Art of Living with Shreedhar Thuljaram
Dallas Yoga Magazine is so honored to have Shreedhar Thuljaram share his yoga and meditation journey along with his knowledge and experience. His practice and his service at the Art of Living organization in Irving is something we should all strive for. We always appreciate traditional yoga and Shreedhar teaches a true form of called Sri Sri Yoga. His insight into meditation and Pranayama is beautiful and helpful to everyone. Let’s get to know Shreedhar!
DYM: You are a senior certified teacher at the Art of Living Foundation, share with everyone your background so we can get to know you a little better.
Shreedhar: I have immigrated to USA in 1999 from India. I am a graduate in Mechanical Engineering and working in the Information Technology industry. I live in Coppell with my wife and son, who is a freshman at UTD. I started my career in the IT division of Maharishi Ayurveda Products in Delhi, India. There, I was introduced to Transcendental Meditation (TM) in 1989 and practiced it for few months. In 1999, I moved to Michigan and then to New Jersey for employment. Recently, I moved to Dallas in 2013 to get more sunshine! (Laughing) While I was living in New Jersey, I took the Art of Living Happiness Program in 2003. The practice brought me so much solace, energy and calmness, since then I am regular with the practice and volunteering.
DYM: Other than yoga and meditation, what do you do in your spare time?
Shreedhar: I work full time for a health care service company in Irving, Texas. In my spare time, I go cycling, reading books and attending seminars on spirituality.
DYM: When did you realize you wanted to become a yoga and meditation instructor?
Shreedhar: Initially, I started doing Hatha yoga by referring to videos and books. I felt I might be doing things wrong and missing something books could not offer. My urge became so strong I needed to know more about yoga through a proper yoga Guru or Trainer. So, I signed up for the Yoga Teachers Training program with Sri Sri School of Yoga, Montreal, Canada in 2006.
DYM: You teach yoga and meditation today, tell us about your trainings you have experienced.
Shreedhar: There are three foundation courses being taught in the Art of Living’s Happiness Program, Sri Sri Yoga and Sahaj Samadhi Meditation. Sri Sri Yoga is a foundation course focused on Hatha (Physical) Yoga and the Happiness Program teaches a powerful breathing technique called Sudarshan Kriya. You also learn about Sahaj Samadhi which is a Meditation course based on mantra.
I am certified to teach Sri Sri Yoga and the Happiness Program. I took the Sri Sri Yoga Teacher Training Certification (TTC) in 2006 and 2007. I was taught by Mr. Krishan, an Electrical Engineer by profession who became a full time International teacher with the Art of Living. I was also taught by Dr. Bharthi, a physician and part time faculty with the Art of Living. During TTC, I experienced so much energy and lightness. Before TTC, I had ailments like migraines, acidity, pre-diabetic and palpitations all due to a bad life style. Just by changing my life style and doing the practices on a regular basis, I have been healed completely without medicine. I took my Happiness Program TTC in 2013 with Rajshree Patel, a lawyer by profession who became a full-time international teacher with Art of Living. This TTC gave me insight of how mind and breath work are linked and how life works. It took me to a new level of perceiving life that can’t be expressed in words.
DYM: I attended a Sri Sri Yoga Workshop and enjoyed it immensely. Is this the style of yoga and meditation you teach?
Shreedar: Yes. Sri Sri Yoga Workshop was designed by Sri Sri Ravishankar, founder of Art of Living. Sri Sri Yoga is a simple, yet powerful yoga course taught 12 hours, 3 hours a day for four days. This workshop also covers simple sequence of postures, powerful breathing techniques to increase overall energy, digestive fire and Prana/Chi in the system.
DYM: Can you give us more details about this type of yoga (or the yoga/meditation you teach) and what makes it different than other styles?
Shreedhar: The Sri Sri Yoga is a pure and authentic form of yoga covering yoga poses, yogic breathing, powerful meditations, wisdom from yoga scriptures and tips from Ayurveda. Sri Sri Yoga is easy to learn and practice by both beginners and advanced practitioners and it can be tailored made based on one’s Ayurveda body type (body constitution).
DYM: The founder of the Art of Living is Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Can you share his vision and mission?
Shreedhar: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s vision is to create a violence-free, stress-free society. The Art of Living is a humanitarian organization which focuses on developing human values and creating one world family. One of my favorite quotes by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar sums up the mission perfectly…
“A disease-free body, quiver-free breath, stress-free mind, inhibition-free intellect, obsession-free memory, ego that includes all, and soul which is free from sorrow is the birthright of every human being.” – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
DYM: The foundation has service projects all over the world, it’s quite amazing. Share with us some of these.
