How did this happen? I’ll tell you.
If you cannot see the big photo with the play button below to start listening, click here and you can listen as you read.
Last December, my friend Julia was visiting Mysore to study at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute with Saraswathi. And one day she emailed me saying that she felt such a beautiful energy emanating from her, and how in her presence she felt something special.
Julia said she wish she could do something to express gratitude and I suggested she interview her, which she did!!!
So, the vortex of coincidences aligned and here we have Julia, who is a yoga teacher with her own studio in New Mexico interviewing Pattabhi Jois’s daughter and Sharath’s mother… Saraswathi!
WHAT IS AMAZING ABOUT SARASWATHI…
Is that she is a one of a kind type of woman, a pioneer, an incredible being…
For example, she DIVORCED her husband (in India!) in the 70s! Not the norm…
And she did it because he was “no good” (he left for very long periods of time), and she “had to feed her children”
She started her own business… In any way she could, I mean, can you imagine having the Indian society against you? Being a woman and trying to start your own “yoga studio” back then?
I shiver when I understand how difficult it must have been for her!
Then she started teaching women AND men…
She defies all conventions, and even though she still identifies herself as her father’s daughter and is deeply immersed in her culture, she lived a life in which she chose herself.
I admire her immensely and I am very grateful to Julia for being such a wonderful entrepreneur and going for it, asking, and getting the interview on the air.
WHAT WE TALKED ABOUT
- The episode starts with an intro conversation between Julia and me about how it all happened
- Then Saraswathi and Julia talk about her name, and what it means, and how things are changing
- I LOVE that the interview starts with the sound of a car honking… India!
- Saraswathi talks about her divorce and the difficulties of starting her own teaching career
- How people were jealous of her and spoke behind her back
- How she persevered and finally opened her own studio
- How she took care of her father when her mother died
- How she teaches now
- What yoga is all about for her … Peace of mind
- How she loves her students
- Tips on how she eats and what she recommends as a yoga diet
MysorePedia free guide to Mysore, India (by me)
Claudia: This episode would not have been possible without my friend, Julia. Julia is—who was instrumental in this—is an entrepreneur and is also a yoga teacher who owns her own yoga studio in New Mexico, called Yoga with Julia. And she visited Mysore last December and one day, she sent me an e-mail. So I have Julia here. Julia, are you there?
Julia: Yes, I am.
Claudia: Great. Welcome. And, do you remember what you said in that e-mail sort of roughly? I know you just finished your practice, but—
Julia: [Laughs] Finishing my practice is a good time to ask me questions. Yeah, I just e-mailed Claudia saying that I was amazed by practicing with Saraswathi. And that being in her presence was like being in layer upon layer of treasure, that takes years and years and years to develop, just like a yoga practice. And it can’t be rushed.And I was just commenting to Claudia and I said, “I—express this to Saraswathi. Can you think of anything? And that’s when she suggested—can you tell it?“
Claudia: Right. [Laughs] I said, “Oh my god, I have Julia on the ground, who is my friend and who is really entrepreneurial. She’s not going to be afraid to ask. Maybe we can do a podcast.” And Julia was like, “Oh my god, yes. Let’s do it.”And how was it? You just went to her and you asked her? What happened?
Julia: It was totally divine, actually. She—I was leaving practice that morning and she came out to the porch at the same time. Literally. And so, I said, “Uh—.” We just started talking. We talking for about ten minutes and then I asked if I could interview her. And she said, “Yes, absolutely.”
Claudia: Ah. So, it was just easy. She’s totally unpretentious and no problem at all. And I think for a slight reschedule, it all happened pretty much as it was planned. Right?
Julia: Oh, very, very—yeah. The only issue was Internet. But welcome to India. [Laughs]
Claudia: Yeah. That’s right, that’s right. But this was your first visit to India and you got to practice with her. And I remember you saying that she—in her presence you felt like she emanated love and it was very—you had an intense experience with her. Right? Which I think many people—
Julia: Very much. Oh, very much. She has such a gentleness and a genuineness and that’s—yeah, it’s unpretentious and genuine. That’s exactly what it is. And no less.
Claudia: And I love the interview that you did. And it’s hard to understand her sometimes. And I’m saying this—I have an accent, so I know speaking English can be hard. But, she’s a person who’s lived in India her whole life. She has pretty decent English.But, what I think what’s surprising, and what I wanted to highlight, is how much of a pioneer this woman is. Because she got divorced in India in the 70s. Right? And I think sometimes we forget what a big deal it is today for a woman to be divorced in India. And not so long ago, women were—if you left your husband in India, they would burn you. It was terrible.So, I think she’s an incredible pioneer. Not only that, but she came back home, she started her own yoga studio, and she kind of took charge of her life.
