The Isha Hata Yoga Teacher Training Program is an endeavor to bring back classical yoga in its purest form and to train teachers who can impart this phenomenally powerful science. In this series, we will be following the participants through their exciting 21-week journey.
In Week Thirteen of the program, we look at a special aspect of their sadhana: volunteering.
Apart from their intensive practices of Hata Yoga, absorbing sessions on anatomy and physiology, chanting and various activities that the Hata Yoga participants spend their days doing, there is yet another type of sadhana that they’re finding very enriching – volunteering.
Volunteering has always been a very significant aspect of sadhana at Isha. Sadhguru explains: “Essentially, ‘volunteering’ means ‘to become willing.’ The difference between something being blissful and torturous is just this – if you do it willingly it’s blissful. If you do it unwillingly, it’s torturous. ‘Volunteer’ means just that. You work in a certain way so that you take off all those walls of choices that you have built within yourself which makes you half-willing all the time.
In Isha we constantly talk about volunteering because this is a simple way of breaking those old karmic structures of being partially willing in everything. You will see how many layers of resistance you have for all kinds of silly things. You have to work that down, otherwise it will become an unnecessarily long sadhana. Instead of doing meditation for a thousand years, if you perform action with a certain level of awareness, intensity and dispassion – not choosing what you like and dislike, simply doing what is needed with great intensity and joy – this thousand-year meditation can be reduced to ten years because you have removed the fundamentals, you have removed the foundation stones which support the karmic substance. That’s what volunteering can do for you.”
Volunteering is incorporated into the daily sadhana of the Hata Yoga School participants. They take turns to serve the brunch meal and they work in rota groups to set up the class. For set up, attention is paid to the minutest details: on how the carpets should be placed and aligned, how the cushions should be placed so that everybody is able to see the teacher and do their practices comfortably, how the name tags should be written and maintained, how the yoga mats should be aligned and much more. Many have also seized opportunities to volunteer for various programs in the ashram, including Bhava Spandana Program and In the Lap of the Master event.
Participant Viju shares his experience: “At brunch time, it’s really overwhelming to serve everybody… I pick up the food and suddenly a smile comes up on my face… it has become like this: I can’t eat unless I serve at least one round of food. So I serve first and then I go eat.”
But these people are primarily here to be Hata Yoga teachers, aren’t they? Sadhguru responds to this: “When I say volunteering, don’t understand this just in terms of activity or work. In terms of attitude, you are a volunteer everywhere. Everything that you can do, you always do – unasked. Just get this into your system, you will see yoga will simply happen. ‘How does it help me… I just want to do Hata Yoga.’ If you do Hata Yoga without the necessary inner ambience, you will become like a rock, but it will be of no use.”
Sadhguru shares this fascinating story: “There was a great yogi named Siddhalinga who lived in the region of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh in the Deccan Plateau of South India. He heard about another great yogi, who did not live like a yogi, who was actually a king. He had his temporal duties, so he dressed like a king, he lived like one but he was a yogi. Siddhalinga was dressed like a yogi, he lived like a yogi – he had ‘yogi’ painted all over his face! He did not like this man who dressed well, ate well and lived in a palace, but called himself a yogi. So he went to the yogi and challenged him, ‘You call yourself a yogi? Show me something. What have you got?’ That yogi said, ‘You are the great yogi. It is best that you show what you can do.’
Siddhalinga pulled out a diamond-tipped sword, gave it to the other yogi and said, ‘Take this sword and hit me on my head with all your strength. Nothing will happen to me.’ He took the sword and hit Siddhalinga on the head and it just bounced off like it hit a rock. Then Siddhalinga said, ‘Now that you used the sword against me, I can also use it against you,’ and he took the sword and slashed the yogi with it. The sword went right through him like he was thin air. It just passed through him. Siddhalinga swished this way and that way but the sword went through again and again without even touching him. Then Siddhalinga bowed down and said, ‘I know the yoga of strength but I don’t know the yoga of gentleness,’ and he became that yogi’s disciple. However hard a stone you might have become, if not this sword, with something else we can break it. If it can just go through, it’s invincible, isn’t it?”
In the case of volunteering, inspiration for the group is close at hand in the form of the teachers and volunteers who work to make every aspect of the Hata Yoga School possible. The teachers in the program are full-time volunteers, who are willing to offer this profound science to others and also use this as a vehicle for their growth.
Michael, from the US, says, “I am so grateful for all the people who do everything for us. We have fifteen dedicated volunteers for our program. We don’t actually get to see what they do, but we see the results of what they do on a daily basis… it fills me with gratitude and love.” Sharmila from Singapore says, “When I see the teachers, the way they are, I just fall in love with each and every one who has come to teach us in this program. I just don’t know what they carry… it’s not just saying instructions. It’s beautiful. There is no ‘I’ factor in them. It’s just they are there. Sometimes I close my eyes and tears come rolling when I think of the teachers and volunteers. Every day I tell myself that I am lucky to be with such people around.”
Anurag, one of the volunteers for the Hata Yoga School, shares: “In the beginning, the activity used be physically taxing but I was surprised to see myself do everything joyfully, particularly since I used to be very lazy back home. The ambience here is so different; it just takes over completely. As the school progressed, from a volunteer who had come here only for six months, I turned into a full-time volunteer. It was not a big decision for me. I didn’t even think about it – it just happened like that. The people here… the teachers, the brahmacharis, fellow volunteers… when I look at them, the kind of dedication and commitment they show, it just overwhelms me. What the volunteering has done to me is phenomenal. If there is any place to be, it’s here, and nowhere else!”
Participant Julie sums it up: “Volunteering is a great opportunity to lose yourself and give your full attention to whatever is in front of you. When you put your heart into whatever you are doing, it’s a beautiful experience. Volunteers at Isha are like silent, fragrant flowers. You need only to stop and pay attention for a moment to witness the sweetness and beauty in what they are offering.”