Yogi Baba Prem Yogacharya is the founder and director of Universal yoga (Vishva Yoga) affiliated with American Institute of Vedic Studies. He recognized as an Acharya (Teacher) by his Guru Maha Avatar Babaji. He is also formally recognized as a Yogacharya from the American Institute of Vedic Studies. His Guru is Maha Avatar Babaji and his Vedic teacher is Vedacharya Vamadeva Shastri (David Frawley).
He has been deeply involved in Yoga studies and practices for nearly thirty years. His fields of examination include the main branches of classical Yoga and related Vedic sciences of Ayurveda and Vedic astrology, as well as the Vedas themselves.
Let’s start interview with Sri Yogi Baba Prem
Yetta: Sri Yogi baba prem, can you please share how you start your journey with yoga, Ayurveda and Hinduism?
Yogi Baba Prem: I began as a child trying to find and reconnect to yoga; however, at that time it was almost impossible to find much information on yoga. As a child, I would frequently go into shoulder stands, but at that point I was not able to fully recall my past lives; so it was difficult to make the connection with yoga. As years passed, and stresses of life mounted, I developed stress pains within my chest. By this time, yoga had developed a little in the U.S. and I began with the study of philosophy and kundalini yoga. Eventually, after years of intensive study, I became certified in Karma, Bhakti, Hatha, Raja and Kundalini yoga systems. Intuitively I realized that we were only scratching the surface of the depth of knowledge and wisdom contained within the yoga traditions.
I found myself powerfully drawn to the Vedas, but once again, it was difficult to find information. In time I found myself drawn to Ayurveda and did not realize it was an upa-veda (secondary Vedas). Eventually I found an excellent home study course by David Frawley and the American Institute of Vedic Studies in Ayurveda and Jyotish (Vedic Astrology). My Guru Mahavatar Babaji told me that I would study with David Frawley for awhile. I studied in-depth for approximately 15 years, which allowed me to explore the Vedic tradition in more depth than I could have imagined. I am credited with over 3000 hours of study through the institute; though more importantly, my study has been mostly oriented towards direct perception as opposed to just memorization of books. I learned to see the relevance and application of Jyotish (Vedic Astrology) to yoga and to Ayurveda. I also learned to deepen my understanding of the Vedic teachings and quickly realized that Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma was what I had been looking for all my life, and in essence what I was practicing all along in my yoga study.
Yetta: Since when, you have been practicing yoga and what was your source of motivation??
Yogi Baba Prem: I began the study of yoga and philosophy back in the early 1980’s. Pain and suffering were powerful motivators within my life. I was in my early 20’s and working on a successful career in radio, but there were things lacking or missing within my life, things that material goods simply did not address. Over time I realized that I was looking for clarity as to the purpose and meaning of life; I suppose many people are looking at the same issue at some point or another. After several years of practice, my kundalini ‘awoke’ or more correctly moved into a dynamic state. This was a powerful and extremely transforming experience. It is interesting about the kundalini awakening, as many people believe that the kundalini awakening is the end of the journey, but for me it is just the beginning. I discovered that modern yoga, in the west, lacked the nomenclature to express such experiences. Admittedly, language is somewhat limited when trying to describe the mystical experience in general. Rather than trying to ‘reinvent the wheel’ so to speak, I found immersing myself deeper into Hinduism provided answers and more importantly tools and a clarity in terminology that aided me in exploring the mysteries of our true nature. I have been fortunate, as I have not struggled with motivation; I have always seen mediation as a precious gift that is given. I quickly found that meditation is my mother, the nurturer, and healer. When one realizes the gift of mediation, motivation becomes quite easy.
Yetta: Share your thought about Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma) and how it can help us to improve the life we are living?
Yogi Baba Prem: The earliest forms of Hinduism (Vedas) provide a powerful glimpse back into the collective spiritual history, story and knowledge of humanity. It was a different age and the Rishi’s had powerful insight and realization into the nature of humanity. Each of us can benefit from their insight and tools contained within Hinduism. Hinduism challenges each of us to examine our existence outside of the box. Take the word ‘deity’ for example; I have observed so many yoga students’ that have issues with the word deity, due to their past experiences with religion. For them, often the pendulum swings to the opposite side and they want nothing to do with the word or meaning of deity. But, if we move outside of the box and view deity in a multidimensional way, suddenly deities spring to life, so to speak. As dharma, the deities represent universal truth. Take Agni, the god of fire. Very few people relate to just a God of fire, but once they see that Agni is also the digestive fire (Jatharagni) in Ayurveda, the mental fire of digestion (Mano Agni) that allows one to digest their life experiences, suddenly Agni has a great deal of relevance not just in my life or your life, but within each person’s life. By understanding mental, emotional and physical digestion one can experience greater health, vitality and joy. Therefore, Agni has a great deal of relevance to humanity.
