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.