Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Interview with Surinder Singh, Hatha Yoga Teacher in Rishikesh

Interview Surinder Singh Yoga Teacher Rishikesh

The first time I practiced hatha yoga in Rishikesh with Surinder, I could immediately sense his very calm energy. My first thought was, "He practices meditation!" That was a very comforting thought. Many teachers I'd met before seem to focus only on body postures.

That was back in June 2011!

I really enjoyed Surinder's teaching style. I even wrote a blog about that first experience practicing yoga with him: A Good Yoga Teacher in Rishikesh? Try Surinder Singh's Class.

So ever since I've been wanting to return to Rishikesh to practice yoga with Surinderji again.

Finally, this passed October, more than seven years later, I had that opportunity. I was able to join Surinder's class for a couple of weeks during my stay in Rishikesh.

Of course, I also took this opportunity to have an interview with him. This was something I've been daydreaming for a long while. So I really hope you will enjoy it.



Calming presence

Surinder emanates a very calm, kind and compassionate energy. I know every single one of his students would agree.

His presence reminds me of my teachers at my very first yoga school, in Ecuador, which I mentioned in a previous blog. They are all dedicated meditation practitioners.

When Surinder is walking up the stairs to his yoga shala, where all the students are waiting patiently for the class to start, it seems as if he is almost levitating. He is fully mindful of every step he takes.

Surinder's yoga teaching style

Surinder teaches classical hatha yoga. In each class he teaches only a few postures, holding them for quite some time.

But don't let that deceive you. His yoga classes can be very challenging.

He only does two rounds of sun salutations (the only flowing part during the class), but after does two rounds you feel like you've worked every single muscle in your body.

Believe me, you'll want to take a good long shavasana right after.

What I like the most is that instead of giving too many instructions, he likes to talk the minimum, with a calm and relaxing voice. This allows you to go deep within yourself. It feels like you are actually practicing yoga.

Sometimes he does like to talk during the class, but this is usually to explain the deeper meaning of a specific posture.

Surinderji also likes to close his classes with a little inspiring talk, discussing anything related to yoga and the spiritual path.


His prarabdha led him to yoga

Surinder Singh is originally from Punjab, a state on the north of India, and follows the Sikh religion. He is married and have two sons.

After completing his primary education he moved with his parents to Rishikesh, but later on returned to Punjab to get his mechanical engineering degree.

Because of some health issues with his mom, he had to return to Rishikesh to help taking care of her.

His engineering degree allowed him to get a very good job, about 20 km from Rishikesh, working for a company owned by Yamaha.

It was during this time in Rishikesh when he started to practice yoga.

He said to me that his prarabdha (the karma that is being currently experienced) had created the circumstances (his mom falling sick, his stressful job) that led him to the path of yoga.

His first teacher was Swami Dharmananda, of the Ved Niketan Asram in Rishikesh. He also studied at the Kaivalyadhama Ashram in Lonavla.

Interview with Surinder Singh of Swasti Yoga, Rishikesh




The video includes subtitles. You need to activate them by clicking/tapping on the "cc" on your YouTube video player. Below you can find the video transcript.

03:03 Interview begins
03:38 What was your first encounter with yoga?
05:12 What motivated you to practice yoga?
06:25 What is yoga?
08:45 How can we put yoga into practice in our daily lives?
12:30 How do you balance your family life, your work and your own practice?
14:44 What does your yoga practice consists of?
15:30 What is the main message you would like to share with your students?
17:33 Why do you teach yoga?
19:24 When did you started teaching in Rishikesh?
20:18 What is the main lesson you learned from your teacher Swami Dharmananda?
21:03 How was your experience at Kaivalyadhama?
22:35 Do you have a spiritual hero or role model?

What was your first encounter with yoga?

Mostly if you see the Indian families, everyday early in the morning they wake up, and they make kind of worshipping at home. In every home you can see this.

Because we are Indian, and we follow the system, and we are religious people, before we start any activities we go for meditation, we go for worshiping.

When I was so small, when I was a kid, I was always keeping my eyes on my mom.

She wakes up like 3:30 or 4:00 a.m., and immediately after the shower she goes for meditation for one hour, one and a half hour. And then after she starts all the activities of daily life.

So at that time I was so small, so kid I could not really understand what she's doing. But we always keeping eye, “Yes my mom she is just keeping the eyes closed and sitting in front of and making such a good long meditation, sometimes she is chanting the mantra.”

So that was her worshiping. So we learned from my mom.

