Satya Yoga - results come with practice
Max Pascal is an internationally authorized Level 2 Ashtanga Yoga teacher in the tradition of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Advance A student, Sharathji assistant and world traveler who tells us about his practice and the results he has achieved through regularity and dedication.
Under the midday Sun of Pelion that was shining through the covered terrace above the sea for practicing yoga, in the peace and quiet, Ashtanga teachers, instructors, practitioners practiced their sets of asanas. Among them, Max Pascal stood out for his special focus, his concentration on asanas, but also his skill and performance of demanding body positions.
It was evident that years of practice, experience, learning and exercising were behind that ease, and that was especially interesting for me to make a story about his journey and experience in this skill that many consider difficult, masculine and sometimes insurmountable.
How did you start your journey with yoga?
I started around 2000 mostly through book readings and chanting mantras, not so practicing asanas. I started with asanas in 2003 during yoga retreat with my first Teacher Lilianna Piotrowska from Poland. She taught us so much about yoga and spiritual part of practice.
In 2007 I met Basia Lipska and my tradition of Ashtanga started. From that moment I studied everything about Pattabhi Jois and yoga center in Mysore. Then in 2010 I met Manju Jois which was amazing motivation for me to finally reach Mysore in India in 2011. That journey never stopped till now.
While you were practicing yoga in Greece, I couldn't help but notice your dedication, absolute calm and focus on practice. How did you achieve that mind and body coherence?
It’s the result of practice, that’s all. Not any magic, not any special exercises or rituals just regular practice. It is very important to follow satya yoga, Parampara and doing practice with one Teacher. Not jumping every month from one big ashtangis to another, to become master. One method , one Teacher - that is the secret.
Satya is a Sanskrit word loosely translated as truth, essence. It also refers to a virtue in Indian religions, referring to being truthful in one's thought, speech and action.
Parampara is knowledge that is passed in succession from teacher to student. It is a Sanskrit word that denotes the principle of transmitting knowledge in its most valuable form; knowledge based on direct and practical experience. It is the basis of any lineage: the teacher and student form the links in the chain of instruction that has been passed down for thousands of years. In order for yoga instruction to be effective, true and complete, it should come from within parampara.
I was always very precise of following Teacher instructions. That is the key.
Follow Parampara - don’t change anything and use pure practice. Then, everything will come to you. Of course, everyone needs different time for it. I do my practice for almost 20 years and teach 18 years but sometimes I feel still like a beginner yogi, which is normal because we always learn something new.
Places where you have taught include Norway, Poland, Egypt, China, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Indonesia, South Africa, Germany, Bulgaria and Italy. How do you organize your time and did travel come because of education or was that the first thing that brought you closer to yoga?
First it was yoga. I didn’t even dream about traveling to other continents because there was never enough money for this. When I started practicing, slowly everything changed. The biggest change was when I moved first time to India to Mysore. I saw that Shala community and I put everything on it. I felt that I need to put all my dreams to one place and that place was Mysore KPJAYI.
During my second trip to Mysore Sharathji authorized me to become a Teacher and I got my first yoga teaching invitations from some friends of that community. So after I got another one and another. That system works very well because in Mysore there is many students and teachers who need sometimes also other teachers.
So I just continue my practice and visit shalas around the world which is not so easy but it is very interesting. Traveling is the best University.
Why and how ashtanga? How is it different from other yoga teachings?
I didn’t choose yoga, yoga chose me. After few years of hatha I was teaching for some school in Wroclaw and the owner invited me for extra class with visitor teacher which was Basia Lipska and it was led class full primary.
I did full class full primary in first class of Ashtanga Yoga because of my hatha experience but anyway next day I felt all my muscles.
After that it was Mysore class with Basia for few weeks and then home practice for next 2 years.
Until Sharathji I was practicing alone. In Poland there were not authorized teachers, and I couldn’t afford expensive workshops.
Ashtanga was my love from first class. I jumped into the to big ocean of yoga and I am so grateful for that to all my teachers that I met in my life.
Do your tattoos have meaning and what if it is public?
All tattoos have meaning or symbol. That time I was so excited, and I thought I could try. So first I felt I wanted something of India, and I chose Ashoka chakra which symbolizes the wheel of Dharma. The most visible use of the Ashoka Chakra today is at the center of the Flag of India.
Next one was sutra of Patanjali Yoga Citta Vritti Nirodah , to remember to control mind.
If we control mind we can control our dreams, choices, and life. When the fluctuations of the mind have been quieted, you reach an ultimate state called kaivalya, or "aloneness." In this state, you can perceive the divine within.
After that, Hanumanji came to me, probably to give me more power. He is a s a Hindu god and a divine vanara (monkey) companion of the god Rama. Hanuman is one of the central characters of the Hindu epic Ramayana.
To feel more in balance Ganesha was perfect, so it was my next tattoo. He is one of the best-known and most worshipped deities in the Hindu pantheon. He is widely revered, more specifically, as the remover of obstacles and thought to bring good luck, the patron of arts and sciences, and the deva of intellect and wisdom.
So I followed feelings in perfect time and place, these are not only tattoos.
Could you tell us about your philosophy of yoga and life?
My philosophy is to follow yoga, my life philosophy is to be in present time, grateful for everything, to learn every day, share with others because we can only be happy if we share everything in our life and following love. All we have is love.
There are some more things of course like: simple life, following sauca, brahmaciaria, generally Yama Niyamas.
Sauca addresses the yogic principle of cleanliness and purity. We can practice sauca in yoga by:
*Cleaning our body (maintain personal hygiene)
*Cleaning our mat, clothes, and props
*Clearly executing the asanas
*Honoring yoga etiquette and the traditions of the space (for example: remove your shoes before entering the yoga room, avoid wearing heavy scents, keep your voice quiet inside and just outside the practice space)
*Clearing our mind of mental clutter
Brahmacharya is when a person completely controls his body and mind (chitta) through ascetic means. Yama Niyama represent a series of "right living" or ethical rules within Yoga philosophy. That rules are very important to keep proper way and continue practice.
Most important is to stay in contact with Guru. My Gurus are Pattabhi Jois and Sharathji. Without them I would probably not be here where I am. We can have many Gurus during life. My girlfriend Erika is also my Guru. She teaches me a lot about discipline of practice.
How would you recommend ashtanga to our readers?
I think everyone needs to find the best way by themselves. Of course, we need to try. We need to listen; we need to read.
If someone becomes ready, yoga will come, and everything will show itself.
In this difficult time, what we can do different then yoga? We need to keep our body and mind healthy and yoga practice is the best tool for it. The longer you practice, you become better yogi, better person. Yoga can be with you forever and that is beautiful to know.
Interview with Max and text correction made by Jasmina Stojanovic
Special thanks to my dear friend and great Teacher Vairagya Ranko who was organised that retreat :-)
Ranko is one of the best Authorized lev.2 Teacher.
His dedication , power and love to students confirm his advanced in yoga.