Julia: Yes. And that’s, I think, a lot of what drew me so much—and draws me so much—to her. Is that she’s very true to herself and—keep saying it, but yeah—non-pretentious. She just, she’s gonna do what she’s gonna do and she’s very—she does it with a lot of integrity. But, she doesn’t care what people think. It’s just—And you can even see that in her shala. She knows that some people don’t understand some of what she tells them to do and that’s, actually, I think part of her methods. [Laughs] Is, “Are you gonna respect me enough to just follow along until you understand why I’m asking you to do this? Do you see that my intentions for you are good and that’s why I wanna do this?” And I admire that tremendously in her. She’s very groundbreaking. That theme came up several times—in the interview but also just in knowing her. Not just the situation with her husband, but also with—she was the first to have both men and women in the same classroom together. There were lots of things, you’ll see, that she just took the risk. She’s a risk taker. That’s what it is.
Claudia: Yes. Definitely a risk-taker. She was also the first woman admitted to the Mysore College in India, of Sanskrit. And she’s been teaching for about 40 to 50 years. You can’t quite tell from her bio. She assisted with her father; he started teaching in a temple. But she has her own shala, teaching from her own home, since 1984. So, that makes it 30 years of owning her own studio where people go to. Which is amazing, really. Incredible.
Julia, so I’m incredibly grateful that you took the time. I found it very gracious how she invited you for coffee. And how, after you finished the interview she even goes on and keeps on giving wisdom. Because I think one of the last questions you asked her was, “What’s some wisdom that she can give us?” And she kept going and going and going. [Laughs] In such a sweet and, like you said, unpretentious way.
Julia: I just wanted to thank you, as well, so much, Claudia. And you are a wonderful person and I’m so honored to be on your podcast.
Claudia: Oh, thank you. [Laughs] Julia, if people wanna find you or visit you in New Mexico, what is your website?
Julia: My website is yogabyjulia.com. And the studio is the same name. And I’m planning to open more studios in 2016. So, hopefully you can find me elsewhere later. [Laughs]
Claudia: That’s great. That’s great. So, we can find out all about that in yogabyjulia.com.
Claudia: Right? Wonderful. Okay. So, I think it’s time to go into the interview. We’re very grateful to you, Julia, and let’s here from Saraswathi and you.
Julia: So, Saraswathi, we wanna hear your story. And also some about your teaching philosophy. And some just about your immense wisdom. But, the very first thing that we were wondering is, “What does your name mean?”
Saraswathi: My name is R. Saraswathi Jois. R means Rangaswamy, my husband’s name. Then Saraswathi, my name. Jois is my father’s surname.
Julia: Does Saraswathi have a specific meaning?
Saraswathi: Yeah. Saraswathi is my god, knowledge.
Saraswathi: Yeah. Saraswathi is—that is a very big knowledge god, female.
Julia: Wow. Well that explains why you’re so wise. [Laughs]
Saraswathi: [Foreign word.] Olden days, it’s given like that. Saraswathi, Lakshmi, like that. All god names give the childrens.
Julia: Interesting. Well, now we know.
Saraswathi: Now it’s—everything is changed. Nobody’s like these names—Saraswathi, Lakshmi, Savitri. My aunty is ______ Saraswathi Lakshmi. My mother’s older sister is Parvati. Parvati is Ishwara’s wife. But, in olden days, liked the names. But they give the children.
Julia: Well, you started practicing yoga at the age of five, correct?
Saraswathi: Five? That is only playing. You know, standing in my father’s hand and bending.
Julia: Oh, how cute.
Saraswathi: But, that is, for me, the time. You know?
Saraswathi: So, my grandmother always scolded my father. Oh, one day the girl is die. My father liked to do like that. But it’s playing. That’s all.
Julia: Well, when did you say it became a passion for you? When did you get serious about it?
Saraswathi: I start in ten years.
Julia: When you were ten?
Saraswathi: Yeah. Ten, I’m seriously practicing, now, 23 years.
Julia: Do you have any other childhood memories of yoga you’d like to share with us? Of practicing in your father’s shala?
Saraswathi: Yeah. My I was apprenticed to my father. My father and me—before marriage—at that time there’s no boys and girls is not together practice. In India, very strict. Not together. Ladies’ class different and such. Gents’ class is different.
Julia: Was it as popular with women back then as it is now?
Saraswathi: Men is—I think so, is—nobody’s teacher is—this way Ashtanga. I don’t think so. Ladies is teaching which way, I don’t know. But, This Ashtanga, I am teaching, maybe I am teaching. But I don’t know, who is teaching. I don’t know the names.
But still, in practice with my father then teaching with my father, exampling my father. At that time, my father is—I’m the _____, I was teaching ladies. At those time, my father is teaching the gents. It’s making part like that. So—
Julia: And at one point, you decided to combine the men and the women together, didn’t you?
