If you know me, you know that I’m always seeking integrity in myself, in life, in others, and in the world. My motto is always to do my absolute best to live from conscience, intuition, respect and the love of my heart. In doing so, I commonly have strong views on things I’ve spent a long time learning about, or are hugely a part of my family’s lineage and the legacy I hold dear. Yoga, for example, is something that is ingrained in my cells.
My father, Aadil Palkhivala, studied with BKS Iyengar since he was 7 years old and was the youngest to receive the “Advanced Yoga Teachers Certification” from Iyengar at 21. He was even personally sent by Iyengar to America when he was 19 to teach asana, representing Iyengar, which was unheard of. He is now known as the ‘teacher of teachers’, travels around the world teaching “yoga”, is considered the most knowledgable in this field, and is an ambassador for Yoga Journal as well as countless other things in this field. He represents the asana aspect of Yoga.
My mother, Savitri, has been teaching meditation and lifestyle for over 30 years now. She’s an astounding woman, and life has given her degrees through the amount of learning she endured in life experience. Her mother was Italian Catholic and her father was Indian Muslim, a most interesting and unusual mix. She grew up in India until she was 7 and was able to see Yoga and religions first hand through her experiences visiting “gurus” and individuals who practiced yoga. Her parents died in a horrifying plane crash (killing 200+ individuals) when she was 16, her sister was murdered shortly after, her best friend died of AIDs, her cousin killed herself, and that’s just a piece of what she went through. But through it all, her mother’s mission of love was what Savitri remembered most, the amazing teacher of love. Savitri created active meditation techniques (which I use all the time, got me out of depression and into awareness) that truly pave the way to gaining contact with you: your soul. She is the creator of Heartfull Meditation and Lifestyle as well as the co-founder of Alive and Shine Foundation (helping underprivileged, mentally unwell, homeless, depressed, etc. men, women and youth through Heartfull techniques, clothing and donations) and continues to do astounding things in this world.
Savitri and Aadil founded our Lifestyle (Yoga-Asana, Meditation, Life) studio Alive & Shine Center (formerly Yoga Centers) in 1992 and are the creators of the college of Purna Yoga ॐ. The College of Purna Yoga is an elite yoga school certifying at the 200hr, 500hr, and 2,000hr levels. It is known as the school of complete Yoga education (Purna means complete in sanskrit) and awareness of how to truly live Yoga. What does that mean?
Yoga is Unity
Yep. Yoga translates into Unity in sanskrit. So, when someone takes a yoga class, they’re more likely taking an asana class. Asana, as stated prior, is the postures/poses. Asana is part of Yoga, but Yoga is not Asana. You know those fancy poses you see people (often in ads) where they bend all over the place, looking a lot like gymnastics? Well, that’s often not asana either, that’s gymnsatics. Believe it or not, there’s a difference. It’s not about being hot, sweating, bendy, sexy, or cool, it’s about living from the soul through the body in movement. Connecting mind and body to the wisdom of the soul. It’s spiritual, but not religious. Unfortunately, like many words that get translated incorrectly, yoga has been misunderstood.
My hope is that someday people will truly understand the true meaning of yoga, perhaps this article will help. In all honesty, I hope people will understand the meaning of integrity, because that is the same thing. Integrity shows the yearn to want to live each moment from awareness and conscience. Through integrity and awareness we cannot be misguided by those who are lost themselves. We can be in tune with our intuition so deeply that we’ll see how deeply we’ve been manipulated through the power of advertisement and influence. I don’t mean advertisement as in that commercial you saw where she bent backwards in her cute yoga pants, that’s only a piece of it, I mean the advertisement every day we get from our friends, family, Facebook, media, twitter, instagram, etc. Constantly being told what to have, what to do, what’s wrong, what’s right. But the weird thing is, we use lies to encourage truth. What? Yeah, even I was surprised writing that.
Yoga is one of the concepts that needs to be understood more fully. Unlike Facebook ads, the newest cool yoga app, or online courses will tell you… yoga is not a fad, it’s not the new cool thing, it’s not the nearest studio, it’s not the most bendy pose, it’s not the most flexible body, it’s not how cool you are, it’s not about seeming/looking/acting spiritual, it truly is spirituality which is about living from integrity each day, it’s a lifestyle. Yoga is to be lived. It is the unity (yoga means unity in Sanskrit) of mind and body to the soul (heart chakra). It is all, it is life, it is meant to represent the integrity of who you truly are. It’s unity. It is not at all what people are turning it into. It is not drinking, smoking, or getting high for “enlightenment” or intoxication to feel pleasure/enjoyment in the name of “spirituality”. It’s not a way of gathering that takes you away from your heart. It’s not about how rad your spiritual journey is, how many followers your journey has, how many likes your fancy pose, wise quote or visit to a shrine in India gets. It is having respect for your body by taking care of it in every thing you do. It’s taking care of the world, the earth, the environment, your surroundings and taking care through that place within. It’s being honest and kind, not manipulative and needing of attention/followers. It’s not a social media competition. It’s not a game or a manipulative corporate advertisement. It is not a competition. It’s not just about following a “guru” or “group” posting neat yogic/spiritual quotes/articles on Facebook… It’s being the integrity those quotes might hold (if they are truly good quotes), living the wisdom, it’s being guided by someone who guides you to help you be more you through the wisdom of the heart.
