Guru is a Sanskrit word that means remover of darkness. Buddhists and Hindus hold festivals and elaborate ceremonies on a holiday called Guru Purnima, which happened this week, in fact.
This significant holiday is an opportunity for students to honor teachers and express gratitude for those who have taught important lessons, removed shadows of doubt, and shined a light on blinding ignorance.
Here’s the story of meeting my guru.
It was 2006 and I was enrolled in a 200-hour yoga teacher training class learning about anatomy, yoga psychology, adjustments on students, and how to structure a yoga class. But in between classes, I was not exactly the picture of health. (Unless you count getting into bendy poses or standing on my head every morning.)
Though I wasn’t exactly unhealthy by society’s definition, I didn’t have the best relationship with food and felt empty in a sort of “is this is it?” kind of feeling. My hope was that this yoga teacher training would be a panacea to make me feel like my life had some sort of greater purpose. I wanted to be one of those willowy, limber yoga teachers with boundless happiness and love for the world.
One of the teacher training modules was called something like “Ayurveda for Yoga Teachers” where, instead of learning about proper hip alignment, I learned about India’s 5000-year-old system of healing.
More importantly, I learned that true health isn’t lack of disease or being thin, this radiant Indian woman in a bright saffron-colored sari told us, rather it’s inner joy experienced by our entire being. When health is missing, we feel empty, lacking, and any joy we do feel is fleeting.
So you could imagine what sort of mental bombs were going off in my head as this gifted healer who lived her life by the principles she taught, talked about health, true peace, and inner stillness.
I remember just sitting there listening with rapt attention as she shared Ayurveda’s basic principles–food has an impact on the body and the mind; the importance of digestion to health; the doshas vata, pitta, and kapha; our body’s constitution; and the fact that we can use food as medicine. It was only when I realized I had found my guru, that I could truly understand how my mind had been terrorizing me all those years. And more importantly, I could pursue a path toward radiant health, not some willowy ideal I’d built up in my head.
Shunya Pratichi Mathur became my guru that very first class and I followed her around to attend her other classes until she probably got annoyed with me. She finally opened a school a few years later where I’ve been a fixture learning to become an Ayurvedic doctor.
Mind Is Not the Enemy
Many people who have suffered from depression will tell you that it is like a cloud of darkness has descended on your life. Over the years, Shunya and Vedika Global (the school she opened) have taught me practices, dietary guidelines, medicines, herbs, meditation and breathwork I can do every day to ensure that I could be balanced and move beyond darkness. (If you read through this blog, nearly all of the wisdom I share is directly learned from Shunya’s teachings, which she learned from her grandfather and great grandfather as well as the many ancient Ayurvedic texts.)
The light Shunya brought to my life is something I can never repay, only by bringing her teachings to others who can benefit can I ensure that her wisdom can reach others who need it.
You should definitely listen to her teachings by visiting the Vedika Global channel on You Tube. Give this one a watch:
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