Issue - November 2008

November 2008

In this issue of the cocha-banner: Catriona Knox interviews Leonardo de la Torre about internal aspects of migrants in Bolivia; Perry King explores the practice of Yoga in Cochabamba city; Encouraging people to donate blood is the topic of Barbara Walter's article; finally more...

November 2008

Finding Illumination: Exploring the Practice of Yoga

Perry King
Projects Abroad Volunteer
Toronto - Canada

Many of us know that the spread of yoga has had a monumental impact worldwide in terms of practice and teaching. In particular, the Cocha-banner is curious as to why and how this practice has created appeal, so we headed to our local yoga studio to seek some answers of our own.

Just around the corner from the Projects Abroad office lies a yoga studio where some seek deeper knowledge about themselves and their world. Some do not seek so much. “We have many people coming for different reasons, but it all comes down to one thing: for health and well-being in general,” says Mariana Llobet, a teacher with the Calle Bolivar studio.

The practice of yoga in a Latin American country does seem unusual because it may be culturally exotic and misunderstood by Bolivians. But it is sought by local citizens and others alike. “More health and as well more elasiticity,” says Dr. Raul Antezana Saravia, the creator and director of the studio, as he also describes what students seek when they inquire about practicing the discipline.

“A lot of people look for answers when they are anxious or anguished or have psychological problems.” The similarities are certainly there, all students far and wide seek to practice yoga for some reason, even though there can be occurrences where Western and Bolivian students differ. “No,” says Saravia, commenting on the fact that there are little differences between students worldwide. “[Not] in the physical area or in the practice but [Western students] are more disciplined to work [sometimes].”

“My experience with foreign people, not North American people but also people in general, that they know more about yoga and this alternative type of healing and they have more commitment,” says Llobet. “They are really punctual; they are more motivated to do this class and learn.”

Apart from whatever differences that may exist, the Calle Bolivar studio provides many different practices for its students. “If they want, it depends on the student; some students come for the assanas, others come for the therapy and stay in the yoga class,” Llobet, who has been teaching at this particular studio briefly, but has been practicing in the United States and Latin America for a couple years. “As well, Raul included, we train teachers; he trains psycho-therapists.” The prospect of developing a psycho-therapeutic approach is noteworthy. Although yogis worldwide have tried many ways to develop a methodology that seeks illumination for themselves and their students, each yogi’s road is different. For Saravia, the development of his methodology and his studio has been a path stretching decades.

“Actually, in these practices we developed a methology that is not usually practiced in yoga practice,” says Saravia. “And this methodology we call Adhyatma yoga; this took about 25 years to develop.” Saravia’s approach of adhyatma yoga, which promotes a better knowledge of the self and contains exercises aimed at spiritual liberation, is coupled with psycho respiratory therapy (PRT) to provide a diverse spirituality for themselves and their students.

“Most of the yogis look for illumination, to become one with the absolute,” says Saravia. “This becomes a fusion of individual consciousness to the transcendental conscious. But the purpose of Ad yoga is different because there is a previous stage, 600 M people need to get to the illumination and this is because their problems are in their brains. And the adhayatma works to establish this problem.

“We focus mainly on the chakras, in the cleansing and the harmony of the chakras; not the physical body but the chakras - it is like our energy body,” says Llobet. For Llobet and Saravia and others, their main goals right now are to train teachers to spread this knowledge - in addition to a significant influence on their students. And they hail the philosophies they have acquired with the utmost respect.

“PRT is married to yoga; it is really the whole package,” says Llobet.

Saravia began to develop his approach in 1976, at about the time he opened his first studio in La Paz. But his discovery to the yoga discipline is also an interesting story. “When I was 19, I hosted a casina when the family travelled to the US and left me alone at home. I have a big library in that house [where I found] a yoga book,” says Saravia. “And there I started to look through the book and I realized that I have this knowledge on the inside. Through this, I could remember memories of past lives and since then I never have stopped living through the yoga.”

When somebody works his limbic system, they can remember moments from their past lives. These moments can be taken to the neo-cortex or the modern brain to complete a person’s evolution process.

“After that experience, I started to practice on my own and I started to get an astral experience. I would practice awake during the day and at night, on the astral [level], I would have a different kind of experience.” At this level, he became acquainted with the teacher Swami Sivananda and during three years on the astral level he came to train and practice with this teacher. He eventually came to practice by himself, and during that time he eventually opened his studio in La Paz.

But by following his heart, and marrying a Cochabambina, he brought his yoga practice to Cochabamba nearly fifteen years ago. He has flourished ever since, expanding his practice to numerous teachers and many students over a fifteen year span. “The physical result was really incredible at the beginning and at the same time I started to notice changes in myself about my character and about my inner peace and I said ‘yes, this is my path,’” says Saravia.

And now with more developed tools, Saravia and his teachersare better equipped to reach their goals of illumination and universal knowledge.

Saravia is now at a point where he can bring in other related elements to enhance his body of work. “I started to investigate herbs and plants and naturopathic medicine,” says Saravia. “Working in this way, I improved my knowledge and went deeper into this and linked it with the yoga philosophy. “In this sense, you can [say] I practiced holistic medicine; I used to work with 15 alternative medicinists and all this practice [became] linked to the spiritual life of human beings.” Applying holistic medicinal techniques is just one of the ways Saravia and his teachers have been able to reach out to the community. To create more versatility and dynamism as well, the studio has made adjustments to better serve certain demographic groups, like that of children and the elderly for example. “One of the mysteries I can solve is to understand kids who have low levels of concentration and have bad grades,” says Saravia. “They have the chance to be put on the same level as advanced students. As well, they get a better system to study. They can manage themselves because they are better able to manage their hemispheres. The left works with conception and logic, and the right is idealistic. This in combination with the assanas activate the cerebellum and also activate the limbic system.”

“Honestly, children are sent by their moms!,” says Llobet humourously. “[The parents] know that we explain the benefits of yoga for kids; one of them is the balance of brain hemispheres.”

But regardless of the motivations to come into the studio, every student is in good hands. Saravia and his teachers are in tune with the challenge at many different levels and are well under way to achieve their goal of reaching a limbic connection and achieving illumination.

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