Vancouver physician and author Gabor Maté isn’t the type of person who likes following instructions. And for many years, he militantly maintained that he wasn’t the type of person who would do yoga.
“With my ADD, I just don’t show up to classes,” Maté told the Georgia Straight by phone. “I just resisted it.”
But out of curiosity and on the recommendation of friends, he and his wife, Rae, attended a presentation last year at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev. He’s a South Indian mystic and poet with a passion for ecology, riding motorcycles, and achieving self-awareness through yoga.
Sadhguru, as he’s simply called, has also written many books, including the best-selling Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide to Joy.
“He’s a very impressive man, very handsome,” Maté said. “He had one of these deep, unitary, ego-dissolving, spiritual direct experiences some time in his 30s.“
Maté and his wife were invited to meet him backstage and concluded that Sadhguru was the real deal, not only from an intellectual standpoint but also in the way he embodied his spiritual experience.
At the time, Sadhguru told Maté that he had “one of those sharp minds that can cut like a knife and see the truth and help a lot of people see reality”.
However, Sadhguru also cautioned that Maté didn’t know how to wield the knife internally, which is why he kept cutting himself with it.
“I thought he actually saw me very clearly,” Maté said. “So I said, ‘What do you suggest I do?’ “
Sadhguru advised him to take a four-day program of yoga instruction, which required two 40-minute sessions per day. According to Maté, it worked wonders.
“It really balanced me out,” he said. “I became less reactive and just softer to be around and lighter in my work. People working with me noticed it as well. And my wife noticed it, so much so that she did the program herself a few weeks ago.”
Maté’s friend Roma Katz has been a yoga teacher for the past 25 years. Over the phone with the Straight, she described the four-day program as the “most comprehensive…and succinct condensation of the main principles that yoga upholds”.
One of the keys is Isha Kriya, which Sadhguru developed. It involves a series of breaths and positions to bring about a state of health, dynamism, peace, and well-being, according to Sadhguru’s Isha Foundation.
“Kriya is something that transforms you, something that changes you on a physical and spiritual level,” Katz said. “The kriya that they imparted—and that we were asked to uphold for 40 days, twice a day—is what made all the difference.”
Maté said that the very best yoga teachers can recalibrate a person’s outlook on the world.
“They have a very sophisticated and time-hallowed understanding of the internal body and the relationship of body positions and body states to mental state,” he maintained.
Moreover, Maté said that Sadhguru’s teachings are “quite aligned with everything else that I’ve ever learned from any spiritual teacher, from Eckhart Tolle to A.H. Almaas”.
“What it comes down to is we can be responsible for our experiences in life,” he declared. “We can’t be responsible for an earthquake or a war, but our capacity to respond—our ability to respond—is very much up to us.”
This insight is especially valuable when upsetting things happen in people’s lives. “There’s a liberation from automatic reactive patterns,” Maté stated.
Although he recognizes that many Indians are reverential toward their gurus, Maté is somewhat uncomfortable about how Sadhguru’s organization makes such a big deal of his day-to-day activities. “Having said that, I’ll take it because I’m so up for the teaching and the practice,” Mate noted. “This may just be an east-west dichotomy.”
Sadhguru will offer his Inner Engineering program at the Vancouver Convention Centre next Saturday and Sunday (May 27 and 28).