10 QUESTIONS ON YOGA ANSWERED BY SAMAHITA FOUNDER PAUL DALLAGHAN01/11/2019, Samahita
Samahita, the Sanskrit for Centered, was founded by Paul Dallaghan as a retreat for those searching for all elements of yoga, meditation, spirituality, health, nutrition and more. We were recently given the opportunity to talk to Paul about his experience with yoga throughout his life.
Why did you start practicing yoga?
At the age of 16 I had 'opened up' to inner experience and from then on had so many questions. As I went into my early 20s even though yoga was not popular, it intrigued me. After trying yoga I found the physical part very intelligent as it involved my entire body. But it was the spiritual, meditative and devotional side that drew me in and kept me. All that was clear within the first year.
Who have you studied under to gain your personal philosophy for yoga?
I went to my first yoga class and it was in the Sivananda tradition. For the first five years, I did not practice under just one teacher but spent five years in various ashrams and practices. I was mostly drawn to the environment and devotion. As a result, I searched for pranayama wisdom and asana stimulation elsewhere. In the mid-1990s yoga began to grow and so I was able to teach for Cyndi Lee and her Om studio in NYC. Through this period of time, I was able to dedicate my time to becoming an ashtanga vinyasa practitioner which was influenced by the style of Richard Freeman. However, my primary teacher has always been Sri O.P. Tiwari, head of the Kaivalyadhama Yoga Institute, and one of the few genuine teachers (masters) of pranayama. For 20 years I have been his senior student and so continue the legacy of the teachings of Swami Kuvalayananda. I have had a truly unique opportunity to be trained to the highest level in pranayama and Krishnamacharya's asana tradition, as well as studying in Thailand in the Buddhist meditative practices, including time in Tibet.
What do you believe is the real purpose of yoga?
To look deep within yourself and develop an understanding of what is actually real, so you can see and read the game of life that goes around us. By changing your perspective, with it, your behaviour will change towards yourself and others.
When you teach yoga, who are you trying to reach?
I aim to always continue practising deeply and sincerely, in order to understand the inner nature so I can help others tune in, wake up and share clarity, strength and a good heart to others in turn around them.
How has yoga benefitted you?
It has given me a state of inner centeredness – balance, clarity, calm and helping to open my heart.
Do you believe in integrating meditation with yoga in your practice?
Yes. Although the approach to meditative focus can alter based on the nature of the practice and audience. However, personally the practice of yoga has always been an inner journey and for that reason has kept me sincerely interested in the practice, right from the start.
What brought you to starting up Samahita?
In 2001 I felt a strong urge to leave New York with my partner, Jutima and study-practice in India. As my partner's background was Thai, we also visited Thailand and found it to be the ideal place for practice, growth and living. In this period of time, there was little to no teaching of yoga in this region, making there a call to start something. I wanted to practice yoga in a location that people could benefit from nature. After running a few programmes in different locations we decided to create Samahita, Yoga, Thailand in 2003. It began and has grown from pure devotion and dedication to providing a space of support for a healthy mind and body. We wanted people to learn and carry home what they have learned. That same interest and motivation exists today, even stronger.
How do you believe yoga has evolved?
As a personal perspective, when I began to study and practice yoga, I practiced intensely and directly with a masterful teacher. Because of this, my understanding and experience of teaching has been refined and more helpful. When I look at yoga as a marketplace now I see spreading and growing at an incredible rate. However, this does not always mean that there are a vast majority of quality-driven yoga teachers. If people take the time to learn the techniques correctly and understand why and how to do them, then this growth is a truly positive thing. I am committed to moving the field forward with scientific research as this is a way to remove the hype, misunderstandings and erroneous statements, help people understand why to do a practice and how it works. The integrity of yoga needs to always stand, yet it has always embraced evolution – open-minded, honest, and ready to adapt to changes around us. But the focus of why we are doing yoga must not be lost.
As you see it, what is the goal of yoga?
The ultimate goal of yoga is to understand who you are by looking within. In so doing love, openness and trust are felt, not as an exclusive property by you feeling that, but by us, all tapped into something that is shared.
What advice would you give to anyone who is thinking of becoming a yoga teacher?
Try to ensure you are always connected to the practice, understanding more what you are doing and specifically why you are doing it. If you are sincere and continue to practice on a regular basis you will have a better understanding of how yoga works and as a result, feel why it is worth doing. This is then the incredible gift to share as a teacher to others as you continue your own path.
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