It’s been a few weeks since The Yoga Lunchbox featured a yoga teacher from around the country, and it is my great delight to introduce you to Pavitra.
Born in Germany, she discovered yoga through books at the age of 17. Already burning with a strong desire to know more about the mysteries of life, Pavitra didn’t let the lack of a real-life teacher stop her from starting her yoga journey.
Now living and teaching in Christchurch, New Zealand, Pavitra – a Satyananda Yoga teacher who studied for three years at the Satyananda Yoga Academy– says she is truly blessed to be doing something she loves to very much.
1. What style of yoga do you practice and where do you teach?
I practice and teach Satyananda Yoga. Satyananda Yoga makes available all aspects of yoga, e.g Hatha Yoga, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Kriya Yoga, Kundalini Yoga etc. Depending on your temperament and stage of evolution you are guided to the practice and path, that is right for you.
I was able to create a Yoga & Meditation Studio (currently called Yoga for You) on the premises where I live, in Waltham Christchurch. I have been running classes, workshops and Kirtans (chanting evenings) here for the last 7 -8 years. I also occasionally teach at people’s workplace or at a High school.
2. How did you come to yoga?
I believe my first introduction to yoga was through the book Swami Rama by Doug Boyd. It got me interested and I soon found myself in a little bookstore near my hometown in Germany purchasing two yoga books, one by Andre Van Lysebeth and Elisabeth Haich and the other I can’t remember.
There were no yoga teachers in my vicinity so I learned from the books and began practicing every morning before I went to high school ( I was 17 then). I had this sheepskin type yoga mat I bought for a lot of money, I remember doing ‘pranayama’ walking home from the school bus, inhale 4 steps – hold 4 steps – exhale 4 steps…
I remember being inspired by the idea that I can actively contribute to my well-being but most of all by learning, that there are no coincidences in life, that even little things can teach you something.
3. When did the yoga bug really get you?
It got me then at 17, I religiously practiced every morning maybe for 12 -18 months, till the end of high-school (yes in Germany we don’t leave school till the age of 18+).
After that ‘life got in the way’ for a while, as they say, even though yoga has been an intermittent companion throughout.
In the year 2000, after attending teacher training with Donna Farhi, I started to commit to daily practice; but only after I was introduced to Satyananda Yoga did my daily practice feel like a sadhana (spiritual practice) to me. My practice gained another dimension and broader perspective. It became a way of life, a way of living consciously in all I think and do.
4. How has yoga transformed your life?
At the age of 17, living in a conservative German small town, yoga lifted my spirit and gave me inspiration and direction. It empowered me.
My motivation for doing things has always been quite different to my friends’. I had a deep thirst to understand life. This thirst to know and understand life intimately allowed me to embrace my first pregnancy 20 years ago … because what can be more existential to life then birth and death? I figured giving birth would introduce me to one of life’s great mysteries …and what a wonderful and blessed initiation it was.
So when many years later (2003) I read a little red book by Swami Satyananda called Sannyasa Tantra I recognized that inwardly I had lived with the attitude of a sannyasi (spiritual seeker) all my life. In Swami Satyananda’s words:
If Sannyasa is to be your path of life you will feel it strongly. Possibly you may not even know the meaning of sannyasa, but there will nevertheless be the strong need to find wisdom and meaning in life, a need that makes all other needs seem insignificant in comparison.
So things started to fall into place. I had come home.
The practices of yoga, like asana, pranayama, mudra, bandha, mantras etc, have subtle transforming effects on all levels of my being.
My awareness and sense of self has become more refined. I feel more at peace, more courageous & more creative; I have also increased faith and trust in the Divine, higher Self, cosmic intelligence, God, whatever you might name it.
My sadhana reminds me daily, that life is more than it’s physical manifestation and encourages me to open myself to the unknown. The greatest change though came through my initiation, first into mantra diksha and later into Karma Sannyasa. The initiation has given my Self a solid foundation and a source of strength and inspiration and my life a kind of sweet magic … and a heart filled with gratitude to all the great teachers of many generations, who dedicated their lives to the practice and sharing of the teachings.
PS: Becoming initiated and adopting sannyasa is my personal path; it does not signify that I believe that doing yoga leads to initiation; this is a totally personal choice and not everybody’s path at all. The practice and study of yoga helps us to find our own dharma our own individual path, and no two paths are ever the same.
5. What is your home practice like?
My so called on the mat practice currently consists of:
- Early morning: some asana, pranayama and mantra meditation.