Saraswathi: No, I think before it’s my family, it’s my father, “No, you don’t teach boys. Only teaching the ladies. Only teaching the Indian girls. But, he’s making so many dents like that. But, a few days, I’m thinking, “Oh, it’s okay, I’m teaching only ladies.” So, finally, I went to America one time. And the first time I went to America but I am not teaching, I stay home. So, I do my kitchen work, this thing that thing. Then, second day there I am thinking, “Why I am not going to teach? I’m practicing so many year. My father gives so many good education from the yoga. So, why should I am sitting?” But, I think he is—boys teaching with girls. Why should I’m not giving the boys? Heart, mind, everything is fine. No problem. But, in India, it’s very difficult. But, your talking with some boys or something is a different meaning. No? That is India. Norway it is also like that. But, I am thinking, so—first, actually, is my stay with my father. Finally, after my marriage, so many difficulties, so many troubles, it’s rough. So many things. I have two childrens, you know? So, I think my husband is not helping. Is not helping. But he actually—he is always—six months, six months, he is change job also. So, I can’t take to my childrens. My father, my mother say, “All the time, six months, six months, your husband is changing. What about your children’s education and reading?”Then they want to stay—my husband want to stay one place, then they’ll go with my husband. So, I think that is true. But my father-in-law’s house is no good peoples. So, I’m thinking, “Yes, my husband is not bring anything; he don’t care for the children, don’t care for the wife. So, what can I do? I want to do every day, crying, crying, crying. Lot of—so many days. But actually, in India, after marriage, you can’t stay long time in the parents’ house. That is the rules. But what can I do? What the husband says is very good, then I do husband said. But he has—husband said, it’s not so good.Then I’m thinking, I go—my father says, “Nobody’s give the money for you, nobody’s taking care of you. Why should you stay there? You come, stay with me. Your husband stay one place then you’ll go, no problem.”
Julia: So, your father invited you—
Saraswathi: My father and mother support to me. That time I showed up eight months pregnant. I come back to my father’s house. So, I didn’t go 14 years. I stayed 14 years in my father’s house. Then, that time, I made here money. I’ve got to ask every time, my father. So, I thinking, “What can I do? Here is two small childrens, I want to do something.” My father and mother supported a lot of me. So, I think, “I want to take other shala. My private shala.” It’s asking my father. But, before, he’s not agreed to me. So, later he says to me, “Okay, go.” Then I start in Monticapolta’s temple. Here and big temple is there. I start there first. But, my father said, “No, Arthuta is mine. No, I’m teaching yoga, you can’t—no paper is needed, nothing.”One month, no student. Nobody is coming to my class. Okay? Only I come in—first I take my cousin house—the small room. But nobody is coming to there. Then now one of my—well, she said, “This is not good place. You come, I’ll show you this temple place. That is a very good temple. He is a good place.
So, I go and met the peoples. So, he said he’s very happy to do everything here. I like it and he’ll save me the place. But, that is all Chaudry and his entire functions there. But, I keep going too. But that is not good place, actually.
But, starting, one of my old students—my father’s old student—she’s named Sally Walker. She’s an American lady. So many years stayed with my family, so she said, “Ah, I want a present for you. _____,” she said, “give the advertisement from the Hindu paper, English paper.” Okay, that day is coming four peoples come to my class. But very less money. Very, very less money. You know? It’s okay, I need some money, that’s all. That’s why I said, “Never mind.” Like that. Then, next time, is one of my doctor—my family doctor. He saved my son, in the operating, ____ ___. So, he is asking to my father, “No idea, why’d she go to this place, nobody’s teaching there.” He’s so much pushing my father. So, after my father okay, then I come to start here. The doctor leaves four more weeks in The Star of Mysore English paper, is give the advertisement. Then, starting Indian students.
Julia: Well, there you go.
Saraswathi: Yeah. Then starting ten peoples like that. But what happened that place, is I already function the place. But I am very upset. Now starting—I go and ask the person, “Oh, it’s always is a function, I can’t ____ teaching here, give you other room.” So, he says in the temple—the small place there—they want the bench, the chairs like that. So, I said—“So, if you want, you can use this place.”So, I start there. But people is coming. Starting people. The temple people is very generous. There is one man, he’s working the temple, he’s studied with my father. He said that time, “25 rupees is more. Oh, your father takes 3 rupees, you take 25 rupees. Why?” He is asking. That time is, one rupees is ten kilograms rice is coming. Now it is not like that. So, expenditures, everything is gone up.
Julia: Oh, yes.
Saraswathi: Then, he’s starting—he’s very, very jealous. That when I went into the shala, starting making ladoo or something, the sweets. His full room is occupied. Then, I go again, that main person, director. So, “No, want to do like that.” Now, he’s starting coming to the student, every day. Telling you, “Today not class, tomorrow is not class.” He give other place or I will search other places, yes.But, he gave other places. There is—morning everything is—shave the heads, everything. That is the rules in the temple. But, evening, nothing. Everything is clear. If you want it, you can use that. So, I start there. I start, 11 years I am starting like this. That time, 11 years I am teaching there.Then, that also very jealous starting. People is coming—Indian students, so many people is starting coming to the. He’s starting again, jealous. What he says, “Morning, we’ll be doing shave, everything. Now, evening, nothing,” he says. But after—when I start my class, 4:00 PM—he’s coming, shaving and putting the water.