On this on this part I really could not talk with my mom. But as my mom passed away, and after slowly slowly all the pictures, all the things slowly slowly start to come in my mind. Then I realize how she was and why she was doing all these things.

So now I really thanks to my mom. I'm so inspired by my mom. Yeah, she helped me a lot, yes.

What motivated you to practice yoga?

Because my mom, she was ill, and they (my family) needed help, I moved to Rishikesh.

I got my job, engineering of course. I qualified with my engineering degree. So I got a very good job in here, and in that job I got a lot of pressure.

MP: That was here in Rishikesh?

It was in Rishikesh. From here is 20-kilometer, and that company belonged to Yamaha.

So I was in this company and I got a lot of pressure. I wanted to release the pressure. Then I decided, okay let's come to do yoga.

That pressure also forced me to move into the yoga path. I want to release my
pressure. I want to be relaxed in my company and my job, to enjoy my life. Yoga helped me a lot.

No idea I want to become a yoga teacher. I had no this kind of the idea, because I was earning good money, good salary, and good reputation in my company.

Everything was so good. I really thank God, but I think that situation was just like a trigger point. From this trigger point I switched over into yoga.

What is Yoga?

If you see yoga, everyone is looking for different, different aspects (perspectives). My aspect, yoga is your life style.

Fine, in the beginning I am studying yoga, in the beginning I am studying yoga, slowly slowly yoga should be reflected in your life.

So we can say yoga is our whole lifestyle. Yoga help us not only just to come out from all the pain and the suffering. In my opinion this is a very small things, but our journey is beyond.

Who am I?

Pain and all the things (suffering) come when I just see myself on very small areas. I just fix myself in some surroundings, but if you try to see on the behalf of yoga, you becoming more wide.

So I'm not looking only for how to come out from my old pain, no. This is very small part. This is very true, this is the first step of this journey, in yoga journey, but we have to go beyond, more further.

Who am I?

If you see "Who am I?" then you can see that pain and suffering, these are part of the journey. We have to go through all the journeys.

Not only me, even then if you see all the masters, if you see all the great monks. If you see their life, if you try to read them [you’ll realize] they also suffered a lot, suffered a lot.

But they [think], “Yes because this is the journey of my life I will enjoy what He gives to me.” You surrender and you just continue your path.

Don't put yourself down.

So yoga help us on many, many levels. Some people they consider yoga is only the physical aspect. They go for only asanas part, physical part.

Some people, those who are looking for the mental aspect, they go a little bit more deeper,
beyond the asanas part. They go for good breathing exercise, they go for meditation.

The people, those who are looking for [going] a little bit more higher, they are many, many hours practicing for meditation. Because meditation is the preparation for how to enjoy your inner journey.

How can we put yoga into practice in our daily lives?

It’s very challenging. It’s not easy.

Because we have two layers. One layer, as I explained to you already in our morning session, is the divine nature. This is our true nature, and that nature is always telling your truth.

The other nature, which is just above the divine nature, is called our human nature. That nature we create, that nature comes according to our own karma.

And according to our karma, according to our human nature, sometimes we decide: I like this, I don't like this. I like this, I don't like this. I like this, I don't like this.

That human nature sometimes is more dominating. When that nature is more dominating it does not allow to see what is the truth.

Actually truth is down there (below, meaning at a deeper level).

Truth is down there, but we have to break this layer [of human nature]. And through yoga practice, when we break this layer of the human nature, then you can see what is the truth.

So, how we put our yoga practice into our daily life? This is very challenging because our human nature is more dominating, even if we know what we have to do it, we know very well.

When we go for any kind of satsang, when we go for a yoga lesson, we always say "Yes, I will do it. I will do it. I will do it." Because we have this power. We always encourage ourselves.

But then what happens? When we move into the daily life again our human nature starts to become more dominating.

The inner voice is still there but that time inner voice becomes so low. Again our human nature becomes more dominating, so again we jump back into the human nature.

So please, if you really want you have to follow some discipline. We need our good determination.

That's why in the very beginning, the first step in yoga they say is athayog─ünu┼Ťasanam.

Anu┼Ťasanam means, yes now I will put myself in some discipline to break down this layer of human nature.

When we break down [the layer of human nature], then it's much more easier to implement [yoga] in the life.

No doubt it's very challenging. You need your good determination. You need your good faith. You need good power. That's why we make lot of asanas practice.

Asana is your preparation. How you educate your body in every circumstances, "I will be there, without shaking, without moving. I will keep the patience. This is my discipline.”

Yes it's very challenging. It’s very challenging.

