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Parampara. What?

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A type into Google brings up this definition of parampara,
‘denotes a succession of teachers and disciples in traditional Vedic culture and Indian religions such as Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism. It is also known as guru-shishya tradition (succession from guru to discipline)’

Quoting www.sanskritclassis.com, which gives a nice and interesting short history of how the word ‘parampara’ came about, it means
‘the traditional way of perpetuation of the spiritual discipline from the Master (the Guru) to the disciple and the lineage through which the blessings of the realised Master flow to the followers of the particular discipline’

Ashtanga yoga first came to me in September 2010, 5 years ago. Before that yoga was just something else to do to try and get fitter, add an activity to my week, etc etc etc. I went to a retreat in Portugal where I met my first Ashtanga teachers, Peter & Sue. How I stumbled upon this retreat, I have no idea. I have Google to thank for that. It sounded like a great way to get away, it sounded pretty authentic, and it sounded like exactly what I needed at the time.. little did I know it probably was one of the points in my life I’ll remember forever. A turning point, for sure.

To cut the story short, it helped me an endless amount and I came home recharged, healed, with a new path in yoga I didn’t have before in Ashtanga. Fast forward to a few months ago- after teaching classes at home since the beginning of this year, I really wanted to take it all a step further. Get qualified – not for the sake of getting qualified, but I needed to satisfy a growing hunger (so cheesy, this sounds!) of more knowledge, more immersion, and more time spent with yoga.

On the hunt I went for a teacher! Hunt hunt hunt. I would have gone back to Peter & Sue in Portugal but unfortunately they don’t offer a teacher training course, but were very supportive in my decision, which I was so thankful about.

What was I looking for? You may or may not be asking. I think I was searching for a guruji who would understand me, my body, my mind, my lifestyle, my thoughts. And to also approach yoga from an intellectual and scientific understanding. Not alot to ask for.. haha.

India, Bali, Thailand.. the usual suspects. None of the teacher training courses jumped out at me. They seemed rather far away, and automated responses I received upon enquiry just wasn’t quite feeling right for me. So Thank You Google yet a second time, as it brought me to Karen’s page, Avid Yogi at Meadowlark yoga in Edinburgh. It was a combination of several things that sparked quite an immediate reaction in me, that I just had to be trained there.

(This post is part of one of my assignments, to talk about parampara and was supposed to only be 500 words, so I’m sorry teachers who are reading, as I most certainly have gone over but I am just letting the words flow out as they come!!)

Here are a few things that jumped out at me in no particular order:
• The emphasis on anatomy
I am such a science-based learner in my background (asian upbringing, no surprise there), it fully appealed to me to learn to understand yoga from a more scientific point of view. Also friends around me are all mostly very in tune with their bodies (climbers, runners, active-ers) that I just need this kind of knowledge as part of my YTT when doing and explaining yoga with them.

• Karen’s other pursuits
Cycling, skiing, climbing. I’m not sure where I stumbled upon this information (probably on the site somewhere) but I just thought that was perfect. They are my main activities alongside yoga, and I figured a teacher who does these things too would be the best to understand my body and my mind the most, compared to another teacher who was into other types of activities.

• The personal response
The only YTT that replied me personally instead of an automated response with the same information in it for everyone, with just your name changed on the email with a standard copy and pasted response. I felt welcomed into a fold instantly, despite never meeting any of the team ever.

• Edinburgh
In all honesty, I simply didn’t want to go to Asia. I don’t know what repelled me so much – maybe it was the cliche that people go off to Asia somewhere to find themselves and if you know me, I just get slightly repelled by doing something the same to everyone else. I didn’t want to go to Bali, I didn’t want to go to India. Both for very different reasons; and reasons which might change in the future. So actually the fact that this YTT was in Edinburgh appealed to me 100%. Yoga in Scotland?! What? Yes. Perfect.

On to the meaning of parampara and what it means to me! Yes finally!

I had three teachers that all taught me different things from their different perspectives. Karen Kirkness, Susan Reynolds and Sarah Hatcher. All strong, brilliant, inspiring women in such different ways. And each one imparted to me lessons on and off the mat that I am thankful for.

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I really could go into day to day detail with specific examples, but that really might be going on bit, so do grab me when you see me next if you do want to know more, and ask me to tell you. I will only be happy to! Here is a nice summary of what I feel I learnt and hence, got passed down to, these things from my teachers. From Karen, I learnt such grace, humility and knowledge. From Susan, much joy, excitement and positivity. From Sarah, what strength, grounding and pointedness. And from all, such dedication and beautiful nurturing souls. And of course the all important yoga asana knowledge imparted to us on the training.

I think ‘parampara’ takes on a different meaning based on the personal relationship between each guru and student. What gets passed on is so varied based on all the different factors that make up a teacher. And I enjoy that variation. I think that is the best way to learn. To observe and take all the knowledge that is being passed to you and literally be a knowledge channel and sieve, seeing what resonates with you, what bits enhance your life, what bits make you think, what bits make you a better person.

I also think the concept of ‘parampara’ can transcend the meaning from within Vedic culture and yoga into the ‘life outside’. In our yoga practice, we humbly cherish being both a student and a teacher at the same time. And if all are students and teachers, we have everything to learn from every person around us. Guru or no guru, what can the person next to us teach us today? Is it a lesson in how to care for someone else? Is it a something said that triggers you to think slightly differently about a situation? Guru, student, person, animal, nature.. We have all to learn and hence all to gain (which is so cool!) from practicing humility, observation and grace in our lives while we are on this Earth.

Shanti Shanti Shanti.

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