Julia: And this is the people at the temple who were jealous?
Saraswathi: Yeah. Jealous. So, one day he—my mother always coming with me—sometimes weekly, some 15 days, once monthly—is coming with me. They say—but actually, at that time I want to operation, for a vasectomy operation. That I want to give one-month holidays but same day is my mother come, he’s writing on the board. Oh, he’s doing yoga, he’s very troubled to other things. My mother says, “This is last day for you. You don’t come to here. I build this house. When you are practicing, I built that house.” Okay?
Julia: Oh, the other shala?
Saraswathi: But, I’m staying 16 years there. My mother said, “You have a place where people wants to study with you. Anyway, you go anywhere, people is coming. You don’t come to here.” He says, “You put in the big carpet,” my mother. So, I’m starting—when I am starting, that peoples come to there, no one was coming who were Indian peoples. 35, 40 years, they’re also coming, the peoples. Then I’m teaching there only. The downstairs. Before, no upstairs. That is new, upstairs, we practiced in the—six years back, I built that place. But, downstairs, in the main house, I teaching there only.
Julia: So, where Jessi lives now?
Julia: Where Jessi lives?
Saraswathi: Yeah, Jessica is living. The same place, the hall.
Julia: Oh, well I’ve been in there. I’ve seen your old shala.
Saraswathi: I’m teaching there. 16 years I’m staying there. 16 years I’m teaching there only.
Julia: So how long—how many years have you had your shala? In total?
Saraswathi: Maybe 43 years.
Saraswathi: 40—42 years, definitely
Julia: And how many students do you usually have at one time?
Saraswathi: Before? Before, all Indian student. 10, 15, like that. 20, like that. So, after—starting when I am going to back America—so, I’m telling my father, “I know, really, why you’re teaching so many things for me. Why should you sitting me? I want to come with you. I help you.” The next time, I go with my father in teaching. So, all the time, I go with my father. My mom passed, that time I’m with my father. So many years.
Julia: And did you always know you were gonna teach? Or did you—as you were growing up and you were helping your father.
Saraswathi: Yeah, after helping my father. Then when I’m starting my class, I teaching there. Then my mother passed and now, I leave that house, I come with my father. I want to look after my father and I’m thinking—I come back to Lakshmipuram. So, yeah, Lakshmipuram—I come to Lakshmipuram to teach here. Then I go back few months. Then later, my father, he take this house, opposite us. First, my daughter’s marriage finished then want to come back to my father house. My mother and father making like that—agreement. So, I didn’t go. Then, after my mother—thinking, “Oh, she’s not coming. Then he says, let’s take this opposite house.” Okay? My mother is not coming. Here’s the positive. So, I went to be with my father 16 year. After, I come back to this house. Lakshmipuram is leaving, then come back to this house. I start teaching in the upstairs. Few days. Then, slowly, I take Western student. People is asking to me, “Why you are not teaching Western students?” So, I file.
Julia: So, it was—
Saraswathi: I am not asking anybody, “Why should you? I am not—I have no time teaching for the Western student then starting.”
Julia: ‘Cause it seems like, now, most of your students are Western students. Aren’t they?
Saraswathi: Now is Indian less. The more Western student.
Julia: I see a lot—to me, it seems like there’s a lot more Western students.
Saraswathi: Yeah, yeah.
Julia: And you’re famous in America.
Saraswathi: So, starting like that. Go journey like that. Then, now, so many people, they ____ ___ for me, so I don’t care. I don’t care. I need a job, I do the job I want to take my two childrens. So, I don’t get—India is gossip so much. Okay?
Julia: That’s everywhere. [Laughs]
Saraswathi: My husband is not ______ of the children. He’s coming here only once or twice, he’s coming two or three days, for a week. Let us go. Not as possible for the children. I have no money, I need your money. I want to take my childrens. But at that time, I don’t care anybody.
Julia: Well, you can’t care what people think. Especially when you’re doing something innovative like you’ve done and really stepping out—if people get jealous. They talk or—
Saraswathi: Yeah, yeah.
Julia: They talk. I don’t know why. [Laughs]
Saraswathi: India. Anyway.
Julia: Well, I think that’s a lot of what yoga is. When you’re living yoga in life. Is it’s keeping that focus—
Saraswathi: Yeah, focus.
Julia: —no matter what people say. And you know where your heart is, so you just keep walking forward.
Saraswathi: But you want them thinking all good things. You don’t do bad things.
Julia: Exactly. You can control what you think and what you think.
Saraswathi: He want to control even mine. But nothing happened. Anyone has come standing might look to there. Not affection tome. But student, student. That’s all.
Julia: So, how long would you say you felt like people were talking bad about you or jealous of you? Has it been that way the whole time or was it just certain times?
