Paul’s Yoga Journey – As a Student, Teacher, Chanter & Pilgrim

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1. Paul’s Journey as a Student and Teacher
2. Paul’s Journey as a Chanter
3. Paul’s Journey as a Pilgrim

1. Paul Harvey’s Studentship and Teaching Background

Paul Harvey has been a student and teacher of the personalised application of Yoga, as well as other Indian traditions such as Vedic Chant, Sāṃkhya, Yoga SūtraBhagavad Gītā and Āyurveda lifestyle skills for over five decades. Undertaking a personal inquiry into formal Yoga practice in 1971, he began meeting teachers and exploring the practice and theory of Āsana, Prāṇāyāma and Dhyāna.

Following this, he met and commenced personal lessons in the UK with TKV Desikachar’s former student Ian Rawlinson in Spring 1974. Through Ian, he also worked in Seminars with Desikachar’s leading Western students Claude Maréchal in 1975 and Francois Lorin in 1976 and 1977. However it was when Paul met and worked in England with his root teacher TKV Desikachar in 1976 and again in 1978 studied in Switzerland with both TKV Desikachar and his younger brother TK Sribashyam, that he realised the deeper potential of Yoga through the approach of their father and teacher the eminent T Krishnamacharya.

This led in 1979, after a formal request and acceptance by Desikachar as a pupil immediately following that first meeting in 1976, to a two-year residence in South India studying and practising within the traditional setting of teacher and apprentice pupil meeting together one to one. During this prolonged stay in Madras (as it was called then) he studied in depth many aspects of Yoga practice, as well as a detailed exploration of important Yoga and Hindu Texts, along with other facets of the primary Indian traditions.

This was both directly under his teacher and through his guidance and recommendation with other students of T Krishnamacharya, namely S Ramaswami, one of the founding trustees of the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram and AG Mohan, a Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram co-founder and its Honorary Secretary for 23 years, as well as Desikachar’s own students in India including R Prabhakar, Indra Mohan, Raghu Ananthanarayanan, TM Mukundan and AV Balasubramanian. Returning to the UK in 1981 Paul started a Centre for Yoga Studies to help develop study and training options in the UK. Its aim was the commitment to the spirit of the teachings from TKV Desikachar as received from his teacher and father T Krishnamacharya.

Paul travelled to South India over 30 times between 1979 and 2002, deepening his individual studies with Desikachar in the fields of Yoga Practice, Theory and texts, with the inclusions of Saṃskṛta, Chanting, Mantra, Āyurveda Pulse Diagnosis and Yoga Cikitsā (Therapeutic Healthcare). Plus lessons on Āyurveda philosophy and application with KS Viswanatha Sarma, the Principal at the Venkataramana Āyurveda College.

In addition, he led some seven study groups to Chennai for special study group meetings with Desikachar and to experience the teaching and Yoga therapy work at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram.

To complement his Eastern studies with his teacher and to examine the root influences within his own psychological background and upbringing, Paul undertook Foundation Courses in Focusing in 1985, Core Process Psychotherapy in 1986 and NLP in 1987 before going on in 1988 to complete a four-year training with the Centre for Transpersonal Psychology as a psychotherapist and workshop facilitator. This and his teacher’s support for Paul‘s interest in both Eastern and Western approaches to philosophical psychology as a practice for life has enabled a further dimension in exploring how to better understand and integrate the Yoga teachings from the culture and attitudes of the East with the beliefs, culture and attitudes of the West today.

Between returning to India and establishing a teaching practice in the UK he developed a six-year study and training programme. The Programme extended across all aspects of Yoga, including Āsana, Prāṇāyāma and Dhyāna, Chanting, Āyurveda and a detailed study of the primary Yoga text, the Yoga Sūtra, as well as an overview of other important Yoga texts such as the Yoga Rahasya, Yoga Yājñavalkhya and the Haṭha Pradīpikā. This is complemented by appreciating traditional Indian teachings such as the Upaniṣad, Bhagavad Gītā, Saṃkhyā Kārikā and other texts informing the application of Yoga practice and theory.

Paul hosted five teaching visits by TKV Desikachar to the UK in 1992, 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2000. Paul also travelled to many other countries in Europe, as well as the US, to participate in open seminars with Desikachar as a student, or as a support teacher, or to participate in private meetings with Desikachar, along with other of his long-term personal Western students.

