India is a Land With an Infinite Legacy: Arantxa Corrales, Spain

For Arantxa Corrales, the connection between her and the Vedic culture in India has been very strong. She calls it a land that has an infinite legacy that is worth preserving and she wants to contribute to safeguarding that legacy.

Arantxa is a Yoga instructor from Spain and has developed Santyayoga, a style of Yoga inspired by the teachings and tradition of Krishnamacharya. She has been learning Vedic chanting under the tutelage of Shri TKV Desikachar, his son Kaustubh, and Shantala Sriramaiah (student of Shri Challekere Srinivasan) who is based in Belgium.

In conversation with CSP, she tells us about her journey with Vedic chanting and Yoga, and how she has incorporated them in her life. Yoga, to Aran, is the possibility of union with the Divine, the possibility of bringing heaven to earth and having a good existence in this earthly adventure that is our life.

How did you come across Vedic chanting and what was it that drew you to learn?

I learned about Vedic chanting through the Krishnamacharya tradition in the figure of TKV Desikachar. I had the opportunity to attend his seminars when he came to Barcelona in 2009 with his son Kausthub  and when I travelled to London the following year for summer seminars. At those seminars, Sir chanted at the beginning and end of the day and as is habit in that tradition we would also chant during practice. The chant entered my heart directly when I listened to it and since then it has not left me. At that time, I had finished my first yoga training and continued studying with a student of Sir, Claude Maréchal, Montserrat Serra, and through her I learned of the existence of Núria Vinyals, a teacher who teaches Vedic chanting in Barcelona. When in 2015 I reconnected with Kausthub Desikachar and started my studies with him, I got in touch with Núria Vinyals to learn. Through her I came to the recently disappeared Radha Sundararajan and, together with Shantala Sriramaiah with whom I study.

 Nothing in particular and everything in general. It was not something that I decided. Listening to chants and wanting to learn and chant them was instantaneous and immediate. Before studying it formally with texts, I was already chanting by ear, as is done in tradition.

How has the journey with Yoga been from the time you began?

A very beautiful journey certainly, full of ups and downs like all roads, with those steep parts where you feel that you want to give up and with those wonderful parts where the landscape is absolutely intoxicating and you would like to stay there. But I feel that you always have to move forward, yoga never ends, as a student it is what attracted me the most: knowing that I will never know everything there is to know but that I can always let myself be supported by that certainty of being accompanied and blessed and surrendering myself to it with greater love each time.

How did you develop Santyayoga and what does it entail?

Śāntyāyoga developed from my experience in the yoga profession. I have worked as a teacher since 2006 and, after being a mother in 2011 and specializing in yoga therapy, I felt that it was a stage that was already coming to an end and had to evolve towards teacher training, on the one hand, and individualization from yoga therapy in the relationship with the students, on the other.

In that sense, Śāntyāyoga was born with the intention of recovering the study of tradition and the practice of its teachings in the face of the avalanche of yoga styles that are installed in the superficial (normally focused on the body and the achievement of acrobatic āsana-s) and they forget the essential (the work on the mind and the heart, the relationship with the Divine, the intimate and silent transformation that takes place in the yogī or yogīni, the Vedic chantimg, the study of Patañjali ...) and pretends recover the teacher-student relationship to experience that it is through it that healing, evolution, the unveiling of the truth and the establishment of being in that calm and self-centered peace that is our nature happens. Śāntyāyoga teaches and learns simultaneously because it is in that relationship in which a single heart, a single mind and a single action occur in synchrony between both parties and with Life and that presence is what we intend to cultivate

To achieve these goals, I accompany students in their individual yoga therapy process, mentor yoga teachers and yoga therapists in their teaching practice, and train new yoga teachers. I work online and in person and I focus on the transmission of the Krishnamacharya tradition (absolutely influenced by the Veda and the study of Patañjali and other texts) and on Vedic chanting. At the same time, I continue to receive training from Víctor Morera from PranamanasYoga, I study Bhagavad Gītā with Kausthub Desikachar and I am trained in Vedic chanting with Núria Vinyals and Shantala Sriramaiah.

What is the Pranamanasyoga project? Does it bring different forms of health and medicine to integrate with Classical Yoga?

Pranamanasyoga is a training project created by Víctor Morera and Grazia Suffriti in 2009. It comes from the therapeutic and health training in yoga in which Víctor taught to individualize practices to meet the specific needs of each person and joins the knowledge of Grazia in the tradition of Krishnamacharya as a teacher and yoga therapist. They offer training in yoga therapy with a classic accent, updated with the modern bridges that new western medicines tend to and include the MOC® method (Conscious Organic Movement), a meditative proposal whose support is contact with the body through sensorimotor orders whose purpose is to generate states of connection and corporal sensitivity, to dilute somatic tensions and allow access to a state of deep relaxation, which favours the free circulation of prāṇa. Victor is an excellent and inspiring teacher and human being and the MOC® is a gift that he offers us.

Yes, it definitely brings Classical Yoga together with health and medicine. In a mercantile society crammed with hundreds of foo-yoga, Pranamanas offers authenticity, synthesis, a true yoga (union). An integration of the essentiality of the most solid yogic tradition (Krishnamacharya) and of the healing paths that collect the ancestral experience of all humanity but that are, at the same time, innovative and current (neuroscience, psychoneuroimmunology, sintergetics, energy healing, conscious organic movement…). And that is a great opportunity to offer a comprehensive accompaniment and develop a true healing path through yoga.

Why is this project significant? What does it target?