Saraswathi: But, actually, what happened—more than my relatives, I leave my husband. But I stay in my father’s house. Then starting gossip, “Why she is not going?” How you—but, India, you’re married, he’s good or bad, you want to stay with husband. So, husband what he’s doing? Six months, is, “I coming,” he says. Then go. Then, one month, two months, he’s coming back to home. What can I do? I have two childrens.
Julia: Mm-hmm. You were in a very tough situation. It was—
Saraswathi: Yeah. I have—I’m thinking, “He’s married, oh, I don’t want to ask anybody. He’s telling anybody, I don’t care. I want to do my job. My heart is good, I do it.”
Julia: Mm-hmm. Good for you. Well, that explains how you must—at least partially explains how you have so much wisdom. There’s so much—being in your presence, it’s hard to describe. It’s layers upon layers upon layers of treasures and wisdom and a life that—exactly what you just described. A life that’s been lived where you keep your focus, keep moving forward no matter what people say or think.
Saraswathi: Sometimes my children is jealous. I want to talk somebody is very jealous. I say, “No, not like that. They want to go correct way. Nobody’s doing nothing for me.”
Julia: Yeah, it does—it seems like you’ve been a pioneer. You’ve had to blaze a lot of roads on your own.
Saraswathi: [Coughs] Yeah. I have so many things—I don’t—I care anybody is—I’m sitting in house. I’m doing washing the clothes and ____ ____ kitchen, all the furniture. That is my job. But, I do the job also, I start this job also.
Julia: So, what was it that made you wanna teach so much? What is it, inside, that makes you love teaching so much?
Saraswathi: I like to—that is my first like, teaching. Yeah, I love to teaching. After my father passed, my husband passed, so everybody passed. So, I’m thinking, “This is the all finished. You want to do something, I died, I want to, ‘Oh, Saraswathi is here. She’s teaching yoga.’” So, people is thinking. They want to do the good that way. Then I love to do yoga teaching.
Julia: So, how do you keep up your energy teaching so many students all the time?
Saraswathi: So, I don’t know. Everybody is asking same question. That is, I think I have my father’s energy. My father is 92 years.
Julia: It’s your own.
Saraswathi: He’s still teaching this, my father.
Julia: That’s amazing.
Saraswathi: My father likes so much for me, so much believe me. He’s telling all the time, “Oh, she is good teacher. She good. She’s class.”
Julia: You are.
Saraswathi: Yeah, it’s my father always telling. My father’s thing—people, so many students come to meet my father. Talking evening times. The time’s always steady. So—
Julia: Well, part of what I see so much in you is that you are the definition of a yogi. And by that, I mean, not only have you done your own personal practice all this time, but you have that character that comes from living out yoga in all of your life. All of the eight limbs of yoga.
Saraswathi: Yeah. All of my life, yoga.
Julia: And I think—
Saraswathi: How many days? I have 73 years worth. How much energy for me? Then I’m teaching here.
Julia: I think that’s partially how you’re able to keep your energy up. Is because you so genuinely love people, you so genuinely love to teach.
Saraswathi: Yeah, I love my students.
Saraswathi: And, immediately I go and—but, now I am sick, you know? I come to Yogshala, I get energy more. I forget, “Oh, I am fever, I am cough.” I’m forgetting.
Julia: I think it’s because you’re focusing so much on everyone else that—
Saraswathi: So, for—yeah.
Julia: It’s amazing. None of what you’ve described—it’s all very difficult. Everything you’ve described takes a lot of—
Saraswathi: That’s why you can do yoga. You are coming to control your mind, everything.
Julia: Mm-hmm. It’s a—what you’ve described takes a lot of mind control.
Saraswathi: But, you want to practice yoga. All the time, you can practice yoga. You think bad or good things. Now you want a concert from the yoga’s teaching. But you come, “Oh, I want to become a teacher. Yoga teacher.” Take it out of your mind. First, you can practice. Practice, practice, practice. This mind is coming control. Then you want to, “Oh, I want to go competition.” Yoga is not competition. But, your body will help you. And mind. And want to practice yoga like that. You don’t want to come to—later you are practicing and do perfect asanas. Everything you can do. So, easily, you go to take teachers. But, you are—take off your mind, “I want to become a teacher. Become a teacher.” Teaching is very difficult, you know? In the shala I am teaching, I am helping. But nobody is strong. But I don’t want to hurt the students. Okay, let us see a few asanas.
Julia: Mm-hmm. How are you able to keep watch on so many students all at once?
Saraswathi: No, I know. First time he is doing whatever he is doing, I know. The next time, I want to correct it. Why you do not this one. But so many—
Julia: It’s amazing.
Saraswathi: So many years I am teaching like that, you know. I am easy to focus everybody.
Julia: So, it just comes—it’s probably like yoga. It just gets easier when you do it a bunch, a bunch, a bunch.
Saraswathi: My father liked so much for me. Last moment when he pass—that day—he want to catch my hand and finish, maybe, making a breath, then finish.
