Crash Course – Art of Living

My daugh­ter, Stephanie, started tak­ing the intro­duc­tory course to Art of Liv­ing, inspired by the work of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. I encour­aged her to take it because I thought it would be a good tran­si­tion between col­lege and real life — a time to think, share ideas with inter­est­ing peo­ple and get some new skills. It costs more than just the equiv­a­lent of a yoga class — about $250 full fare or $125 for stu­dents — but I felt that it was well worth the money.

I took my intro course two months ago and it was a pow­er­ful expe­ri­ence. It stretches over six days, four week­days and a week­end. The week­day classes were about three hours long, while the week­end classes five hours each. In a way, it’s a bit like a cross between a work­shop and a retreat. It takes you out of your rou­tine and molds your activ­i­ties around the learn­ing experience.

I took it with a small group, just five peo­ple, while Stephanie has about 20 in her course. Some­times, they give the course to 100 or more peo­ple. In India, the course is giv­ing in mas­sive gath­er­ings — it has to be that way in a coun­try of bil­lions. The core of the AOL prac­tice is the Sudar­shan Kriya, a purifi­ca­tion process. A longer form is done reg­u­larly in a group (60 min­utes) while a short­ened form (20-​​30 min­utes) is done daily. A sum­mary of its ben­e­fits can be found on Lifepositive.com.

You are not sup­posed to revel what goes on in the classes, but I have found sev­eral web­sites that details what hap­pens. The best sum­mary is Bharani’s Revelations.

You can read a long por­trait of Sri Sri, Emperor of Air, in Yoga Jour­nal. The DC Chap­ter will be wel­com­ing Sri Sri next week, May 6. Details are on the site. If I have one reser­va­tion about AOL, it’s the rev­er­ence and adu­la­tion with which Sri Sri is held by many of his fol­low­ers. He is def­i­nitely charis­matic in a quirky, Hindu way. One thing is sure — the Art of Liv­ing Foun­da­tion is a huge inter­na­tional orga­ni­za­tion, sus­tain­ing oper­a­tions in over 100 coun­tries and reach­ing into new areas. It gives APEX course for cor­po­rate man­age­ment and staff as well as main­tains an aggres­sive pres­ence on uni­ver­sity campuses.

What does AOL add to my yoga prac­tice? It’s increased my lung capac­ity in a really short time; it’s increased my alert­ness; it’s given me meth­ods to refresh my mind through­out the day. By giv­ing me greater aware­ness and sen­si­tiv­ity to my breath, I’ve improved my con­cen­tra­tion and med­i­ta­tion. By com­ing to AOL and yoga together, I was able to see how much yoga could ben­e­fit me. At my first yoga class after the AOL intro course, I was able to get into deep bends and other poses and hold them because I was breath­ing more eas­ily and deeply. I sup­pose I could have to come the same con­di­tion through other meth­ods, but it would have taken more time.