He has led his own workshops, seminars and training courses in the UK for many years. He has also been invited to teach in a number of countries within Europe, as well as Canada, and the US and many visits over 25 years of teaching in Israel. As Paul journeyed as a teacher, rather than having an organisational structure he preferred to teach more as part of an informal global community of Yoga teachers and schools arising from nearly 40 years of training under T Krishnamacharya’s students, especially TKV Desikachar and his students in India, Europe and North America.

From 2010 Paul’s continuing journey as a student of Yoga, his Dharma as a Yoga teacher and his feeling for expressing the spirit of his teacher’s message, became more fulfilling within the space that only a simpler, smaller and even more personal practice and teaching environment could offer.

Plus he also found himself needing to have more time to further develop his writing and curating work whilst transcribing his decades of study and practice notes into the open-source resource domain facilitated by his website. As well as continuing to focus on Yoga teaching as a personalised training of students, rather than of teachers through Individual Lessons and Small Practice and Textual Study Groups from his home studio.

This phase completes a full return to the roots of the Paramparā that Śrī T Krishnamacharya used when teaching from his home to his adult students such as TKV Desikachar, Srivatsa Ramaswami, AG Mohan, etc. Namely offering each student an individualised studentship in Yoga Practice and if relevant, into Yoga Teaching through Personal Yoga lessons and Small Study Groups. This also reflects the process Paul himself undertook with his teacher at his home in Chennai from 1979-2002.

2. The Art of Veda Mantra and Yoga Chanting

Paul was taught the Art of Veda and Tantra Mantra, Indian Textual Chanting and Yoga Sūtra Chanting as a personal Sādhana through one-to-one lessons with TKV Desikachar over 20 years. As well as studying Chanting, he also studied Indian singing through one-to-one lessons in Chennai within both the Carnatic and Hindustani music systems for 5 years.

Originally it was during Pauls’s continuing visits to study the Arts and Practices of Yoga from 1979 with Desikachar in India that he became exposed to the Art of Sound, Veda Mantra and Yoga Sūtra Chanting. It was taught by his teacher both as a method of transmission for sacred texts and teachings and as a personalised Sādhana through which one can become deeply focused, as well as facilitating access to the profundity of an experience of the Sacred.

This experience and the other benefits, such as deepening confidence in the message of the heart, improvements in memory through the teaching and learning processes, and confidence and power arising in the sound of our own voice, led Paul in 1985 to begin nearly 20 years of personal study with his teacher.

Though having had no prior training in singing, the use of the voice, in Western or Eastern music or ever having played a musical instrument, Paul began a formal study and practice of the art of Veda Mantra and Yoga Sūtra Chanting. Meeting within the traditional 121 setting of teacher and student, the Mantra or Sūtra would be taught through the ancient method of personal transmission through working individually and privately with the teacher.

Desikachar and Paul Chanting in 1999

This involved refining the art of listening by repeating what was heard, traditionally two or three times, until it exactly matched what was being chanted. Learning primarily under his teacher and, through his guidance and recommendation for Veda Mantra and Yoga Sūtra Chant material, also working within additional 121 lessons with Desikachar’s own senior-most Chanting students including Sujaya Sridhar and Desikachar’s wife Menaka Desikachar.

Paul further explored voice work in the West with some of the leading proponents of Indian Rāga singing and movement fusion group workshops, as well as one-to-one Indian Rāga vocal skills lessons. Through these many resources, explored to refine his relationship with Veda and Yoga Sūtra Chanting, Paul’s interest in this ancient art and practice flourished.

However, as with any aspect of the Viniyoga of learning, it is only through personal transmission within 121 lessons that the individual student’s chanting needs can be truly met in terms of Saṃskṛta pronouncing, musical pitch, Saṃskṛta timing, vocal strength, ones ability to sustain a note and maintain continuity of breath and sound.

Plus, 121 lessons support the longer-term aspect of cultivating, maintaining and refining one’s learning of chant as a personalised and Sacred Sādhana. A process possible with the help of a careful methodology, a student committed to a personal Chanting Sādhana and a persistent teacher. From this slow beginning, Paul began to teach the Art of Sound, Veda Mantra and Yoga Sūtra Chanting in the West from 1986.

As interest in the practice of Chanting grew in the UK, with it also arose a blurring of the boundaries between Yoga and the Hindu religion. Thus a distinction between Yoga teachings and practice and the Hindu religious practice of Veda Mantra Chanting was established in 1999, at the personal request of TKV Desikachar to Paul and other of Desikachar’s senior pupils around the world, and Veda Mantra was taught separately from the teaching of the Yoga.