Julia: Wow. And you were there, right at the very end?
Saraswathi: Yeah. In the same—my father’s room, my bedroom, my father. For two and a half years, I never sleep long time. I watch my father all the time.
Saraswathi: Yeah. In hospital—when I am in hospital—my father is going to hospital, the whole night I am sleeping there. Then I come back early morning. Then teaching, then I take my bath, I’m going. Then I stay long time. When I come to come eat, then you go back again. Two and a half years doing like that. [Coughs]
Julia: Wow. How do you find time for your own personal practice with so much? Whether you’re taking care of your family or you’re teaching?
Saraswathi: Well, at that time I am not practicing. I have no time. I come to TIR teaching then I go, hurry, hurry to—I want to my father. In hospital, nobody wants to keep the father. My father, he doesn’t like. When I’m going, I feed the food. So, I come Hariri, finish classes, I come to Hariri, take back. Then immediately I go in there. I give the breakfast, everything. Then I come back again. Then I take a little food. Whole day. One of my cousins, she is very good. She is all the time staying with me. Look on my leg. Yeah, it is three or four years, here and here. Two times broken my leg. So, I’ve put rods inside. Then three years back, remove that one. Four or five years, a rod in my leg.
Julia: So, did you still teach while you were healing?
Saraswathi: I go into with my father. That time, I put the bandage. I go to London, to New York, to everywhere.
Julia: You were still travelling while your leg was broken?
Saraswathi: Yeah, yeah. Then I put the bandage—I put the bandage, I go with my father, I’m helping.
Julia: He was still travelling when he was in his 90s?
Julia: And now you do a lot of traveling.
Saraswathi: I do lot of travelling. My father is almost in 20—my mother is 15 times going to America with my father. Yeah. So, after my father passed, now again, I’m starting my journey. [Laughs] Before I start here in Memshala, my father and me and my son is three peoples is teaching. Then, after, my son is doing other—starting shalas so, at 7:00, 7:30, 8:00, he’s left the shala. So, my father alone, so many student. Then I come back with my father. I took the teaching. Then after, finish Guru ji’s—my father’s class, then do my students.
Julia: So, for a long time you helped your father and you taught your own?
Saraswathi: And start my student. Then my father also helping.
Julia: Your father helped you with yours?
Saraswathi To call, even, for students also, “Come, come, come.” So, you see? He is also helping. Then, after my father passed, then I want to ____ to whether I was teaching. But now, our students is standing long time, I don’t want to do like that. Then, last year I am separate. Before last year, I practiced—I’m teaching here, then I come back, I’m here also. I did it. But now, I decided I have enough of my student, I want to come to here. Then, last year, I do separate. I don’t want to come in shala. Actually, this isn’t our place. This is my place, my father gived all the house. So… [Coughs]
Julia: So, was your father more the one that encouraged Sharath to teach? Or were you more the one that encouraged?
Saraswathi: No, no, no. Not like that. But it was—but actually, he’s not general student, not my student but altogether, want to do it altogether. You know?
Julia: But, when Sharath decided to teach. Was that more something that you encouraged him to do or did he decide that completely on his own?
Saraswathi: But, that’s why I come to here. I come to here. I’m teaching with Sharath also. So… Five, six years I am teaching—four years I am teaching with Sharath. I finish my class, I come to here. But, my student is take long time. You know? They’re sitting outside. That is after I’m teaching, the time is over. But, I am _____, get if it is ugly. So, I can decide it. I want to do teach here and there. Enough of my student—how many student is coming, I’m very happy. And I decided, I am not coming now. I am not teaching with Sharath.
Julia: Wow. So, it sounds like, in your family, you never felt pressure from your father to carry on his work? And it sounds like you never pressured Sharath to carry on the work either. It sounds like something that you wanted to do.
Saraswathi: No, I don’t do it. What my father do the restriction for me, I can do like that. but I’m not ____ to Sharath. It’s whatever he do, he do no problem.
Julia: Well that’s also, I’m sure, why this place feels so rich. Because there’s a heritage but it was something that each of you generations, you chose yourselves. There was no pressure.
Saraswathi: No pressure, no.
Julia: Oh, what a beautiful thing. It’s such a gift to the world. I wish—I mean, I’m sure you know how much of an impact you’ve had on yoga. And in America—I live in America, so I can speak for us. But—
Saraswathi: When you practice with yoga people, no jealous. No jealous.
Saraswathi: No jealous, you know? So, whatever he want to do, he do it. Whatever do me, I do it.
Julia: So, what is it about the system that he created that you, specifically—why did you decide you wanna carry on that specific sequence of asanas?
Saraswathi: Yeah. That is—already he is doing asanas—Krishnamacharya. I am not doing. My Guru ji’s guru, is doing all specific. The making the Zen. One by one, one by—you will learn by that only.
Julia: Mm-hmm. So, you just always really liked that system and wanted to carry that as well?
Julia: What a beautiful thing.
