of Mother Nature being channeled through Ayurveda.
I can’t imagine practicing yoga without the intelligence of Ayurveda to support it.
2. I've had personal experience of classes where the teacher is totally unaware of the capacities of their students by their natural body type. A lot of folks, including myself, used to feel intimidated by classes when I couldn't do poses. Being a teacher, has your approach to showing other teachers changed?
Years ago I returned from living and studying at the Bihar School of Yoga in India, a very traditional lineage full of discipline and rigor. I returned to Vancouver and taught whatever I could to make rent. Power yoga, flow yoga, hatha yoga. It was all a great experience but I remember from the beginning thinking that so many students were in classes that they shouldn't have been. I was sensitive to this and at the same time felt that I wasn't being of the highest service—that I couldn't meet absolutely everyone where they needed to be met.
After years of my doing my own sadhana, owning a yoga studio, teaching workshops, and teaching teacher trainings, I've developed The Madhuri Method: Ayurvedic Yoga Teacher Training so that we as teachers can develop more sensitivity and maturity regarding our approach to yoga.
Isn't that what yoga is all about anyway? Knowing ourselves and liking ourselves more and offering a space along with asanas simply as a potential vehicle for inner transformation and remembrance of our Divine Nature.
Teaching is not a show. It’s not about the personality at the front of the class. Teachers need to learn this and get out of the way so the students can have an experience that isn't clouded with jargon or fancy asanas. The way to do that is to fully live in your power as a teacher (different from living in your ‘force’).
3. Do you require special pants to do the Madhuri Method yoga?
Absolutely! They must be very trendy and very expensive. And you must purchase a state of the art asana-ab-cruncher machine that flattens your abs and does moolabandha for you.
What I love about yoga is that nothing is required. I rarely use a mat for my practice and have a fondness for the low impact and simplicity of yoga itself.
That’s why I created The Madhuri Method, out of a deep desire to share the depth and simplicity of Ayurveda with yoga teachers—not only for their own sustainable well being but so they have a thorough understanding of why they are teaching what they are teaching.
Yoga is alchemy.
The practices of asana, pranayama, mudra, bandha, and meditation when used correctly for the individual are medicine. When used incorrectly, they have the capacity to be poison. Not all yoga is “healthy.” I feel it’s essential that yoga teachers understand the effects of the classes they are offering and consciously choose practices that support healing. So often classes are focused around doing cool inversions or pushing through infinite rounds of vinyasa when the emphasis needs to be on the level of awareness and love we bring to ourselves during the class and life.
4. I have had moments in my life where all I felt I could hold onto was my morning practice. It's when my true yoga came through, it stabilized my mind until I could see a flicker of light, most notably in 2011 when I didn't know whether to live in Australia or America and nothing seemed to be working out. When has been the best moments of yoga for yourself?
I too have had similar experiences of my morning practice being an anchor. Yoga has been the foundation that I have created and cultivated on a daily basis and through tragedy I found that there was in fact substance to it.
My “best” yoga moments were the one’s in the beginning when enthusiasm reigned and every new asana or pranayama or insight felt like enlightenment. The honeymoon phase. It wasn’t until I lost my partner suddenly and tragically that I realized I had built a foundation within myself that although shake-able was not breakable.
Even in the darkest moments of my life a little glimmer, a small light shone, unwavering. This I believe is the God consciousness within us (whatever name you give it). This is the guiding light, the inner guru, and the unconditional support system that whispers to us to remember who we truly are. Love.
5. What has been an inspirational turning point not related to either Yoga or Ayurveda? Where else do you tap in when you need insight into what's next for your personal journey?
Challenge and tragedy have certainly played an inspiring and mind-blowing role on my journey. The most inspirational turning point for me was feeling so alone in the world after my partner dying, feeling that my guru wasn't there for me, that yoga was bullshit.
Yoga asks us to transcend yoga. We must evolve beyond what we know and what we think we know and connect to the Truth. That Truth doesn't look like anyone else’s, can’t be performed in a yoga class, and has nothing to do with how long you've meditated. Some of the most generous, loving, and alive people I have known knew nothing of yoga. Not one iota.
The measurement of how we’re getting on in life is “what is our capacity to love?” I don’t mean this superficially and I’m not talking about forgiveness or letting go of anger. I’m talking about how deeply we know who we are and how much we live from that place.
Do you know you are love?
Do you know you are divine?
Do you live from the wisdom that your life in this human body is so short and there is more in this universe then you can see, comprehend, or fathom?
How alive are you?
6. If you could give each dosha one asana to focus on each morning, what would it be?
VATA: Cat pose…slowly elongate and stretch your spine, allowing the nervous system to unravel sweetly and gently as the breath reminds you it’s safe to be yourself.
PITTA: Child’s pose…surrender to the Divine; give up the fight, the trying and spending your life force on achieving more.
KAPHA: Warrior II…stick with your goals and ignite the fire within. Fierce and loving grace inspires you to believe in and accept yourself just as you are.
Between publishing books, making yoga DVD's, touring for yoga and ayurveda conferences, and teaching teachers about the Madhuri Method, Madhuri finds climbing rocks in really cool locations an exciting venture.
She is based in Vancouver, BC.
Learn more about the Madhuri Method at: www.madhuriayurvedayoga.com