This was both in order to clarify the confusing boundaries appearing between Yoga teachings and practices and the Indian religious practices within which Veda Mantra Chanting resides, as well as to offer Veda Mantra Chanting as a specialised reflective and meditative personal Sādhana for all interested in this ancient Indian spiritual tradition.

This distinction was only around the Hindu religious implications within chanting the Veda, rather than all chanting practices, such as Yoga Sūtra or Tantra Mantra Chanting. Thus the area of Veda Mantra Chanting was taught separately from Yoga Sūtra and other Chanting, which were included within other Yoga practice and study areas.

Paul’s focus these days continues to be on the personal transmission of Chanting through offering Live and Online 121 lessons for the refinement of core practice skills progressing towards an Online eModule One or Small Group Module One on Yoga or Veda Chanting as a Sacred Sādhana.  This can lead to the two routes of Yoga Sūtra Chant Module Two Courses and Veda Mantra Chant Module Two Courses working with small groups with a maximum of five students.

3. The Art of Personal Yatra or Spiritual Journeys

Paul’s interest in the transformative symbolism inherent within personal journeys developed from his initial experiences when he first travelled to India in 1979 to study Yoga with his teacher. During the two-year stay in his first visit as a formal pupil of TKV Desikachar the need to have some respite from the extreme summer heat in South India led to travels around North India including the Punjab and Kashmir and especially the Himalayas.

Over the following two decades, in addition to his personal study stays and leading seven Practitioner group study visits to Chennai, Paul made a number of special pilgrimages to explore India’s rich tapestry of Sacred Geography by travelling extensively in North India, Nepal and Tibet visiting Holy towns and Spiritual Centres in the Hindu, Sikh and Tibetan Buddhist traditions, following Sacred Paths to Sacred Sites.

Source of the Ganges 1993In 1993 he travelled to the source of the Ganges. This was followed by further visits in 1998 and 2000 to all the other primary sources of the Ganges, known as the Char Dham or the four sacred points. Each of these four sources eventually merges into what becomes the river Ganges and is signified by a sacred temple high up in the Himālaya mountains. They are considered some of the most revered sacred Yatra points in the Indian spiritual geography.

Mount kailash and Lake manasarovarThese visits to India were complemented by a pilgrimage to Tibet in 1995 with a group including Dr Robert Svoboda, to make a Parikrama (sacred circumambulation) around Mount Kailash walking up to 18,600 feet and visiting the sacred Lake Manasarovar at 15,000 feet.

Paul also travelled to North India in 2000 with his teacher TKV Desikachar, his wife Meneka and senior student Sonia Nelson to Badrinath, said to be the most important of the four sites in India’s Char Dham pilgrimage.

Badrinath was said to be a favourite pilgrimage place of T Krishnamacharya especially when he lived and studied with his Yoga Teacher Yogeswarar Rama Mohana Brahmacharya, most likely on the banks of the Gandaki River in Mustang in the early part of the 20th century.

kedarnathIn 2001 (Click for Link to Picture Gallery from this Journey) Paul led his first ‘Personal Journey’ group to the Himālaya with family, friends and students to undertake a Yatra to ascend five sacred mountains to five sacred temples known as the Pañca Kedar from a story in the Mahābhārata in the events following the final battle. They embarked in the Garhwal district of the Himālaya to visit the sacred sites of Śiva as depicted in myths around the Mahābhārata. This particular sacred journey myth is based around the five Pāṇḍava brothers attempt to seek atonement for the Gotrahatya (killing of kinsmen) and Brāhmanahatya (killing of Brahmins) they had just committed during the war.

Further group journeys were planned to sacred sources and sites of rivers, mountains and temples. However, the need to just travel lightly and freely to these sacred places, many of which he had not been to yet, has become the greater priority. Whilst appreciating the community and shared experience offered within a group, travelling lightly with only a small backpack offers the type of nourishment that coordinating groups around India’s Holy places cannot. So Paul decided not to put together any more groups preferring to have the freedom to spontaneously undertake Yatra to sacred sites as and when he wishes.

Meanwhile, much gratitude for all the interest from website visitors, as well as for the continued support from students, especially those who have become Dharma friends. Best wishes for all in your journey towards Svatantra. May your Yoga Sādhana nourish the light within, albeit within the turbulent and conflict riddled Worldscape that continues to shadow us as we transit through 2024.