Yoga is safe, it is love, it is living from the place of oneness so that we truly love and show gratitude for our earth, our family, our friends, our lives, ourselves, etc. from the most honest place within. It’s not about leaving the body, it’s being more in the body. Respecting the body, respecting others, respecting yourself, respecting. It is about having conscience in every action you take, every word you speak, every letter you write. It’s about finding the yoga style that incorporates the true meaning of yoga, not fake spirituality. Yoga is to be lived. It is not a religion, it is not a fad, it is not a party, it is not a club. It is you. The true you. Most people are instructors of basic (often unsafe) asana (poses)… very, very, very seldom is there a yoga teacher. Many “yoga” studios are teaching asana, not yoga. Asana is not gymnastics, real safety-alignment based asana is to develop an open body, a strong body, a happy body, that is in balance to receive more of the wisdom of the soul to easily flow through the body. Which is why my parents created Purna Yoga, Purna (complete) Yoga (unity). Heartfull Meditation techniques integrate with Purna Yoga Asana so the soul can flow more easily through each movement.
So remember, just like Chai Tea means Chai Chai or Tea Tea, because Chai translates to Tea, Yoga is not what people think it is. It is truly the unification of the lower natures and ignorant natures to the highest vibration of love and light. Through movement (asana), lifestyle (healthy living) and an open mind guided by the conscience and wisdom of the heart (heart-based meditation and philosophy).
In the same way, Guru and Yogi are sacred words.
Guru is used often in a way that is disrespectful to the original meaning. It’s used in America and other individuals often to describe someone “well known or great in their field” or someone who somehow has a “knack for knowing exactly what to do in that field”. For example a “Hair Guru” or a “Food Guru”, but that is very disrespectful to the true meaning of guru. Guru is a word to describe someone of spiritual achievement, growth, and someone who has worked hard on transforming their ego into the light and love of the heart. Someone who is working very hard to live each day from integrity, conscience, intuition and the wisdom which lies within. It is a word of very high nature, an honor, and it has been misused greatly among many individuals. As well as Yogi, yogi is not something to be stated or used lightly. Being a Yogi means being the level of someone who truly has fully embodied Yoga. Even my father respects the word so deeply he willingly refuses to be called a Yogi because he knows the honor and importance behind that word. Even if he has immense knowledge on the subject of Asana. Those who know that word fully, will not use it. It’s like if I studied nutrition for one semester and called myself Dr. Zenia. That’s disrespectful to those who have studied deeply and worked very hard (through their continuing education as well) to hold that term. In this case you’re not given a certificate, you just are. My friend Teesha R. shared with me the exact translation and said “Most cultures don’t understand its true sacred nature, Gu= dark , Ru= dispel or remove. The one who removes darkness and brings us closer to light.” So a TRUE hair guru would be a hair stylist that dyes people’s hair from dark to light (brunette to blonde), riiigggggght? Yeah, no.
Yogi means you are all that is yoga, you’ve embraced life as Yoga, you know all life is Yoga to such a degree that you have become that. It is rare, and I promise you the majority of those who call themselves “yogi’s” are not yogi’s at all. So, please respect this word and remember what it truly means. Words are energy. Just as Chai Tea would translate to Tea Tea, and Yoga actually means Unity not asana or gymnastics, realize that words have been built on energy they represent. So when you share these words, embrace these words, and continue to represent these words… you’re representing the energy. So please show respect, and help others to show respect for one another and what we’ve put into these words.
Bonus Story: My mother and grandmother represents a huge part of what Yoga means. Yoga is to be lived, yoga is unity, yoga is truly meant to be living from the heart. Heartfull Meditation was created by my mother to invoke more of the concept of the Heart Chakra. My grandmother found that unity in every thing she did, and she did not need to practice asana (poses) in order to do that. She lived yoga. See, Savitri’s mother was dyslexic and found a solution to end this issue. She was a professor at Berkeley university and taught youth with dyslexia, learning disabilities, attitude issues, emotional issues, mental imbalances, youth considered rejects or “retarded”, etc. how to do the impossible: learn. Considered youth that would never amount to anything, let alone graduate, those individuals graduated college to go on to become high-paid CEOs, doctors, and professionals in their fields (which they shared when they attended my grandmother’s funeral). How? My grandmother used the power of love, unity, the importance of diet and lifestyle, phonetic reading (something which was being taken out of schools at her time, she brought it back) and other learning techniques. My mother saw her courage, as she’d go directly to government offices and speak to government officials about the schooling and health problem in America, she saw the love and the mission my grandmother had. Now, my mother continues that mission and more.
More coming soon…