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Five Minutes with a Yoga Master - an interview with Swami Muktibodha

By Manly Yoga

In the world of yoga, the concepts of humility and modesty are paramount.

You don’t go around flagging yourself as an expert, unless you really and truly are an expert.

Swami Muktibodha is one such fortunate – who can be genuinely labeled as an expert of yoga. She is considered internationally to be a leading exponent of classical yoga and meditation and has been honoured with the title of Acharya (master) of the Satyananda system.

In her late teens Muktibodha travelled to India where she spent 10 years studying, teaching and practicing yogic sadhana under the direct guidance of Swami Satyananda.  She subsequently returned to Australia and assumed the life of a householder, meeting her husband, getting married and raising children.  Residing in the 'burbs' of Brisbane, Muktibodha still continues to teach yoga locally in Australia and overseas.

Muktibodha has achieved international renown for her commentary on the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (the original, authoritative text on hatha yoga). Her book is probably the most widely read and acknowledged text of it’s kind in the world today – considered a must have in the libraries of yogis from all traditions.

She has also authored two other books of yoga - Swara Yoga, the Tantric Science of Brain Breathing and Energy the Spark of Life, a book about yoga and personal growth for men and women. 

Manly Yoga speaks with Swami Muktibodha about her life, her time studying in India with Swami Satyananda and her continuing inspiration with yoga.

MY: What inspired you to commence a practice in yoga? SM: Initially, I wanted to discontinue ballet and decided to take up yoga as a form of physical exercise. I soon realized it was more than a physical practice and chose to continue for the emotional, mental and spiritual benefits that I experienced.

MY: At a very young age you travelled to India to study in Munger with Swami Satyananda, at a time of intense development and sadhana within that ashram.  Looking back now, what were the highlights of that time? SM: Sitting in Sri Swamiji’s presence, massaging his feet and legs, listening to satsang discourse, discussing yoga practices with him, singing his favourite kirtan for him, teaching yoga courses in the ashram for him. Sitting in Swami Niranjan’s office and talking with him. Playing with Sri Swamiji, Swami Niranjan and others in the first monsoonal rain.

Swami Muktibodha with her guru, Swami Satyananda Saraswati
above: a young Swami Mutkibodha with her guru Paramahansa Satyananda

MY: What inspires you in your own practice now
SM: Inspiration in my own practice comes from the resulting feeling of communing with the most subtlest and sweetest of presences.

 

MY: Your commentary on the Hatha Yoga Pradipika is widely known throughout the world – how did you feel authoring an interpretation of such venerable text and how do you see the influence and relevance of these teachings for practitioners of yoga today? SM: I am grateful that Sri Swamiji has enabled me to be of use to society. The practices are as valuable to practitioners today as they were when first written.  Every person needs tools to manage their mind and emotions and this starts by doing physical practices for the body.  Body is the extension of the mind and the most tangible part with which to work.  Therefore, these physical practices are the stepping-stone to understanding about self.  If we can’t understand ourselves how can we understand others?

MY: After spending many years living with your guru in an ashram environment – your returned to ‘normal life’ to raise a family.  How was the experience of this transition for you?  Do you ever find yourself mourning for the good old days? SM: In 1985 I had an inner knowing that I was leaving the ashram.  While I assumed Sri Swamiji was going to send me out, I found that it was the Indian Government who was sending me back to Australia in 1986.  Not only me, but also all foreigners were asked to return after the assignation of the Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. I received a ‘Quit India Notice’ and soon after arrived back to my birthplace.

Being born in ‘the year of the pig’ I am quite resilient and even minded. I don’t believe in ‘going back’ in one’s life, so I saw this as an opportunity to put into practice what I had learnt in the ashram.  I thought it was an opportune circumstance for my skills to flourish.  And life continues to teach me.  The world is an ashram, if you keep your mind focused on your purpose and guru, and allow the flow of the divine to support you in your endeavors.

 
Swami Niranjan foreground playing harmonium with Swami Muktibodha providing backup vocals.  

MY: Would you share with us two things that inspire you as a person and/or as a yogi?
SM: 1.The use of sound such as mantra chanting, kirtan, music for the chakras and biurnal/isotronic beats at specific hertz to influence the brain.

2. Choice Theory/Reality Theory by William Glasser as it expands on yogic principles of understanding the mind for the modern day person.  In my perception, William Glasser is a jnana yogi.

MY:  Would you share with us two things about your life that might be a little bit interesting to your students?
SM; 
1. I think it is interesting that I have been able to amalgamate my yoga/ashram experience with family life in the ‘burbs’; without being fanatical; by being natural and seeing how life teaches us.  We can reject the teaching, fight it or look for the opportunities that present.

Keeping my heart and mind committed to the work Swami Satyananda guided me in; I continually assist people to know themselves through yoga. I meet with large numbers of people not interested in yoga at that level of commitment that they would dedicate their lives to yoga and guru. However, I understand where people are at, and find I have a common ground from which to communicate, as I do no live in the world (not of the world).

2. By applying myself to understanding the meaning of yogic texts in relation to the modern world, by having the opportunity to explain these texts in books and through my dedication to teaching this knowledge, Paramahansa Swami Niranjan has bestowed on me the title of Yogacharya, yoga master, at an early age of 33.

MY:What do you hope to achieve or inspire with your students when you teach yoga.
SM;1. To continually become more aware of yourself.

2. To arouse the ability of witnessing yourself.

3. To realize your inner goal of life and perhaps also your goal in the world.

4. To realize the only person you can control is yourself and find effective ways of doing this.

5. To realize the impact of your thoughts and find a suitable way of channeling the thought processes.

6. To acknowledge your needs and driving force of your chakras and find suitable healthy ways of expressing these.

7. To find the commitment to a short daily yoga practice, commencing with less than 10 minutes.  More than 10 minutes becomes arduous, less than 10 minutes is easy, leaving you with the feeling that you could do more.

8. To allow yourself to enjoy life.

 

MY: How do you see the evolution of Satyananda yoga and its relevance within contemporary yoga teachings, particularly within Australia and the West?
SM: The teachings and practices of Satyananda Yoga are the same ancient practices passed down from Shiva to Parvati thousands of years ago. These same practices still work as they have always have worked when practiced consistently.  Paramahansa Niranjanananda has an amazing ability to illuminate this ancient knowledge for the modern person. His teachings and writings will continue to enlighten people in all modern societies ad continuum.  Satyananda Yoga (world wide) encompasses such a broad spectrum of yoga and tantra that there is something for everyone.

MY: Is there anything else that you would like to say? SM: Find what it is that allows your heart to sing and follow that path. Yoga is a useful foundation to assist you in fulfilling your life’s purpose and expressing your inner creativity.

MY: Swami Muktibodha - Thank you for your time...
SM: Thank you for your questions, I enjoyed mulling over them..

* Swami Muktibodha will be teaching a two day workshop in Swara Yoga at Manly Yoga on 29&30 March

Swami Muktibodha presents at the 2013 World Yoga Convention in Bihar, India

 

 

 

About Manly Yoga

Manly Yoga is a community-run, not-for-profit yoga center that has been serving the Manly yoga community for over 36 years.  At Manly Yoga you will learn an evolutionary form of yoga and meditation which acknowledges that yogic development involves harmonising the mind, body, actions and spirit. Yoga is achieved when these aspects of self are balanced.