Because in the West, in general, there is no capacity for self-management of health and, due to the medical maps that it handles -except for exceptions- it contemplates the body without interdependence or inter-influence with other aspects of the human being. Group yoga that is taught is insultingly superficial. In that sense, Pranamanas opens the possibility of experiencing another yoga in yourself so that, from your experience and transformation, you can take it to others. It is also spread throughout the territory: Barcelona, Madrid, San Sebastián, Valencia, Seville ... and that generates a new community and expansion. Pranamanas is the catapult from which a new concept of self-management of health is launched and a network of yoga therapists who work interdependently with other professionals in the accompaniment, prevention and care of individual and group health.

 The project is aimed at yoga teachers, because you need to be familiar with certain bases of experience and knowledge. Unfortunately, one of the first evidences that we found was the lack of training in the principles of classical yoga of the teachers who attended Pranamanas. This made the transmission difficult and, just after having been a tutor regarding the tradition and the Yoga sūtra, I decided to launch myself to fill that gap by offering my first training courses for teachers. I consider that it is an essential and necessary base for the exercise of the profession, whether in a group and -especially- if it is individual.

In your opinion, how important is it to integrate Yoga and Vedic chants in medicine to promote health?

An enormous importance. It is more than proven that yoga favors health in the body, the vital, the emotional, the psychological, the mental, the emotional ... I do not know anyone who does not feel good with yoga. Yoga is, in addition to many other things, a way of being and feeling good within and with yourself. And that is wellness and health. For me the Vedic chanting, the mantra, is the most powerful and healing tool of yoga -among other reasons, due to its obvious work on lengthening the exhalation- and I always include it in the practices: reciting Oṃ or śāntiḥ or short mantras to the sun, the moon or other aspects in group and individual practices, as a resource in yoga therapy practices and with listening to a mantra in the final part and, for students who study them in depth, I prescribe the chanting of some mantras as part of their sādhana.

How popular is using Yoga as therapy in Spain?

Well, we are still opening a niche. In Spain, the situation with yoga is curious: in the 70s, 80s, 90s and the first decade of the 2000s there were great trainers -many of them active- but, as of 2010 -surely before and influenced by the North American dynamics- they began to proliferate formations endorsed by foreign associations that with a duration of 200, 300 or 500h placed teachers in the market, teachers who obviously had no time to carry out a vital transformation process consistent enough to guide another. And these people have set out to teach others in even shorter formations.

On the other hand, yoga federations formalized the trainings to be official, framing them in 550h and within the pre-university level sports field. A nonsense, from my point of view, because it contributed to relate yoga only with the body. The result is an excessive number of teachers who are not truly trained and a very small number of solvent trainers with little visibility.

This situation influences the conception of yoga in Spain: we have gone from yoga for older ladies of the 80s or 90s to yoga for young acrobats in their 20s today. So many people no longer approach group yoga because they do not feel within that target unless they are lucky enough to find a teacher who does know how to adapt yoga to the needs of their group.

With this panorama, yoga therapy is reduced to a small number of people who are a mix between group students who take the step individually to deepen, people who feel they have no place in the group due to personal circumstances (shyness, obesity, functional diversity ...) or, as in my case, yoga teachers who seek a personal practice and with their mouths bring others.

Arantxa Corrales, extreme Right

Why have we strayed away from the concept of classical Yoga? Why has Yoga been restricted to just asanas?

I think for sheer convenience. This western postmodernity is characterized by a very vata prakopa state of mind: little or not at all focused, full of anxiety, impatience, superficiality, dispersion, poor concentration, laziness, desire for immediate results ... and with a very deep disconnection or distortion with the spiritual. This cocktail causes few people to have the ability to develop significant kriya yoga (tapas-svādhyāya-īśvarapraṇidhāna) which is the basis of the path. If I am not able to practice the same practice for 20 or 30 days in a row, to give myself time to observe the process of change in mind and matter from the experience; if I am not able to sit and observe my breathing, recite a simple mantra, read Patañjali or the Gītā, study or be inspired by a sacred text; and if I am so identified with my little ego and its expressions (status, profession, possessions ...) as to surrender myself to the Life that crosses me at every moment ... where do I intend to go? What path do I intend to travel? What is the meaning of life?

I think that the difficulty of being able to practice these 3 simple and basic actions in our day to day is the reason for that superficial and incoherent yoga (which should not even be called yoga) triumphs and we forget the essentials. The question is: Do you want to be an instructor (or practitioner, it doesn't matter) of āsana or yoga? Yoga is much more than āsana. Yoga is an intimate, personal, silent, anonymous life experience, little by little, that gently at times and roughly at others reveals you, forges you, polishes you, moulds you ... to help you eliminate what you are not and that what you are emerges and for that it takes time, dedication and a lot of love. And when that happens you experience the discovery and consolidation in your true and unique nature, necessary for the cosmic order.

As a little poem I wrote years ago says:

Be the grain of sand that lives in the desert but knows that the desert lives in you.

Be the drop of water that resides in the vastness of the ocean but recognize that the vastness emerges from you.

Be the star that shines with its brilliance in the sky but lives that the sky is also you.

Concretion in dissolution, dissolution in concretion,

because One is All and All is the Same.

This is for me the yoga that allows you to taste the original essence and flavor.

Aran hasn’t been to India yet but she says, “Many years ago, a friend and Spanish teacher, Vicente Merlo, a great scholar and translator from Aurobindo, told me ‘Perhaps whoever carries the Kailash in his heart, does not need to physically make a pilgrimage to see it…’”