What is Vajrasati Yoga?
Vajrasati Yoga often takes the form of a straight forwards yoga class i.e. body-work, yet we try to implicitly and explicitly explore the yoga teachings of Patanajali, the Buddha, the non-dual shaiva tantra and other great Indian teachers/teachings as non absract experiences in the practice.This is acheived through the tone of the relationship we have with the practice.
Vajrasati yoga was founded in 2000 by Buddhist-influenced Jim Tarran who has trained in Hatha and Iyengar Yoga. Vajrasati synthesises all these traditions, becoming more than the sum total of its parts. Vajrasati uses the tools of yoga practice (asana, pranayama, mantra and meditation) safely and clearly, to reveal the essence of yoga and ultimately release the full potential of our humanity, an internal, local connection with ‘intuitive intelligence’ (Ishvara Pranidhana). The name itself is composed from the two ancient Indian words Vajra - thunderbolt and Sati - to remeber its a word often translated as mindfulness (Pali). The meaning seems to keep revealing more depths, but generally it is taken to mean ‘unobstructed awareness’. That is, given the right relationship, experience will become illuminated by an inner light that can penetrate ever deeper without ever being absolutely limited. The name also reflects the more traditional terms ‘ha’ and ‘tha’ and their association with sun/moon union (Hatha yoga) - the sun being associated with the vajra and the moon with the sati.
It is a name for classical Indian yoga in the Astanga (eight branched) style as pointed out in the Patanjali Yoga Sutras. And it is recognisable by its clarity, alignment and above all its direct no nonsense teaching of traditional yoga practise. The name is synonymous with the yoga teacher training program run by Jim where the graduates join a free association of yoga practitioners, who all benefit from shared knowledge and mutual support through sustained contact, and training events.
Vajrasati Yoga the history
In a way Vajrasati yoga school happened by accident rather than design.
Jim first started going to yoga classes in 1990 and started attending Buddhist groups around the same time.
Within just a few months Jim knew that he wanted to be a yoga teacher inspired by the the fusion of humour, spirituality, sensitivity and strength that he saw in some of his teachers at the time.
He begun teacher training in the spring of 1992 at the Patanjali yoga centre in Kathmandu.
During this time in India and Nepal his practice grew and grew hand in hand with meditation, and although it was not clear at the time, in retrospect this was the germinal stage of Vajrasati’s development.
During his Iyengar training,that Jim began in 1994 he felt himself begin to lose the thread of intuitive action that he had originally found whilst practising in India.
Although the course was indisputably valuable in terms of learning alignment, adjustment and the principles of using props, during this period the external aspect of yoga began to take precedence over the internal.
Intuitive elements that had revealed themselves in Jim’s earlier practice seemed to be supplanted by more prescriptive and dogmatic ones.
This was perhaps a reaction to institutionalism and how sometimes politics and power can start to muscle out personal integrity and individual investigation in the context of a large organisation.
This arose more in response to membership of the whole school rather than a reflection of his teachers at the time or even the teachings of B.K.S Iyengar himself, who continues to be a great inspiration to Jim to this day.
Jim began to recognise that B.K.S Iyengar was teaching from his explorations in practice as inevitably the way they did things where done would change as news from Pune filtered into the wider Iyengar school this was enough to plant the next seed of Vajrasati.
A series of questions began to beg answers;
Who is it that decides what yoga is? Where does the knowledge come from? How is that knowledge discovered? And what are the criteria to be able to judge whether the yoga you practice is authentic and truly beneficial in the most holistic sense?
It made him realise contrary to what he had started to think, yoga was not a thing where one person has supreme authority but instead a living organic conscious practice, with clear guides as to how to stay on the path (the yamas) but with room to see the path you are on beyond the vehicle in which you travel.
This was a realisation that grew and coupled with conversations with other teacher trainees the spirit of yoga began to distil itself from certain aspects of Iyengar’s personality or of ethnic Indian origin.
The whole process was constantly fed and nourished by Jim’s keen interest in the Buddha Dharma, and indeed several other teacher trainees on the course called themselves Buddhists.
One of the central tenets of Buddhism is to investigate things for yourself logically and clearly, trying to hold views lightly so that they can be easily supplanted by better ones as life keeps revealing it’s rich tapestry.
During the next few years Jim’s life as a Father (from 1995) and a step Father (from 1994) also had its influence on his practice, challenging his self views and projections onto yoga with the reality and responsibility of being a Dad.
A personally traumatic year 2000 took its toll on Jim and by the end of he was suffering from extreme physical and emotional exhaustion. Although he managed to keep teaching during this period, missing only one or two classes, fatigue and physical discomfort began to teach him some very important lessons. This planted another seed for the development of Vajrasati: the need for honesty (satya) and the development of non violence (ahimsa) to support this. Jim had become used to his body responding in certain ways but things had changed and it was time to return to the openness, positivity and internal honesty that had first engaged and enthralled him so in the first few years of his practice before he had become 'good' at yoga postures! This adjustment didn’t come easy but ironically it was through accepting his limitations that he began to rediscover a much wider sense of freedom in the practice and touch again the vein of gold that runs through the heart of yoga, the freedom and bliss of knowing in the present.
Throughout this whole period he had always been on an annual solitary retreat to practice yoga and meditation and around the this transitional period in 2000 these retreats began to highlight the tension between his asana practice and his seated meditation. In fact it became glaringly apparent that he could no longer view any aspect of his life as separate from any other.All disciplines began to reveal a greater unity that fall under the yogic term Samadhi or 'all things integrated'
Jim’s undertaking to teacher train his first student, who had been avidly attending his classes for several years, occurred when her application for Iyengar training was unsuccessful. Surprised by this, Jim felt compelled to train her himself … and so Vajrasati began, almost by accident.
The name itself is composed from the two words ‘vajra’ (Sanskrit) and ‘sati’(Pali) and although the meaning seems to keep revealing more depths, it was taken in principle to mean ‘unobstructed awareness’ that is to say that if you approach things in the right way your awareness can penetrate ever deeper without ever being absolutely blocked.
The name also reflects the more traditional terms ‘ha’ and ‘tha’ and the expression sun moon union (hatha yoga) - the sun being associated with the vajra and the moon with the sati.
It was immediately apparent that for the Vajrasati certificate to have any credence, the school needed to grow. Jim gradually took on more students and by the end of 2000, 3 students had begun their 2 year Vajrasati Teacher Training.
With the strong support and input of these first students Vajrasati began to move from a low level yet sincere home based effort towards an established school with an increasingly clear message and a broadening vocabulary with which to teach it.
Now each time new students come on board to train on the course Vajrasati grows.
Students teachers are selected as much for their own commitment to honest exploration as for their enthusiasm for the school's principles of personal investigation and shared learning. The school needs them as much as they need it and their inclusion ensures a well-rounded school.
The practical contributions that the students continue to offer have been invaluable to Vajrasati’s continued growth.
Interest in the school is already far exceeding what Jim can take and he is currently drawing up plans to offer graduates the opportunity to train to teach the Vajrasati Teacher Training syllabus.
It is Jim’s sincere belief and deepest wish that Vajrasati will be a beautiful and fertile garden both as a place for future seeds to find rich soil and for established plants to inspire the new students with their strength and beauty and simply as a refuge where people can come to dwell a while to ease their minds from the troubles of the world.