Swami Sundaranand is a man of many skills and deep knowledge. He is a Yogi, mountaineer, naturalist, climate activist and a well-known photographer who has spent a chunk of time photographing and documenting the Himalayas. As the student of Swami Tapovan Maharaj, his fascination for the Himalayas began after he read his master’s book ‘Himagiri Vihar’ (Wandering in the Himalayas).
In this interview, Swamiji gives us insight into Yogic philosophy and why it is important for Yogis to be regularly committed to their practice. The interview is from our book Zu den Quellen des Yoga, which was published in Germany by Random House/Irisiana.
At what age did you start practising Yoga?
In this body, I started practising at the age of 19. I began with Yama and went on to practise all the 8 limbs of Yoga – Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi. Over the years, I have been practising about 300 asanas and 52 pranayamas.
Could you give us a few suggestions on what a beginner of Yoga should be aware of?
You must clean your nerves, your mind, your heart and your stomach. The first thing you must do to practise Yoga is to correct your food habits. Only food that helps the body should be eaten. Proper food brings inner power. Meat, fish and animal food is not compatible with Yoga. Breakfast is an important meal, and meals should be eaten regularly. If you wake up to eat at night, you will not get proper sleep.
The first thing you must do to practise Yoga is to correct your food habits.
The second thing is to maintain a regular practice. There is a time to do everything. There is a time for sleep, a time for work, a time to eat and a time to practice Yoga. That is what a real Yogi does. I practise for 3 hours daily, and everyone who comes here to learn will also do the same.
The nervous system is the inner map of the body. To clean the nervous system you should practise pranayama. Practising a mantra cleans the heart and the mind, but you must be steady in your practice. If you stick to your practice regularly, the mantra will definitely prove true.
How often should Yoga be practised?
Yoga has to be practised and repeated every day. There is no fixed amount of time that one has to dedicate to the practice, you can practise as much as you like. The practice should be regular, as that powers control. Just like the river Ganga constantly flows, so does my practice.
Just like the river Ganga constantly flows, so does my practice.
What do you think about the development of modern Yoga?
People place far too much emphasis on asanas now. Asanas are necessary, but they are only one part and they have to be combined with everything else. I consider teaching only asanas without dhyana (meditation) to be a great mistake. Meditation is a necessity for a real yogi. There are many people that learn a few asanas and they feel they can write books about Yoga. That is misguided. That is not Yoga. Nowadays Yoga hs become a business, but it is a holy thing, a godly thing.
The first yogi was Lord Shiva and Yoga was transmitted all the way to Patanjali. Life after life, Yoga has been transmitted and it should continue to do so. Any God this country has seen came to exist through man, as they were men before. So do the Rishis and so did my master. I was very lucky to have learnt Yoga from him.
It is very difficult to find real yogis like my master. At that time, there were many great masters. Now I see only a few really great teachers. The problem is that yoga has become more of a business. When I was learning, Yoga was taught freely, which is something that I still do now. If you want to come to my class, I will teach you openly and freely, just like my master taught me. There is no business involved. I have many foreigners coming to my classes, which is next to the river Ganga. Wherever Yoga is a business, I do not go there. If the business aspect is taken out, then I am willing to stay. This for me is the correct way of Yoga.
My real master is my inner heart, and it is here with me all the time.
What has Yoga given to you?
My practice has given me happiness. I do not have any future plans anymore, I’m completely happy. Through practising Dhyana, Samadhi can be attained. Samadhi brings a state of inner quiet and constant happiness. A real yogi has a quiet mind all the time, regardless of the work they are doing. Even if I am breaking stones, my mind is still and silent. When the practice is constant, it brings inner happiness.
When the practice is constant, it brings inner happiness.
Read more about Swami Sundaranand on photography and nature: