by Cara Butler,
Once upon a time in Christchurch…. actually quite a long time ago….way before any earthquakes, way before I had kids, while I was still very much figuring out what I was doing back in New Zealand after a decade trying my best to stay away…. I somehow found myself a very novice yoga student attending classes in a very cold church hall with a very capable and intelligent teacher from the USA, Katie Lane.
Anyone who has had the pleasure of studying with Katie will know the high quality of teaching I was incredibly lucky to find in my first teacher and via the yellow pages of all things…. Yes it was even before smart phones and easy google searches!
Very early on in my time with Katie she brought out to New Zealand someone she referred to as her ‘Meditation & Philosophy teacher’ for a weekend workshop. I was very curious and desperate for distraction so I booked my space at the workshop with no more encouragement needed.
Hence how I came to study with Carlos Pomeda at the very beginning of my yoga journey. The workshop was held in a classroom at a local Primary School with a small group of curious people. Little did I know how lucky I was to have someone with so much knowledge, integrity and authenticity guide me into the world of Meditation and Yoga Philosophy.
I was completely unaware of how much Carlos and his teachings would guide not only my study and practice of yoga, but most importantly how I would integrate these teachings into my life and do my best to actually ‘walk the talk’.
So as I prepare to hand over the Yoga Lunchbox Editor reins to my dear friend and one time business partner, Veronica King (pictured together above when we hosted Carlos on his most recent New Zealand teaching visit in 2017), I jumped at the chance to connect with and write up an interview with my teacher, friend and upcoming Hauora Yoga Conference presenter, Carlos Pomeda.
Originally from Madrid, Spain, Carlos has been steeped in all aspects of the yoga tradition during more than 40 years of practice and study. He spent 18 of those years as a monk of the Saraswati order, under the name Swami Gitananda, including 9 years of traditional training and practice in India.
During this time he learned the various systems of Indian Philosophy and immersed himself in the practice of yoga, becoming one of the senior monks of the tradition and teaching meditation and philosophy to tens of thousands of students around the world. He combines this experience and traditional training with his academic background, which includes two Masters Degrees: one in Sanskrit, from U.C. Berkeley (where he has taught) and another one, in Religious Studies, from U.C. Santa Barbara. He is currently working on a book on the topic of “Karma and the Journey of the Soul”, as well as a new translation of the Śivasūtra, an important Tantric text of the Kashmiri tradition .
As a teacher, Carlos is renowned for the breadth of his knowledge and the clarity with which he conveys it. His great love of the Indian yoga traditions, his insight, his humor and his deep connection with his audiences give him the ability to transmit the deepest scriptural teachings in a way that is clear, meaningful and applicable.
I began the interview by asking Carlos how he has been managing his work and practice throughout the current global pandemic. Being based in San Francisco, he has had a front row seat to watch all the political and pandemic chaos evolve around him over the past couple of years and I was keen to hear what I knew would be wise observations…..
Carlos – “It’s one of the things that has made me feel again so grateful for having yoga, the teachings and the practices, because whenever there’s a challenge like that immediately what comes up for me is ‘Ok here is life teaching a lesson, and what is the lesson?’. And it really makes a big difference, I mean the situation is still as challenging as it is outside but when you have that perspective it makes a big difference.
‘Ok so what is the lesson here?’ and one of the things that happened was that by being forced to turn everything online it’s been wonderful (joyous laughing). In one way it’s like right now, it feels like we are just next door to each other, and it’s great to be able to connect with people from all over just through the internet, I know for some people they begin to feel online fatigue, but that is like everything if you overdo it, but it really has been wonderful for me in that way.
The other thing is that teaching online and being able to record the content and then have it available for people really works for learning, because when I study I like to review. Because with only one time hearing something you don’t necessarily absorb it. So it has worked really well.
And then for my body! My body is very happy that I don’t have to travel all the time. I notice the difference because travelling and changing time zones really takes a lot out of you. It’s been fantastic being home here with Suzy and our kitties.”
Here I would like to take the time to explain something important I think you should know about Carlos….. His wonderful sense of humour!
He has a smile and laugh that beams radiance and intersperses his teachings with genuine joy. The best way I can describe it is through one of my children’s favourite stories from Roald Dahl. In ‘The Twits’ Roald Dahl says this “A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” That is what Carlos’ laugh and smile feels like, a warm sunbeam! If you have ever had the pleasure of studying in person with Carlos I know you will understand exactly what I am trying to portray! Now back to Carlos…..
Carlos – “One of the things also that I’ve loved is I have been doing more study groups, which I have always wanted to do because I prefer study groups to just workshops. Workshops are great but they are limited in time. With several places we have ongoing study groups, and in one we actually went through the entire Bhagavad Gita, it took about 36 weeks, we read through the whole thing and it’s so fantastic to see how relevant it is and at a time of crisis. That was actually the title ‘Bhagavad Gita in times of crisis’ because it really has tremendously helpful teachings and practices. I really enjoyed that so much.”
I have been fortunate in the past to have studied some parts of the Bhagavad Gita with Carlos so I enquired around which texts he is still recommending as particularly useful for study.
Carlos – “I’ve reduced it to one! I used to have a couple of suggestions but really the best one is the version by Winthrop Sargeant. It still has it’s issues but for study it is the best really. One of the things that I have appreciated about having the study groups is being able to look more at the subtleties of the Sanskrit and how translating one word in a different way actually changes the whole thing. Literally one word. And so because of that naturally I always have some issues with some translations, but overall it’s perfect.“
If you are interested in online study options with Carlos check out his website Carlos Pomeda and from the following links
Now I know we have only just got started and I promise there is SO much more to talk about with Carlos so please keep an eye out for conversations ‘Part 2 & Part 3’ coming out over the coming weeks. Where we talk about Donald Trump, conspiracy theories, social media and guidance on how to find an authentic teacher.
Life’s too short to shy away from the big topics….
We love to hear from our readers so if you have any questions or feedback about this or any other of our articles please email the Yoga Lunchbox Editor, Cara, at firstname.lastname@example.org