Today we speak with a Yogi, who has been practicing Yoga for almost 50 years, to tell us more about Yoga. Peter Bhakta Chuah has also been teaching Yoga since 2000 with the Ananda Marga Yoga Society but has since retired.
Why did you choose to learn Yoga?
“I was lost during my teenage years and I was searching for self-realisation. In 1974, I came across a Yoga teacher that helped me to fuel the inner desire to seek spirituality. But after two years of practice, I desired to meet the Master so I travelled to India to meet him.”
How much time did you spent in India with your Master?
“Baba (which means: He who is near and dear to you) knew my purpose of travel and gave me the name, Bhaktar, which means ‘He who is devoted to God’.
My first visit was for one month and subsequent visits were for about two weeks to a month, depending on the amount of leave I could take. I visited Baba annually for about 20 years until his departure in 1990.”
How has your life changed after learning Yoga?“Yoga has changed my life. I studied production engineering in polytechnic but I gave up my diploma because I went to India to meet Baba. After that, I enlisted in the army, joined the Air Force and got into aeronautical engineering instead. I have no regrets and am very contented with my life. ”
Is there any religious context to yoga?
“Yoga is a way of life and everything can be explained scientifically. You can practice Yoga if you’re religious; we have many practitioners who have different religions. Our mind is designed to think of something.
Yoga helps you to calm you down, by training the mind to have a singular thought. Many people are afraid to meditate because they believe that ‘an empty mind is a devil’s workshop’. Meditation is thinking of one thing at a time.”
What advice would you give to your younger self?
“To the teenage me: Whatever you want to go for, just go for it. If you don’t jump on the opportunities, you will never know.
To the adult me: Please adjust the idealistic and realistic balance, why can a teenager be so idealistic?”
What is your advice to those who want to learn Yoga?
“There’s a saying in Yoga: When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
You can join classes offered by society as they teach authentic classical yoga that shares the true essence of yoga that will help you to progress spiritually.
Most of the commercial gyms and studios, offer only the physical aspect of Yoga. You can start with these physical exercises but you need to start searching to progress spiritually into the essence of Yoga later. Do join a community so you can share knowledge and this community can be your support group.”
How long does one need to practice before someone can become a master?
“There is no timeframe and only egocentric people will name themselves as masters. As you develop your practice, the ego becomes smaller and you no longer become self-centered.
There is no fixed duration of practice as it is up to individuals; I practice twice a day. There is also no syllabus after you progress as it depends on your own practice to self-realization.”
After speaking with Peter, it is easy to see the difference between commercial gyms and the sessions I had in Nepal. There are also many teachers who teach freelance (and move around gyms) so it comes down to what form of Yoga you are looking for. As long as you keep developing your practice, progress spiritually, and most importantly, enjoy the journey of self-discovery.