Saraswathi: I can follow in that one. My father, also, is not changing. What his guru is teaching, he is also same following. What my father teaching, I am same following. No changing that.
Julia: Mm-hmm. And now I don’t think it will change. You’ve made such a—you’ve left such a legacy. All of you together. I don’t think it’s gonna change. [Laughs] Well, what’s a life lesson that you’ve learned?
Saraswathi: [Laughs] So many.
Julia: I know. There are so many.
Saraswathi: [Laughs] So many. That’s sometimes—
Julia: What’s one that’s—
Saraswathi: Before marriage, everybody is making marriage. “I want to marry, marry. He’s so humbled, I want to marry.” Then after marriage, oh, better to—I don’t want to marry. My life only for teaching yoga, practicing yoga, thinking like that. After two children have coming, I’m very—lovely children, but I am very sad. I want to take care of, nicely, my children. So, so many things I am learning. [Laughs]
Julia: It sounds like you have been caught in between what your heart wants to do and giving to other people and then what people want you to do.
Saraswathi: Give—I think people get opportunities practicing Ashtanga. He’s get so many benefit. But I am not talking—talking is very less. Yoga, all this, every day, every week, you talk, talk, talk. That is not important. Practically, 99 percent, they want to practice, they go practically. The one percent. My father always tell me, “99 percent is practice. One percent is speech.” If you want, you can go. So many books—in yoga books. You can read that books. You can—knowledge is improving. It’s read that books.
Julia: But you won’t own it until—?
Saraswathi: Speech is long, is boring everybody. What is necessary, you want to speech like that. Unnecessary speaking is no good.
Julia: That’s very wise. That’s very wise. I need to take some hints from that. [Laughs]
Saraswathi: Oh, confidence. What is the confidence? Same question, same answer. But, want to limit it. Limit it. One week to one month. Once like that. Now, it’s do more practically then get benefit lot.
Julia: What’s your mission statement as a guru and a master of yoga?
Saraswathi: Guru. Master—guru is, we want to accept. I’m teaching now, you know? You like. My teaching is good. Then, you like. So, then you are, “Oh, he is my guru, he is teaching.” Any—mother, father—but, anybody is starting A, B, C, D, so anything here, teaching, that is all guru. All guru. First of all, guru is mother. Your guru is mother. No mother is very grey. Very grey. Now, your first—you want to do namskara first mother. After father. After guru. Atithi devo—matri devo bhava. Matri means mother. Pitu devo bhava. Next is father. Guru devo. Next what he’s teaching, the guru. Guru teaching—so many different type of gurus. Next, is coming the peoples. You know, relatives. Everybody’s _____. That is fourth. Then making division like that.
Julia: So, is that something that you decided—
Saraswathi: He want to accept that—he said that, “Oh, he’s my guru.” What he say, you want to accept. But he also—I’m not telling correct. You want to task the question, student want to do like that, no problem. Then, that’s why I’m telling. Guru is—because so many places you are teaching you, “Oh, you do many yoga asana classes. You’re practicing.”
But, you go everywhere. Everywhere you go to Shiva class, you go to Bikisingh class. You go other class. So many classes. But why should you take sample everything? You take sample. Everywhere you go. Finally, what you like, you make start that. you follow that one yogi.
Saraswathi: It’s not changing that after. But, I’m telling something but other place is telling something. But, you are confusing—what is the right, what is the correct? I don’t know that one. Everything correct or no. “Oh, she is telling like that, other people’s telling like that.” You don’t want to confusing.
Julia: Do you think there’s value to trying it from different perspectives though?
Saraswathi: First, different person they practice. Then last, whatever you like. You like Bikisingh? You go there, follow in there only. Want to go Shiva? You go later. There only, you can practice. Whatever like, then you go, you accept that guru. But you want to read every books. No problem. You can see the books, practice, no good. See the radio, practice, that is no good.
Then you come to the shala that so many making mistake. I do so many time correct, but he do same like that. But, so many years he’s practicing like that. Only knowledge. Want to read the book, get the knowledge. [Inaudible] Krishnacharya, he’s taken an examination for me. But then he had an exam—
Saraswathi: Yeah. Exam. I take two exam from Krishnacharya. My father is guru. My guru is Guru, he’s taken an exam.
Julia: So, what would be—if someone can’t come to India to study—?
Julia: If someone is in the United States or in Germany, somewhere else in the world, and they can’t come to India to study with you, how would they—what would be a good place for them to start learning Ashtanga?
Julia: Just go to—do you suggest they find a studio?
Saraswathi: Yeah, when you put a carpet in my room, you start breathing. How I am teaching, you want to do like that. You forget all the things.
Julia: Do you think it’s better to go to a shala and learn? Or to start on your own?
Saraswathi: shala is good.
Saraswathi: Always it comes—studying in shala you can’t do anywhere—home, like that.
Julia: Yeah. That’s what I thought too.
Saraswathi: You want and need a teacher. You have practice, you need your teacher.
