On the weekend 17 and 18 Nov over 75 teachers and students of yoga from all over Australia travelled to Yarraville Yoga Centre to attend a weekend workshop delivered by the much loved Indian Iyengar yoga teacher Father Joe Pereira.
Father Joe who is one of the world’s most highly qualified Iyengar Yoga teachers having studied with BK S Iyengar for 45 years is also an ordained catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Mumbai.
Father Joe’s main work is as the founder and Director of the Kripa Foundation, a charitable organisation dedicated to the treatment of those with alcohol and substance addiction and those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
Most of the Kripa Foundation’s clients are drawn from the slum areas of India’s cities and include children who have been making their way from a very young age by joining with tribes of their peers and living in extreme poverty without the loving support of family. Prior to the workshop classes we viewed a film on Friday evening documenting this work. The film “The Circle” by British filmmaker and yoga teacher Phillipa Frisby was recently awarded Best Documentary prize at the Delhi International Film Festival. It was a moving testament to the wonderful work of the Kripa Foundation.
Inspired by the dedicated lives and works of both Mother Theresa and BKS Iyengar, Father Joe shares his faith and the practice of yoga to help his patients recover a sense of ‘wholeness’ and ‘holiness’ in their lives. By reaching out and making himself available to children and adults afflicted with HIV and Hep C, and drug and alcohol addictions, he guides them on a path to wellness.
Through the practice of asana and pranayama, Father Joe shared his learned knowledge and spiritual wisdom, guiding us through a sequence of poses, to restore the homeostasis of the physical and physiological body. Strengthening the Immune system, soothing the Nervous system, nourishing the Endocrine system, nurturing the Cardio-respiratory system, cleansing gastrointestinal and urinary systems.
Sharing his humanity and humility, Father Joe showed us that by holding the poses for 3, 5 or 10 minutes, and maintaining a sense of quiet, a sense of restfulness, with alignment and balance, we can tap into the cellular level and a ‘remembered wellness’. By making our maximum our minimum, we can learn to surrender effort to grace, and an inner awakening.
Father Joe evokes the spirit of BKS Iyengar. He traverses effortlessly the fields of science, philosophy and faith, reconnecting us to our bodies, to our breath, and then beyond the body and the breath to the deeper sense of self that lies within each of us, the anandamaya kosa, or ‘original bliss’. He reminded us that without awareness and attention the practice becomes ritual, but with attention it becomes a spiritual journey where each asana is as a contemplative prayer.
It was a truly enriching weekend. Thank you Father Joe.