Sometimes it takes time, but every day you have to put your efforts. Every day you have to put your efforts.

Your efforts one day will help you to see a different dimension of life.

Otherwise we always see according to our mental perception, means our own dimension, what we create in our mind, which is more dominating.

We need our good determination, we need our good faith and we need to be very grounded.

That will help us to bring the anu┼Ťasanam, some discipline. "Now" means, "Yes, I will. Now I will do it."

It helps

How do you balance your family life, your work and your own practice?

Look. We are not looking for how to create balance. No please. Balance is the result.

I am looking for what is my duty, what is my dharma. I am more concerned about my duties.

Then balance will come to you.

You are more concern [about your duties], you love your duties. If you really want to enjoy your life [think], "I love my duties."

Don't think I'm only doing my duties.

Even if you see in the Universe, everything is in accordance to dharma.

If you see the Sun rising, He is also following the duties. He is following the duties.

If Moon comes, he is also following the duties.

If wind is flowing, that is also under the duties. This is dharma. It has to blow. All the seasons, all the weathers come. Everything is doing its duty.

Why I am not doing my duties?

This is my duty. Duty towards myself. Duty towards my family. Duty towards my nation. Duty towards my universe.

This is my duty.

So once you are concerned about your duties, without any expectations.

This is important. Without any expectation, [then] you are so balance.

“You have to do it.” This is the meaning of anu┼Ťasanam.

Sun, when it comes he says, “I will give the sunshine to all.” Sun never says, "This person is good. This person is not good.” He says, "This is my duty. I have to give the sunshine to all."

So you do your duties.

The Sun never says, "If you give something to me then I will give the sunshine to you.” Never. He says, "This is my duty. I will do it."

This is dharma. It means you make your duties without any expectation, [then] you are so balanced inside. Because you are not expecting anything.

It helps you becoming grounded. Just do your duties.

What does your yoga practice consists of?

As other people, yes I start my practice from the asanas, then I move into pranayama, then I move into meditation.

But as I have such a good experience now, I'm more and more concerned about my pranayama and meditation practice.

Asana is becoming less important. I’m doing the asanas just to give some movement to the body, some movement to the joints of the body, so I can sit for longer in my meditation.

I just prepare my body to sit longer in meditation.

That is my asanas practice, but now is more and more on pranayama and meditation.

What is the main message you would like to share with your students?

I can only share, please whenever you have the opportunity, please make some yoga practice.

When we are talking about some yoga practice you consider yoga as asanas part, pranayama part and little part of meditation, in the beginning.

Meditation is very important.

At least you close your eyes and you observe your breath.

Just do it. Just observe your breath.

One day you will realize, "Why I observe my breath?” Then what happens?

Breathing gives such a nice message to you

When I am focusing on my breath, I’m not just focusing on breath. I am just trying to learn what is the message behind the breath.

It should come through your experience. That is much better. Because this comes through your experience, is more steady, and this is your true experience.

So this is my request, this is my message to everyone. Please if you have the time at least make yoga practice. And if you can't, if you don't have much time, at least you sit for a few minutes, you close your eyes and you observe your breath.

At least, as you start to observe your breath, you can find your relation with your true self inside.

At least you learn how you can find your true center inside.

That true center is very important.

Once we have the true center inside we have less chances to make accident outside. Less problems come from outside. Because you find your very good center inside

It helps you.

And if you have very good time, you make good study, you understand very well and you go more deep inside.

Why do you teach yoga?

I never had this idea to teach. I always thank the Universe, thank the great masters. Thanks to all my gurus, my parents.

They gave me the opportunity to come in this human body. Now this is my duty, this is my dharma, to share that true knowledge with other people.

So I'm not teaching. Because I learn from someone else, now this is my duty. I have to share with other people, because in today's life we need this kind of education.

We have so many issues, so many problems. Up and down, up and down, up and down.

So I'm not saying to you, you completely go out from the pace (the material world). No. You be in the world. You be in the world with your positive mind, and that positive mind helps once we have the very good study of yoga.

You be in the world because it is demanding, but once we have the very good education you are in the world, you can find your good balance is there, you’re not hurting yourself, you are not disturbing yourself.

You will find a very good foundation. It helps you

Because if body is there, we need the good modern science. If a soul is there, then I need my spiritual science. Both sciences are very helpful.

We are part of this Universe. We cannot avoid the physical world.

So you have to do very good study and then you move into the outer world. Then you create the good balance in between two.

When did you started teaching in Rishikesh?

How long it was maybe around 16 years before. It’s quite a long journey

MP: And when you started I guess you had just few students

Yeah students I had, very few. One, two, two, two, one, two (smiling).

