Yoga is more than an exercise and in Sharon Gannon’s latest book The Magic Ten and beyond, you will learn about the essence of integrating daily practice into your life. A spiritual journey of transforming bad unconsciousness into a truly positive attitude.
Sharon is best known for creating, along with David Life, the Jivamukti Yoga Method. This method emphasizes asana, Sanskrit, scriptural study, devotion, prayer, music, chanting and meditation as well as animal rights, veganism, environmentalism and political activism. She is known for teaching yoga as spiritual activism and is changing the way that people view, spirituality, life, themselves, each other, animals and the environment.
We had a chat about how one sees the world mostly bright.
IRMA: Can you advise us how we can start to incorporate a daily spiritual practice into our life. I am sure there are many possibilities, but which one do you suggest is best for the ultimate beginner?
SHARON GANNON: The practice of gratitude. As soon as you wake up, while still lying in bed give thanks. For example, you could silently say, “Thank you God for this day—for this opportunity to remember you and to be kind to others.”
IRMA: Throughout the day we are confronted with so many different mood swings—is there a method to stay positively tuned?
SHARON GANNON:Yes, by the recitation of mantra. The recitation of a mantra is the traditional way that yogis have used for centuries to stay tuned to the positive. There are many Sanskrit mantras. But you can also chant a mantra in your own native language—but make sure the mantra conveys a positive uplifting message.
IRMA: Yoga is about the wellbeing and balance of mind, body and soul. Is there a way of calming your mind with a physical asana and vice versa, stimulating your physical energy with a mind practice?
SHARON GANNON: Of all the asanas, the inversions are the most potent for calming the mind. When you turn the body upside down you affect the release of naturally occurring neuro-chemicals in the brain that have a calming effect resulting in a more expansive point of view. Inversions include the obvious asanas like sirsasana(headstand), salamba sarvangasana(shoulderstand), and adhomukhavirksasana(handstand), but also uttanasana(standing forward bend) and adhomukhasvanasana(downward facing dog). Any position that puts the heart higher than the head could be considered an inversion. A mental or mind practice that can calm the physical body would be replacing negative thoughts with kind thoughts—not dwelling on blaming others, finding fault or complaining. Purifying your mind, which will in turn affect the condition of your physical body can also be efficiently done by chanting an uplifting mantra.
IRMA: In your book you talk a lot about spreading kindness—that is a very difficult task for some of us, especially when there had been loss of love, friendship, family or negative experiences. How can you get started, clearing out the negativity of yourself and let go for a new beginning?
SHARON GANNON: The first thing is that you have to be sure that you want to let go of negativity. Many people are not ready to let go of negativity; they have built their identities around being a victim of others as well as circumstances that seem out of their control. Yoga philosophy teaches us that there are no others. As Ram Dass said, “You are only seeing something or someone because you have forgotten you are it or them already.” The others that seem to be separate individuals outside of ourselves are coming from our own past karmas. What is realized in the enlightened state is the oneness of being—otherness disappears and only love is real. The great yogi Jesus was reported as saying, “Treat others as you would want to be treated.” That is how you get rid of otherness and become an enlightened being. An enlightened being does not see others—they only see the Self—the True Self—God. Remember others are not in our way of happiness—others are providing our way to happiness. It is a matter of shifting our perception and seeing “them” in a magical light.
IRMA: We all have selfish tendencies; how can we change that to care more for others
SHARON GANNON: Be more other-centered. When you realize that your present condition is a result of how you have treated others in your past you will start to treat others differently –perhaps kindlier. How we treat others will determine how others treat us; how others treat us will determine how we see ourselves and how we see ourselves with determine who we are.
Our culture has taught us to be takers not givers. Our global culture has taught us humans that the Earth belongs to us. Free yourself from this arrogant lie. Patanjali tells us in the yoga sutra—that if we want enlightenment—then we should do our best to cultivate mutually beneficial relationships with others and that includes—all others—other animals, trees, rivers, oceans—all of life. Culture has conditioned us to think that giving only benefits the receiver and depletes the giver. Yoga teaches that being kind and compassionate towards others benefits ourselves not just those others. We are part of a great web of life that includes all beings. A yogi is someone who is striving to live in harmony with life. A yogi is someone who wants their own life to enhance the lives of others and the planet. Being Vegan is a Big step towards curbing our selfish tendencies.
IRMA: Riding the bus, the bike through a park or standing in line, how can we incorporate an exercise?
SHARON:I assume you mean a yoga exercise? Yoga means to reconnect to God. So figure out a way that works for you to remember God. I personally like chanting God’s name and whenever I remember I recite: Shri Krishna Sharanama Mama (my refuge is with beautiful Krishna—the Supreme reality who is unconditional Love)
IRMA: How can one create an ambience in our home and workspace to integrate your concept of greater peace and well-being? Could you please give us an example
SHARON:Create a space that life affirming; a space that is inviting.
- To the best of your ability make your space free of cruelty and conducive to warmth and kindness.
- Don’t bring dead animal “food” products (meat, fish, and dairy) into your home or workplace. Only prepare, serve, share and eat vegan, plant-based food.
- Create living places where furniture—sofas, chairs etc. are not covered in animal skins, fur, silk or wool.
- Reduce your overall consumption—don’t buy and use so many things. Don’t run out and buy the newest things. Fix old things; use recycled things—minimizing your consumption and ultimately the amount of trash you make.
- Create places where every item—furniture, dishes, glasses, towels and appliance, phones computers are cared for and not used carelessly. They will last longer and not end up thrown away so soon.
- Reduce your use of plastics.
- Don’t use cleaning products that contain toxic poisons and/or were tested on animals (detergents, window cleaners etc.) or personal care products (shampoo, soap, hair spray, makeup, hair dye etc.) that ultimately will end up polluting ground water, river, lakes and oceans and poisoning the animals that live there.
- Reduce the amount of water you use. Think of fresh pure water as a privilege and use sparingly. Don’t flush the toilet every time you pee.
- Reduce the amount of paper you use. Remember that trees are people. Use a designated cloth towel instead of toilet paper after you pee. Always use cloth napkins—never paper towels.
- Put a bird feeder outside a window and fill it with organic seeds each day. Supply fresh water for wild birds for drinking and bathing.
- Don’t fight with others who you live with or work with.
- Purify your speech. Eliminate “curse words” from your vocabulary.
- Speak kindly and encouraging. Rather than complaining, offer solutions. Be responsible—by cultivating your ability to respond in a positive way that contributes rather than just expressing yourself and your immediate desires. Restrain your actions—think before you speak and ask yourself these three questions: Is what I am about to say, true? kind? and is it necessary?
Events & Seminars:
There will be Jivamukti Teacher Trainings in Germany (November 2018 at Chiemsee), India (Feb 2019), Costa Rica (June 2019) and China (Oct 2019). https://jivamuktiyoga.com/teachertraining/300-hr-certification/
Sharon is currently traveling in Europe to hold Seminars and to introduce her latest book.