Bea: Thank you so much for offering us this talk – what came first for you, yoga or ayurveda?
Ann: Ayurveda came first, I think. In 1992, I was travelling in India and got a chest infection. I had seen the sadhus in the market and although my boyfriend told me not to go near them, I was curious. The granny, at my homestay gave me some medicine for my chest. A foul bitter potion! I was already interested in herbalism, so I began to ask about the herbs. I am not sure the potion worked as I then developed pneumonia and decided I ought to see a ‘doctor’. At the local clinic there were two doors: one said GP and the other one said ‘Ayurvedic Physician’. I chose that door and was offered another foul potion. This time it worked. My curiosity was piqued.
I held that interest in the form of an advertisement for an ayurvedic course the whole way through university, eventually studying with that same teacher as had been advertised, Atreya Smith in France.
I came upon yoga, again in a roundabout way. I always loved dance but had a car accident which left me with difficulty walking. My dance teacher gave me some yoga to do which helped me. I finally found Hanne Gillespie, and took Ranju and Dave’s teacher training in 2003.
Bea: Can you tell me a bit more about your talk. Where did the title come from?
Ann: My talk is about how the dvaṅdva (YS 2.48), the pairs of opposites are key to understanding our own functioning and the key to ayurveda.
Someone needs to be sattvic, to have head space, in order to make changes. Yoga helps with this. I see sattva as the fulcrum between rajas and tamas.
We need rajas to act and tamas to rest. I see sattva as the master of ceremonies who manages the judicious application of the other two, rajas and tamas. We need this on three levels: the physical, the mental and the existential. On a physical level the pairs of opposites (described by Patanjali in YS 2.48) apply to everything in nature, slow /fast, light/ heavy, and all things have an effect on our physical and mental states. The thing to understand is that we can either put ourselves in a position where we have to endure these opposites or a position where we can learn manipulate them to our advantage.
For example, people in the 21st century are subject to huge swings in rajas and tamas. People are excessively rajasic but they do not have the stamina to be excessively rajasic all the time. They can’t keep going and so they hit the couch and the wine and the takeaway – then when they feel better they go back to an excess of rajas. When we have space we have sattva: our enthusiasm comes spontaneously and we are more productive.
From what I have understood of Professor Krishnamacharya’s teaching, this is where he was coming from, tasya bhūmiṣu viniyogaḥ (YS 3.6 ). This is the method: adapting the techniques to the individual.
Bea: I can’t wait to find out more!
You can read more and book Ann Johnson’s forthcoming lecture here
Ann can be found at: http://www.exploreyogaveda.com