MP: And slowly, slowly people started coming?

They are coming, they are coming yeah

MP: Because I never see any advertisement from you.

No, never. Never I worked for the advertisement. I’m very happy to keep myself very silent, enjoy.

If the people come, this is fine. If the people want to go, "I want to go this, this, this place.” I always say, "Yes, yes, go, go, go dear.” Because I don't want to hold them.

I don't want to hold them. Yes, if you're coming to me you're most welcome. If you want to move from here, okay also you're most welcome. You enjoy.

What is the main lesson you learned from your teacher Swami Dharmananda?

I learned some physical aspects with my teacher.

I was with my teacher only for one month but I had a very good connection with my teacher. I was very used to meet my teacher and have very good talks.

Then after I moved to Kayvalyadhama in Lonavla where I studied, but he was my first teacher. He just hold my finger and put me into my yoga room. He was the first teacher. So I really thank my teacher.

He just helped me by holding my finger and bringing me in the yoga hall. So I really appreciate and really thank my teacher

MP: So he inspired you to start teaching

Yes please, yeah.

How was your experience at Kaivalyadhama?

Kaivalyadhama is a complete institute, yoga institute. So you can see many, many aspects of yoga, and you can do more deep study into yoga, because this is one of the best institutes in India. It's a very old one.

We have many here like Sivananda, we also have the Bihar School of Yoga, Kaivalyadhama.

So all these Institutes are very well respected in my country and very ancient, very traditional way.

So I learn also from there.

MP: How long did you stay there (at Kaivalyadhama)?

Because at that time I was working in my company, I had no time to stay longer out of my company. So I was there only for six weeks one time, again six weeks another time, again I was there for six weeks on another time.

So I just made the course in the three parts, in small, small parts. And still from time to time I go there for some seminars, some workshops.

MP: You still go?

Yes please, because this is endless journey, endless journey. Every time you go, you learn more and more.

You don’t think, "I am complete." No please, nobody is complete (completing the spiritual journey), especially in the spiritual field.

No one is complete. If people they say, “I have become a master. I have become complete,” I'm so sorry, it takes long time, if you actually become complete. No please, no one can.

We are in the process. Let’s go more further, let's go more further, let's go more further and we thank to the Universe.

Do you have a spiritual hero or role model?

My model is only one. He is, like the Universe, God.

That is my model.

I'm not looking for this person, this person. No please. All the power is coming from Him, so we have to bow down to Him.

He is the one and only one power. He gives everything to you.

You do your duties and you thanks, and He gives a lot to you. Just do it.

If today I'm looking for this person, maybe after six months I will change. Again I’m looking for this person. Six month it changes again. No need to change. Why you waste your time?

Just look for one and He gives. You understand what message He is giving to you. You
follow this message.

Then mantra is inside guiding you, bringing the light inside you.

This is the importance of the mantra.

The person from the outside can manipulate you but the mantra never manipulates you, because they are very pure. That mantra is directly coming from the Universe, not from someone else.

This is the difference. So you don't waste your time. You just locate your eyes on the top and mantra is guiding you.

Thank you.


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Contact details

When I met Surinder for the first time he used to teach yoga at a couple of hotels in the Ram Jhula area.

Today he has his own yoga center called Swasti Yoga, located in the village Joank, Swargashram area. It is pretty much between the Lakshman Jhula and Ram Jhula bridges; five minutes closer to Ram Jhula.

He also offers yoga teacher training courses, but regardless of his popularity he continues to offer drop-in yoga classes.

If you plan to come to Rishikesh during the high season I recommend you to come to his classes at least 15 min in advance. You might not find space later than that.

To find out his current teaching schedule you can contact him directly via his website SwastiYoga.Com

I hope you've enjoyed this interview. Please don't hesitate to share it with your friends and with whomever you think might be interested in practicing yoga with Surinder in Rishikesh. Thanks for your support!


3 comments:

  1. Your interview Marco makes me feel more motivated. After watching it I want to be more disciplined and find more time to do yoga or all the three aspects of which Surinder Singh in amicable and inspiring way talks about ie asanas, pranayama and meditation. Btw I liked how you repositioned your camera from left side to the right side in the 2nd half of your video. Looking forward to more interviews.

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    1. Hey Jakub! Thank you, happy to hear you enjoyed it, even a small detail as the camera placement. The good thing for me is that I've been learning a lot through that interview since I had to watch it so many times, and now working on the captions as well. Talk to you soon dude.

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