Wake Up, Human 008: The Wisdom of Yoga-Vedanta

Yoga is Union: the Wisdom of Yoga-Vedanta with Gajananam

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When you want to dig a well, and you dig down one or two yards, and dig down another yard somewhere else, and somewhere else…you’ll get a lot of holes, but you won’t get to water. Where if you dig one, you’ll go deep. You’ll get to something.


In this episode of the Wake Up, Human podcast, I talk with Gajananam, a long-time student and teacher of the ancient Indian wisdom tradition of yoga. Gajananam is the founder and director of the Vishnu-devananda Yoga Vedanta Center in Fremont, California. He’s a direct disciple of Swami Vishnu-devananda, one of the early pioneering yogis who brought the practice of yoga to the US from India in the mid-twentieth century.

My conversation with Gajananam explores some basic definitions of yoga and Vedanta, as well as the misconception of yoga as “just” physical exercise. We discuss the benefits of learning yoga directly from a teacher, and the importance of deep and focused study on the spiritual path.

We dig into some tools for study, exploring Sanskrit, the ancient language of yoga, and the Bhagavad Gita, one of the key scriptures of the tradition. We explore some ways the practice of yoga manifests differently in the US and India. We’ll even trade a couple of dream stories with each other.

Join me for this thoughtful conversation, in this episode of the Wake Up, Human podcast.

To learn more about Gajananam or get in touch with him, visit his website at http://www.vishnuyoga.org.

Episode at a glance: topics we’ll explore

  • What is yoga, and why do we practice it?
  • If Yoga means “union” (and it does), when we practice yoga, what is being unified with what?
  • What is Vedanta, and how does it relate to yoga?
  • Yoga is sometimes thought of as physical exercise, or “stretching.” Of course, it is more than that. But what part does physical exercise play in the traditional practice of yoga?
  • We address potential concerns about the cultural appropriation of yoga. Knowing the tradition of yoga has roots in Indian culture, how can non-Indian students proceed with respect for that culture and still reap the benefits of the practice?
  • What is the importance of studying yoga as an oral tradition with a teacher, rather than on our own?
  • How do we know when we’ve “won the battle of life?”
  • What is one most important question Gajananam suggests that we ask ourselves now, before it’s too late?

Links and resources mentioned in the episode:

“What you gain from yoga is not something that’s cultural. What you gain from it is balance of mind, health, greater understanding of peace, of unity. That’s something totally universal.”


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