But more importantly, Hinduism can help us connect more consciously with Dharma. Dharma does not translate well into English, and its meaning can change depending on its usage, but we can roughly translate it as truth or the way of truth. Study and immersion into Dharma will unlock the doors of mystery pertaining to God, ourselves and the relationship between the finite and infinite. Hinduism offers a variety of views and philosophies to meet the different challenges and opportunities that we encounter on a daily basis.
Yetta: When did you decide to dedicate yourself to yoga, Ayurveda and Jyotish personally and professionally?
Yogi Baba Prem: After many years of teaching, I observed a thought rising up within my mind during meditation which asked the question, “What are you going to do to give back to the earth?” This thought continued for months and months; as this question became stronger and stronger. I found myself teaching and lecturing more and more, and my career in radio just faded away as if it was a dream from which I had awoken from. Teaching and giving the sacred knowledge of yoga appeared to answer the question. Giving to the inhabitants of earth seemed like the best way to give back to the earth.
Yetta: Describe yoga and its benefits in general
Yogi Baba Prem: Yoga has numerous benefits from physical to emotional and mental as well but, it is the spiritual benefits that I value the most. Of course the common quote is that ‘yoga means union’, in reality that is the greatest gift, but it must not remain a quote for practitioners and yoga as a practice needs to evolve into direct perception for each practitioner. Yoga is a journey, just as life is a journey, it is a journey of the finite (ego) discovering the infinite (soul). Along the way in this journey one may experience increased health, wellness and mental clarity, but the spiritual benefits of seeing oneself beyond the physical body are the greatest in my opinion and are a bold step within dharma.
Yetta: I personally feel that, the life we are living is all about “Karma”, then how Jyotish Shastra can change the destiny which is already define by almighty God?
Yogi Baba Prem: Occasionally karma is portrayed as some sort of punisher and balancer for all the wrongs that have been committed, and certainly there are those that see it that way. But I see karma as critical in human and spiritual growth; karma is in reality an opportunity to resolve conflicts within the field of the mind. These conflicts are almost like chains that weigh us down. The resolution of the conflict frees us from the chains that bind; therefore, karma is one of the greatest gifts that Divinity has provided. Jyotish (Vedic Astrology) provides insight into our karmas, by understanding our karmas, we are empowered to make better choices, but more importantly, to learn the lessons and resolve the karma.
Yetta: What in your opinion are the greatest health benefits of doing yoga?
Yogi Baba Prem: While there are numerous physical, mental and emotional benefits from yoga; spiritual health is most important. However, from a purely health viewpoint, I think the breaking up of undigested experience stored within the physical body is quite important. Some practitioners do not consider the emotions and life experiences stored within the cellular memory of the body as important. The undigested or unresolved experiences within our lives have a tremendous effect on our health and well-being. Yoga asanas do help to break these up, and mantra as well as meditation helps to cleanse the broken up memories of undigested experience. Likewise, pranayama and its relationship with brain wave activity are well documented and important for our high-stress society. But the effects of meditation for health are the most important, in my opinion. Science has only begun to scratch the surface of the health benefits of meditation.
Yetta: What advice you will give to people who want to start practicing (learning) yoga?
Yogi Baba Prem: Don’t compete. Don’t try to be the most flexible person in the class. Yoga asana (posture) is more about surrender then just flexibility. Even within class, your asana is a very private and personal moment. Learn to love the body but not worship the body in a dysfunctional way. Then learn to love yourself on a deeper level. I would also suggest finding a teacher that has some realization and direct perception about meditation. We have an over emphasis on posture at times, yet it is only a small portion of the “Yoga Sutras of Patanjali”. Be patient, breathe deep, and keep your back straight during meditation.
Yetta: What advice you will give to Yogis who want to be a yoga teacher?
Yogi Baba Prem: Become a great practitioner. Become great at meditation. Yoga needs teachers that are skilled in the journey towards realization. Become a master of your area of study, be humble and serve humanity.
Yetta: In today’s era, all are busy with work and all. Which asanas you suggest our readers that can be performed in small timestamp and can help to tone whole body?
Yogi Baba Prem: That would be difficult as each person is different, with different karmas. In our tradition, we consider the individual from the standpoint of their body type, their karmas, and their personal goals.
Yetta: Say few words for our readers…
Yogi Baba Prem: If possible, I would like to share a slightly longer version of something I posted on Facebook for our student’s and it would apply to your readers as well:
Last night as my body drifted off to sleep, I slipped into my nightly meditation; I left the physical world for a moment and looked at you. I saw you in your shining radiance, you filled the universe and beyond, the physical body seemed so small and limited in comparison.
If only you could see your true identity, with just a glimpse, you would surely sacrifice all your earthly desires, habits and compulsions, as you would immerse yourself in the final desire of the finite nesting within the bosom of the infinite. With this realization, your journey would be complete within this earthly dimension. Best Wishes and love to you.