There’s a lot of Sanskrit words in that headline, and for those not familiar with the meanings, it might not make any sense at all. But there is a depth of information contained in each and every word.
- Satyananda is a lineage of yoga, coming from a yogi named Satyananda.
- Acharaya is an appointed leader of an organisation.
- A swami is someone who is either a ‘master of the self’ or is on the path to developing this mastery through a particular discipline and lifestyle. Swamihood is a lifestyle that requires very specific training, and a swami is not necessarily a yogi (although in this case, he is).
- Muktidharma is a name, and Anahata is the name of a yoga retreat down in Nelson.
Once you understand all of that, you will understand why it’s my great pleasure to introduce to you a man of great standing within the yogic community – Swami Muktidharma. I am honoured that he’s taken the time to answer The Yoga Lunchbox’s yoga teacher profile questions, and I hope you get as much out of the answers as I did.
1. What style of yoga do you practice and where do you teach?
I practice Satyananda Yoga, which I imbibed from Swami Satyananda himself whilst living with him in India for 16 years. Satyananda Yoga is an integral and complete approach to bringing balance and expansion to the modern human being based on the ancient teachings. It is accessible to most people, no matter what the fitness level, heritage, religion, mental or physical state may be.
For teaching, my base is Anahata Yoga Retreat here in Golden Bay, New Zealand, where I spend about half the year. While at Anahata I train residents in living a yogic lifestyle, teach retreats on different subjects such as non-attachment, Prana Vidya, mantra, chakras, yoga lifestyle etc. I also work one to one in a therapeutic way with those who want a more personal approach or have a specific need.
The rest of the year, I travel around the world bringing the heart of Satyananda Yoga to many people in many countries including 3 months every year teaching more sadhana retreats on the deeper aspects of yoga and tantra in India. People come from around the world to learn and practice at the home of Swami Satyananda.
2. How did you come to yoga?
As a young man, I was always different and felt that there was something I couldn’t grasp in the external world. At the age of 15-16, I became a Franciscan Monk and at the age of 20, I had the realisation that I was unable to fulfill myself with external objects.This lead me to search for a deeper meaning in life. At that time, I had a dream, which showed me the face of my Guru, Swami Satyananda, and when I met him in South America in the early seventies, I transformed from a hippie to a yogi!
3. When did the yoga bug really get you?
The moment I came into contact with my Guru, there was no turning back.
4. How has yoga transformed your life?
I used to be a “bhogi”, someone who enjoyed the external pleasures, which is the opposite of a “yogi”. Due to that lifestyle, I became a “roghi”, which means someone who is unhealthy. I was suffering from sinusitis and with the simple practice of Jala Neti I got cured.
So, I began with the Hatha Yoga practices for the physical benefits, however, I ended up living with my teacher in India, which is where I found the depths of yoga. When I came to India, I was initiated as a swami and have gradually found inner peace, contentment and ever more depth through the transformative power of yoga.
5. What is your home practice like?
To be honest with you, yoga has become for me more than a home practice.
It is a constant particular attitude of awareness in front of life; of course I have my daily practices early in the morning consisting in a few asanas, some pranayamas, meditation and mantra Sadhana, which is the technical aspect, but as my Guru says, the best yoga posture is nor headstand, but feet stand, the ability to stand balanced and stable in front any circumstance of life.
6. When people ask you, “What is Yoga?, What do you say?
Whenever I go people ask me what is yoga and I tell them that it is an experience of expansion as a result on putting into harmony our internal and external aspects.
I encourage people to practice, not just asana and pranayama, but also the attitude of a yogi, such as non-attachment, contentment, balanced mind in front of challenges etc. People talk a lot about the subject, but continue with the same old patterns. If one practices with sincerity and regularity, the experience of expansion and transformation is a natural outcome.
7. What can people expect from one of your classes?
People who come to any one of my yoga sessions or workshops can expect the sharing of my “heart of yoga”. Yoga for me is an experience and I transmit this as a sharing and not as an intellectual bla bla bla…….
I work with each group and with each individual in an intuitive way and will share appropriate stories, practices and theory according to the group and the focus, so come with an open heart and no expectations.
8. What do you love most about teaching yoga?
When I share yoga with others, I experience a communion and rapture with the participants. There is a total mutual attention and communion between all of us.
9. What do you wish everybody knew about yoga?
I wish everybody would understand that yoga is not just physical exercises and that it should be taken as a lifestyle, rather than a hobby. People approach yoga like they are playing tennis or having a cooking class.
Yoga has so much depth and the power to absolutely transform a person’s body, mind and entire experience of life, so I wish for more people to have the opportunity to experience yoga in its wider application.
10. What role do you see yoga playing in our world?
In light of how people have caught the yoga bug in the last years, I believe that the prophecy my teacher made 30 years ago is manifesting, Swami Satyananda said, “Yoga will be the culture of tomorrow” and I do see it becoming the culture of today.
Swami Satyananda recently more specifically said that Bhakti Yoga, chanting, mantra and giving to others are the practices for this day and age. They are the ways to transform this society which is inundated in over stimulation, externalized life, and selfish pursuits. The yoga of the heart will become proven with scientific means and be a common in the future. Already I see this happening. Our largest programs are always the mantra and kirtan ones.
11. Anything else you’d like to say?
I just want to add that yoga is the heritage of human beings and that it was born not only in India, but also in many other places of the planet at the same time.
There is proof that this system for self-discovery bares great similarity to those that have existed in many old cultures in South and North America as well as in other places in Europe and Asia. The reason why we feel it comes from India is that when the materialistic wave came to the world, India was the only country to preserve this great knowledge.
The actions of some yogis and swamis kept this science hidden in the Himalayas until humans were ready to receive the teachings again. Although, many think they are great yogis because they can do many asanas in the book, what is available to the general public is only a fraction of the totality of this powerful science of yoga.
Yoga is our heritage and with sincere and open hearts, we can rediscover its immense depths.
12. And finally, how do people find you?
How do people find me? They don’t need to find me; they need to find themselves!
However, if they want to receive the teachings of Satyananda Yoga and experience yogic lifestyle they can contact me at: Anahata Yoga Retreat or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org