- Night time: 10-30 min meditation (I usually stick to the same meditation practice for several weeks at a time)
Books have always been a great inspiration in my life, especially when I didn’t have teachers, so reading inspirational books and study is my favorite pastime and I usually spend at least half an hour after my morning practice reading… while sipping on my soy latte : )
And as I mentioned before, yoga for me is a way of life. Through bringing more awareness to my thoughts, actions and emotions on a daily basis, l am reminded of how ‘silly’ my mind really is, always changing, constantly fluctuating, now positive, next moment depressed, angry, worried, guilt, etc … these days it makes me laugh and take my mind and its moods less seriously, while still allowing them to be there. So instead of feeling tense or burdened I can relax and hand it all over to the highest part in me. This allows me to face life with more equanimity.
6. When people ask you, “What is Yoga?”, what do you say?
Oh that depends a lot on whom I’m talking to.
In this forum I would say… yoga is a way of freeing ourselves of self-limiting belief structures and conditioning. It is knocking down the walls of the box we all tend to put ourselves into … so we can see with our hearts. Yoga is a path that gives us self-governance in all aspects of our life. And most of all it connects us to a place deep within, vast and free and beautiful …
Yoga is such an immense body of knowledge and practices, that there is something for everyone, no matter what temperament. And through the different lineages we have access to teachings that are authentic and real, steeped in tradition and wisdom. We are really very lucky … and even though it is not the only path it is a most valid one.
Mostly so I say… yoga helps you to feel better in yourself. It is a non-competitive practice and will remove stiffness and tiredness from your body and mind. It will teach you how to use your breath effectively and you will learn how to truly relax. That is where most of us start out from: move … breathe … relax
7. What can people expect from one of your classes?
I am lucky to be able to teach in a beautiful space solely dedicated to the practice of yoga. The classes are small (10 people max) and the atmosphere is friendly and personal.
A typical class in Satyananda Yoga moves from gross to subtle aspects of our being – from body, to breath, to mind. After a brief centering period, we do asanas (postures) for about ¾ of the class time, followed by pranayama (breathing practice) and end with either Yoga Nidra (deep guided relaxation technique) or a meditation practice. This works extremely well and enables even very restless people to experience a sense of inner peace and expansion by the end of a session. I offer beginners, level 1 & level 2 classes – in this way people are systematically lead into the practices, which is especially important for pranayama and meditation.
Once a month there is also the opportunity to attend a 2 hour session on Saturdays to learn more about yoga philosophy, yoga psychology or other aspects of yoga.
And it really goes without saying that in all classes or session, the individual’s needs and limitations are always considered and alternatives or modifications are offered.
I also teach Pregnancy Classes, Mum & Baby classes, and Birthing Consciously Classes.
For more details visit the website Yoga for You.
8. What do you love most about teaching yoga?
Last week in our early morning class I had one of these sweet moments, of bliss and gratitude … here I was, sitting quietly, the sun still below the horizon, guiding people through a meditation on hridayakasha (the psychic heart space) and the steady flame (jyoti) burning at it’s centre; reminding each one of us of our divine Self … it was a truly sacred moment … and this is my ‘work’! … how blessed am I?!
More and more I feel that “I am not the doer”, my teaching is guided by guru and this keeps me feeling light and at ease (most of the time).
Teaching is part of my sadhana … and it brings into my life many beautiful people I wouldn’t meet otherwise.
9. What do you wish everybody knew about yoga?
That yoga can be for you whatever you want it to be.
It can be a way to maintain your body, free your breath, relax deeply and recharge your whole being … or it can, with dedication and the right teachers, take you to a way of being in this world you never dreamed of, full of creativity, joy and love … unconditional love and compassion for all and everything … a transformation of consciousness.
I would like to add though that personally I believe, that we can’t do the latter on our own. We need a teacher of a high caliber, who has transcended his/her own mind; we need a guide who can lead us safely through the labyrinth of our own mind, the ego is just too tricky and we can too easily delude ourselves or get stuck, or lost.
Yoga is the ability to experience what we have not experienced up to now.
– Swami Satyananda Saraswati
10. What role do you see yoga playing in our world?
In the words of His Holiness the Dalai Lama:
Although attempting to bring about world peace through internal transformation of individuals is difficult, it is the only way.
Regular practice of yoga can achieve personal transformation; it can transform us into better human beings, less controlled by our animal instincts and able to make more refined choices. I wish us all to become open-hearted individuals and I believe yoga offers the tools and teachings to achieve this.
11. Anything else you’d like to say?
Yes, thank you, Kara-Leah, for having created this great website, I enjoy reading other people’s stories and ideas on yoga. It is a way to connect the yoga community, especially us teachers and that’s what I love about it.
So for those of you from other parts of the country, if you find yourself in Christchurch, then please get in touch with me, I’d love to meet you.
12. And finally, how do people find you?
The easiest way is to visit our website Yoga for You, you find all other details there.