Continuing Education Training
Pranayama: Practice and Teaching with Paul Dallaghan
August 1 - 21, 2010. Review by Elonne Stockton
What would you think if I were to tell you that your intestines are outside your body? Your gastrointestinal tract is actually a hollow tube . . . Someone with a lot of mirrors could look into your mouth and see out your anus. I think it is called astronomy or something.
We all knew we were witnessing something special. Everyone attending Paul’s first advanced pranayama course understood that this was something unique. It was not only the first course of its kind, but it was taught by a teacher with a perspective all his own.
Pranayama has been around for a long time, but the forms of it that we know today have taken some time to develop. Today we have the rich tradition of Pranayama to work with, but we are trying to figure it out in terms of modern physiology and its effect on our lives. It has to have some impact on who we are and how we live, otherwise we would wonder, ‘Why the hell am I doing this?’
Paul has the ability to distill the rich history of pranayama and Hatha Yoga into a modern framework. And because Paul is someone with an exceptionally deep practice and the ability to communicate his understanding of the practice with others, combined with a keen sense of humor and a sharp wit, his gift to his students is not only practical and accessible, but something infinitely palatable and enjoyable as well.
People with advanced practices often become disconnected from the world around them. Not Paul. Paul stays in touch with modern society and life, and he understands the impact of modern life on everything we do, on how we live, how we breathe. He sees how our failed coping mechanisms lead to disease and suffering. And from his teaching experiences around the world, he’s seen the same patterns of improper breathing everywhere.
While Paul listens to students, he remains removed from other people’s drama. Instead, he gives everyone tools to help pull them over the ocean of samsara they are drowning in. It is always up to the student to do the work that needs to be done. By giving people the invaluable tool of pranayama, he empowers a sense of fortitude and calm. He also offers other teachers the skills to provide their students with the same tools, so that the effect is far-reaching, so that these practices can find an ever broader audience.
One of the things that makes Paul such a good teacher is that he is very much in this world. He deals with the same things we all do. He continues to work on himself as we all do, and because of that he has to ability to relate to the human condition. But like a lotus flower, he manages to float slightly above it all, unaffected in any real sense. And the example he sets for the rest of us is how to rise above.
I once told Paul I admired him for wanting to help people, and he said I don’t want to help anyone. He went on to explain what he meant, which was that it wasn’t his intention to try to save the world. He simply was working for Mother and doing what needed to be done, doing the right thing at the right time, what was meant for him to do.
This advanced pranayama course is a perfect example of Paul’s teaching precept. He never set out with an attitude of I am going to save everyone. Instead, he sees an opportunity to be of some service, a chance to shine some light on a misunderstood subject, a greater capacity to reach people. And he takes it on. Head on. Without flinching.
Because, as he said, There is no possibility of great selfless service, great help without having awakened something, without having channeled our energy. Without having channeled our energy, our effort to help is always tainted with our selfishness and desires, with our attachment to the outcome, our wanting things to go a certain way. Even if we are working on ourselves and we are trying to stay detached from this, maybe starting by working with an element of sacrifice even, there will always be an element of selfishness involved. Until we channel our energy through the practices.
The hallmark of the course was not only Paul’s expertise on pranayama and respiration but also his vast knowledge of the digestive system and the kriyas, all colored by Paul’s wacky sense of humor. Here is an example of what I am talking about:
If you increase the intestinal flora, you will notice the consistency and fullness of your bowel movement. Who’s had a good bowel movement around here? Imagine having one every day. And it is your birthright! Have you ever seen what comes out of a small child? Bloody hell! It is amazing what comes out of them, because it is a healthy, working system.
A student in our last teacher training asked Paul which advanced pranayama course they should come back for, the one with Tiwari, or the one with him. And he said Tiwari is my teacher, so of course I will always tell you to come for that. Don’t come for me.
While I will tell you to definitely come for Tiwari, I will also tell you that you are in for a real treat if you come for Paul’s advanced pranayama course. And really it is not fair to even compare the two. Tiwari is Tiwari. Enough said. But the perspective you get from Paul you can get from no other teacher.