Julia: Can you give them a yoga tip? Just something that they can start to practice today? For their asanas?
Saraswathi: You want to peace of mind.
Julia: Peace of mind?
Saraswathi: Mind. You want peace. You want to take your mind is clear. She want to mind clear, you want to practice yoga. Okay? First time, a few days, you can—nothing affect you. And finally, every day, you can practice, practice. You are changing every day.
Julia: So, to encourage them that, if you keep going, that your mind will get clear.
Saraswathi: You keep going. That is very important.
Julia: That’s one of the biggest things that yoga has given me.
Saraswathi: Food also. You take food also. Everything. Vegetarian is very, very good for the yoga practice. No? Non-vegetarian is not. You want to lose the fats, so whatever you’re eating, non-vegetarian, is becoming fat. That is very rich food. No, when you practice, you take satria kahar.
Julia: I’ve—that’s a whole nother branch of study, but I’ve definitely found that the food that I eat has an effect on how clear my mind is. And how much I can focus on yoga and—not just in my asana, but living yoga in all areas of life.
Saraswathi: But, everybody says, “Oh, I want to leave all food. I want to become thin.” No, that is not good way. You can eat, but want to more, you eat, you don’t take like that. you stop it. You eat everything but you want to little bit less food. You want—early morning is best yoga practice. With empty stomach. That time is best.
Julia: So, you’re—
Saraswathi: Yeah, in evening you want to practice, [coughs], find a nice gap.
Julia: So, you’re saying that the best diet is a vegetarian one that is not too much food. Make sure you just don’t eat too much food?
Saraswathi: Yeah, yeah. But, after practice—practice, practice, it doesn’t want too much food. Limit it, it’s enough.
Julia: Mm-hmm. So, after you’ve been practicing yoga awhile, you don’t want as much food? Is that what you’re saying?
Saraswathi: But somebody wants to come slim, you know? “Oh, I want to do diet, this thing.” You make so much diet, it’s becoming disease.
Julia: I completely agree with that. So, limited eating—
Saraswathi: Certain age—no, young age is no problem, you digest very correctly. You’re working so many doing, nothing happen. The young age is no problem. Certain age—after 40, 45, like that. Now, that time, you want to a little bit control your food.
Julia: That’s very wise.
Saraswathi: Yeah. Well, I am 73 years. I can’t eat from 14, 15 years ago, people like that, I can’t eat now. Now, 73 years, how much limit I want, I eat. I take just a little bit rice at lunch. Buttermilk. Some—they tell me what to make—they want to take every day banana and then buttermilk. Then a coconut. That is all making good. [Inaudible] oil bath—any oil. _____ butter, to _____.
Julia: So, you’re suggesting eat less food and then also do an oil bath?
Saraswathi: Yeah, I bath every weekly, once. You need the oil, the body. Then you—pure ghee, you can give the pure ghee. One spoon or two spoons. Every day. But, that is bone.
Julia: Ghee is for the bones?
Saraswathi: Ghee is making bone. How to ____, do the every year once you’re putting down and everything is making.
Saraswathi: Milk. You know? Cow milk. The morning, I take one glass. That is see you going. Now nobody is drinking milk. So, milk is very good. Now, ghee is very good. One or two spoon. You are eating bread or anything, you can put the ghee.
Julia: So, milk, ghee, vegetarian food.
Saraswathi: Vegetarian food.
Julia: So, dal would be another thing you suggest? Rice.
Saraswathi: Rice is very good. Chapatti is very good. Ragi is very, very good.
Julia: Yes. Ragi is delicious.
Saraswathi: Ragi is very, very good.
Julia: For our listeners, ragi is a grain that they get out here that you can make—it’s mostly in bread, they make pancakes…
Saraswathi: Making roti or making bhal. Ragi. Ragi bhal. Or dosa. So many things want to do.
Julia: It’s delicious. [Laughs] And nutritious.
Saraswathi: Nutrition so much in ragi.
Julia: Well, that’s good to know.
Julia: Well, Saraswathi, thank you so much for your time. This has been lovely and fascinating to hear so much history of such people that we’re familiar with the names. But to hear the history behind it. So, we are so very grateful to you.
Saraswathi: Thank you. Do you want some coffee?
Julia: oh, I would love one. [Laughs] Thank you.
Saraswathi: Here you go. [Coughs]
Saraswathi: Water also. You take 45 minutes before you want to—drink water. Eating then, not necessary eat. Drink juice or something. That is good.
Julia: Oh, that’s a good idea. So, that way you’ve got energy for yoga, but you don’t have food in your stomach.
Saraswathi: Yeah, yeah.
Julia: That’s a great idea.
Saraswathi: You can take juice. Something is good.
Male 2: [Foreign words.]
Saraswathi: [Foreign words.]
Male 1: That’s all for The Yoga Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please leave a review in iTunes and visit theyogapodcast.com for more interviews. Until next time, keep it real.
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