Shreedhar: The Art of Living is a non-profit, educational and humanitarian organization and operates from 155 countries in the world. There are numerous service projects initiated around the world, from South America, USA, Africa to India. I have also been involved in the River Rejuvenation Programs in India, since 2015. As you are aware many parts of the world are facing water emergencies, 54% of India faces high to extremely high water stress. Meaning there is not enough water. In 2013, many non-residents of India living in the USA, got together and launched a not-for-profit organization called Overseas Volunteers for Better India. This organization helps to resolve the water crisis in India. We are working with NGOs, Corporations and individuals in implementing these water projects in different parts of India. We are working with Reviver Rejuvenation Projects in the states of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. CLICK HERE for more information.
DYM: Is there a reason you have chosen to be a part of the Art of Living organization verses another?
Shreedhar: As I said, the Art of Living is spread over 155 countries, having centers in almost every city and it is a largest volunteer-based organization in the world. I chose this organization over others, because of their authenticity in the teaching and has very strong support system for the members.
DYM: Share with us the influencers in your life.
Shreedhar: I met Sri Sri Ravishankar the founder of Art of Living in New Jersey in 2003 and that changed my life forever. For the first time, I saw a wise man who lives the knowledge 100% at all the times and that inspired me to follow the Art of Living.
DYM: What can someone expect when they walk into one of your yoga classes?
Shreedhar: I teach Sri Sri Yoga as taught in the ancient times in the purest form of yoga possible. In every session, we start with pranayamas (breathwork) to increase the prana or chi energy and remove the lethargy in the system. Then we go into physical exercises, do yoga sequence that flow from one posture to another posture naturally and smoothly. Finally, we end with Yoga Nidra and Meditation.
I also touch base on the Ayurveda, an ancient Indian system of natural and holistic medicine. Ayurveda, in Sanskrit means Science of Life. The link between Yoga and Ayurveda is the Prana, or the life-force energy. Yoga uses the intelligence of the Prana in seeking greater evolutionary transformations, while Ayurveda applies Prana in its healing power, seeking to consolidate the life-systems it has already developed. Ayurveda deals with strengthening both physical and mental aspects and Yoga exercises and Yogic knowledge deal with improving the integration of mind, body, and breath with awareness. Yoga and Ayurveda should go hand in hand to get the complete benefit from yogic system of healing and experience oneness.
DYM: What do you find most challenging about what you do?
Shreedhar: Convincing people to change their diet and life style to get most out of their life and experience long lasting happiness and well-being.
DYM: What do you find most rewarding?
Shreedhar: As a Yoga teacher, when I put a smile on the face of the participants, that brings immense happiness and fulfillment to me.
DYM: What mistakes do you see often in yoga classes that people should be aware of?
Shreedhar: The common mistake most people make is practicing yoga exercises without awareness. The key to Yoga is having awareness in the body and breath should be in sync with the body movement. That is breath-in during expansion, breath-out during contraction. Another mistake, people do is they go beyond their capacity of bending or stretches and that sometimes leads to self-injury. The participant should know their own limit and stop or back off whenever they experience pain.
DYM: In the United States, sometimes breathwork is often not a major part of the practice. Why do you think this happens here?
Shreedhar: The breath is the most ignored faculty in our system and we take it for granted. The breath plays the most important role in our emotional and mental well-being. The breath work is called Pranayama in Sanskrit meaning hosting or warehousing or directing Prana, subtle life force energy. Our breath is linked to our emotions. For every emotion, there is a particular rhythm in the breath. For example, when we are angry we breath faster and when we are sad the breath becomes heavy, when we are happy breath becomes smooth and equals. So, while we cannot directly harness our emotions, with the help of breath we can do that. If we understand the rhythm of our breath, we are able to have a say over our mind, we can win over any negative emotions like anger, jealousy, greed, and we are able to smile more from our heart.
DYM: Please explain why the breath is such an important part of the meditation and yoga journey.
Shreedhar: Many times, people complain that during meditation they are getting too many thoughts and meditation is not happening. I recommend them to do few minutes of Pranayama before mediation, that can calm the mind, improve focus and attention, remove brain fog and increase energy, bring enthusiasm and positivity that helps in meditation. Often, we hear from the participants that the meditation is much deeper and mind calmer after the Pranayama.
DYM: Can you give us an overview of the Happiness Program the Art of Living offers?
