When Swami’s son, Sanjay, invited me to Swami’s Retreat for a weekend I literally did a little happy dance. I was there to speak with him about his mother, the legendary Swami Sarasvati, who was a household name due to her TV show that began in the late 1960’s. It was with Swami that, at the age of 12, I began my yoga journey. I remember going to her class with my mum and being…inspired! Now, here I am 40 years later, back in the presence of my very first yoga teacher.
Swami was often asked “what sort of yoga do you teach?” Sanjay tells me that her answer was always the same, simply “yoga”. Sanjay reflects on Swami’s view that yoga allows us to embrace the ordinary and connects us with out true selves. Swami saw yoga as a means of living and enjoying a fulfilling, yet simple, life.
Swami’s philosophy is that yoga is for everyone, and that yoga is not about the poses, but rather it is a way of life. Her playfulness and ability to be inclusive certainly stirred a passion for yoga in so many people and has drawn in students from all over the world. Sanjay said that his mum had a unique talent for making yoga simple and accessible to all. Swami’s yoga integrates philosophy, and a slow Hatha Style – traditional yoga. It is not about the achievement of certain postures. It is not what you do, it is who you are. You are yoga. Yoga is within you. It is about doing the self-inquiry and chipping away at the crud (samskaras) to release what is within you.
Swami’s best advice would bring us to the core practice of yoga. Don’t worry about others, do what you need to do. Be the best you can be. Be kind and be useful.
When asked about teaching teachers, Sanjay reiterated Swami’s belief that you need to build relationships. Build your relationship with yoga and share that passion with others. In order to teach you must practice and gather experience. When you are ready the students appear, and they seek you out. There is a natural evolution. He says that yoga invites people to delve deeper. Swami would not just teach a standard repertoire but would cater to individuality. Swami encouraged finding your own way to teach from what you know. Swami’s yoga is comprehensive and goes beyond basics, off the mat and into everyday life.
Sanjay says his mum’s advice to teachers would be to remind them that you never know who is going to turn up. You might have a plan, but it may not always go to plan. Teach to the student in front of you. That is what makes you a teacher. Otherwise, you are just a performer. Learn the principles behind yoga. Not just rote learning of sequences. Understand the foundations and apply them to the people in the classroom. Connect with the students. Yoga is part of you so share what you love doing. Have empathy for your students. Feel for them. See what they are going through and adapt to that.
“We can teach you how to teach yoga but the passion, that spark, for yoga has got to come from inside you!”~ Sanjay Hackett
Swami and Sanjay both say yoga is to be shared. It is a gift to the world. It can change the world. Bring a friend. We are connected through yoga. We can create that consciousness that can change the world. We share yoga, people just turn up and it goes on.
As it turns out I got to reconnect with Swami the day before she passed. I was able to express my immense gratitude to her for being established on the path of yoga and having the light of yoga lit within me through her teachings.
Swami was a beloved Yogi, and one of the first to bring yoga to Australia. She inspired and guided so many of us. Her teachings will continue to live on through her students, and the many lives she touched. Sanjay said, she planted many positive seeds through her teachings which have grown into a beautiful forest of strong and resilient yoga trees.
Meeting Swami was such a bright introduction to yoga. I believe my life has been more healthy, balanced, and joyful because of Swami’s early influence. I sense this influence in the way I teach today. Like so many others, I will be forever grateful for the way she brought the transformative practice of yoga into my life.