Some serious students go to Pune and other corners of India to study with the Iyengar masters, others seek out Ramanand Patel, a humble yet brilliant teacher who will be holding workshops at Yoga Shanti in New York City on June 18th and 19th.
Patel began his yoga studies at age 12 after a long series of illnesses and found this ancient tradition cured him of his painful maladies. He then went on to study
Patel begins each asana class with a philosophical nugget from one of these great thinkers, but offers them in such a gifted, simple and yet simultaneously profound way that he has become sought after by students all over the world.
Ahead of the New York workshops, YogaCity NYC’s Lisa Dawn Angerame had the opportunity to talk to this Indian-South African teacher about his life and practices.
Lisa Dawn Angerame: How did you arrive on the path of yoga?
Ramanand Patel: Although I was born in Africa in 1941, I was taken to India at 6 months old because of the war in my home country. My physical body did not like the environment in the village and I was perpetually sick during my stay in India. I fell down a flight of stairs and was left with a bad shoulder injury which never quite healed. I was even pronounced dead by the doctor at one point!
At the age of 12, my father taught me yoga asana in the very same village where my health had been so compromised earlier. I also learned the Bhagavad Gita from my father as I was helping him memorize it – and that was the beginning of my interest in asana and philosophy. Then at 24, my shoulder injury lead to a paralysis. Luckily, I met Shri B. K. S. Iyengar who was able to help me gain confidence to work with my shoulder.
LDA: How much of the philosophy do you incorporate into your teaching?
RP: I always incorporate some philosophy, the degree to which depends, on the questions raised by the students.
LDA: Why do you say you are not a yoga therapist?
RP: I do not like the term yoga therapist because in yoga we have a sacred belief that
everything that happens to us is the effect some karma. Therefore, I believe it is important for the teacher not to take credit for any healing that happens. Such credit belongs to the divine blessing.
For medical conditions, I encourage the students to first find out if their doctors consider yoga to be appropriate for their particular issue. As for psychological therapy – if one can call it that – I believe the philosophy suffices.
LDA: Would you prescribe any texts specifically for psychological issues?
RP: The best text I know of is the Bhagavad Gita. However, to understand it in the context of a particular psychological condition, it is necessary to work with a qualified teacher. In my opinion, literal translations of the book are of little use and some commentaries are even misleading.
LDA: How do you incorporate sound in your teaching?
RP: Sound is a great healer and I have the benefit of being supported by a world class North Indian classical vocalist, Pandit Mukesh Desai who is a foremost disciple of the great master
Pandit Jasraj. We have been pleasantly impressed by witnessing many students’ abilities to go deeper into postures without feeling stressed out.
LDA: How do you see that happening? In other words, how does a stressed out student look in a pose?
RP: The student is able to hold the pose for a longer duration without feeling the usual fatigue. One of the earliest experiences I remember was of an old physically rather weak student coming out of a standing pose after three minutes beaming with joy saying "I don't feel tired!"
LDA: What can we expect from your workshops in New York - sound, philosophy and asana?
RP: What I teach in New York will partly depend on what the students want. One possible direction could be to examine one's relationship with the world and its relevance to asana practice in the form of the question, “how can I do a good practice while keeping my ego in its rightful position?” Of course, the time is limited and I hope I am able to use that time to do justice to this sacred subject with divine blessing.
For information about pricing and registration for this workshop, click here.