Shreedhar: Art of Living’s Happiness Program teaches breathing techniques that cleanse the various levels of our existence. There are 7 levels – body, breath, mind, intellect, memory, ego and self. For effective cleansing, prana (a Sanskrit term, also called ‘Chi’ in Chinese) – the subtle life force energy, needs to be high in our system. The first part of the program teaches Pranayamas which are breathing techniques to increase the prana in our system. This program specifically teaches two powerful Pranayamas of the many that are available. In the second part of the three-day Happiness Program, participants are taken into a process called ‘Sudarshan Kriya’. The founder of the Art of Living Foundation, Sri Sri Ravishankar, our enlightened master, came up with the technique of Sudarshan Kriya, in 1981, when he went into silence for a period of 10 days. This technique is offered only by the Art of Living Foundation. The technique uses rhythmic breathing guided with specific intonations which gets to the level of the ‘self’ and affects all the levels of our existence. In this 30/40-minute process, things that are not harmonious in every level is dissolved and exhaled out. The prana generated using Pranayamas helps to release toxins from every cell of the body during Sudarshan Kriya. At the end of the process, participants feel refreshed and rejuvenated. Regular practice of Pranayamas and Sudarshan Kriya has helped in balancing cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure etc. and also in healing traumas. Participants experience an increase in energy, enthusiasm, joy, confidence, clarity, and focus. For more information go to our website by CLICKING HERE.
DYM: Why should someone take this course?
Shreedhar: The mind has the tendency to vacillate between past and future causing a swirling of all kinds of emotions like anger, frustration, depression, fear or anxiety. If one observes our mind in a span of 30 minutes, one can notice the constant swirling of it. This vacillation builds up stress in our nervous system. Everyone has definitely heard that ‘joy is in the present’. This is true. Now, how does one make the mind stay in the present for longer periods of time? To control the mind from the level of the mind is not possible. If one wants to fall asleep, getting rid of a thought, the more one pushes the thought away the more time it stronger it stays. The easier and effective way of handling the mind is to innocently breathe. Simple yet powerful breathing techniques have the ability to influence the mind indirectly and effectively. The mind is like the kite and breath is like the string which we can use to maneuver it from a distance. The Pranayamas taught in the course help to increase the energy in the system, and the Sudarshan Kriya helps to balance emotions by releasing negative emotional patterns from the system. Twenty-minute daily practice of Pranayama and Sudarshan Kriya helps one to feel energized and emotionally balanced. For more information on our website CLICK HERE.
DYM: What would you tell someone who knew nothing about yoga or someone who had misconceptions of yoga?
Shreedhar: Yoga is not mere exercise, it improves the emotional, physical and mental well-being and it has been in practiced for thousands of years. Another misconception is that it is religious practice, Yoga is not a religion and it is practiced to unite the mind, body and spirit and to improve harmony within oneself and with people and nature around them. With its practice, the body becomes healthy and strong, the breath becomes quiver-free, the mind becomes pleasant, the intellect becomes sharp, intuition improves and self-realization dawns in the consciousness.
DYM: What can a person do who is having difficulty with their mind wondering during meditation?
Shreedhar: Do Pranayama before going into Meditation.
DYM: We often get yogis asking who to go to for teacher training, what programs would you recommend?
Shreedhar: Art of Living offers teacher training in Sri Sri Yoga and Happiness Program, most of our TTC happens in our International Center for well-being in Boone, North Carolina.
DYM: What advice do you have for a person who has been practicing yoga for a long time but seems to need a little more extra something to their practice?
Shreedhar: I recommend them to experience Sri Sri Yoga Level 2, Four days of absolute relaxation (in a retreat setting), the course invites you to detox your body and de-stress your mind. CLICK HERE for information.
DYM: Do you have any special workshops or events coming up you would like to tell us about?
Shreedhar: We have workshops coming up all around the year. You can visit our website and search on your address you will get the list of courses offered closer to your area.
DYM: Thank you so much for taking your time to share our experience with our readers. You have so much insight to share and we appreciate you greatly. I know I personally have experienced a Sri Sri Yoga Workshop and I highly recommend it.
Sri Sri Yoga: Stretch to Happiness Course
By: The Art of Living
October 25th-28th Weekdays: 6pm-9pm & Weekends: 1:30-5pm
Benefits: Energize & Integrate Your Mind, Body & Spirit Improve Self-Awareness, Health & Flexibility
Get Stronger & Grounded with Yoga Poses, Breath Works & Insight Yogi Perspective on Healthy Life Style, Diet & Nutrition
Location: 1404 W. Walnut Hill Lane, Irving, TX 75038
Click Here for More Details
Shreedhar will be speaking at the Cosmic Yogi Festival on Breathing Right for Stress Relief on November 10th in Addison.
Description of Presentation: Don’t settle for Happy-ish. Live with joy, confidence and freedom. Shreedhar will share with you revolutionary breathing techniques that studies show are not only therapeutic for stress and depression it may also benefit the immune system, improve brain function and improve overall health.
Social Media: https://www.facebook.com/ArtofLivingDFW/