In conversation with Mystic Yogi, Zamir Dhanji

House of Ascend collaborates once again with Zamir Dhanji for a weekly online course, “Inner Path Yoga” 

"An Inner Path class is not your regular yoga session; it’s an integrated practice that educates body, mind and soul through Hatha flows, yoga philosophy and simple techniques that develop your inner potential.- Zamir Dhanji

Each 1.5 hour class is themed using yoga concepts from the Inner Path Deck (mysticyogi.com/innerpath), insights from science and psychology, and one of the seven moving principles of practice as taught by Donna Farhi. Each class will feature one of these principles — Breathe, Yield, Radiate, Center, Support, Align and Engage — which will be explained through a guided exercise, and then integrated into the postures that follow. The aim of the principles is to help you become your own teacher; once you understand how to move and feel in your own body, you will find functional alignment and greater mental and physical benefits from your practice.

Some playful elements such as stories, mini-dances and heart-centered breakout groups may happen on occasion, so you can look forward to that!

HOA speaks to Zamir ahead of the course to get a clearer picture of the Inner Path, his 26 card deck and his contemporary approach to the ancient teachings of yoga.  

Hi Zamir, thank you for sharing your practice with us once again. What was your inspiration behind developing the Inner Path? 

The Inner Path is not specifically something I have developed. It is said that the paths are many, the goal is One. The Inner Path refers to the archetypal journey taken by every seeker who seeks to know the Source of existence, to know themselves. For thousands of years, shamans, mystics and yogis have sought the truth, ultimately they discovered it by going within - each had to walk the Inner Path. 

Can you tell us more about the 26 card yoga education tool and how it has helped you in your own journey?

As a student of yoga, I spent many years studying the philosophical and mystical knowledge of the ancients. I had to read many books, often difficult to find and quite dense, and find a way to actualise these teachings in my practice. Fortunately I met a spiritual Master, Wisdom Master Maticintin - with whom I've studied for almost a decade - that has helped me see how to apply the teachings in life. While I didn't specifically study the classical yoga of Patanjali from her, as a Buddhist master the core teachings are fundamentally the same, as Buddha himself was a great Raja Yogi. 

When I began to teach yoga, especially as a teacher trainer for Langara College, I noticed how challenging it was to impart the yoga teachings to people with a western cultural background and little exposure to spiritual philosophy. It felt like so much groundwork was needed and many of the teachings of the yoga sutras can only be verified and appreciated once you become a practitioner of meditation. 

It's like someone trying to understand sacred geometry without any knowledge of fractals - you don't need to know the math to appreciate the beauty of the image, but if you want to create with it you have to learn about fractals...then a whole world opens up to you.  

The question became "how can I help people develop a foundation and then begin a genuine yoga practice so that the inner limbs of yoga become available to them to work with?" This led me to develop the Inner Path Yoga Philosophy practice deck. 

In terms of how I've benefited, it is often said that if you really want to learn something your should teach it. In the process of creating the deck I've had to test my own understanding of the concepts, refine my knowledge and translate this into simple and relevant examples and practices. Now as I build classes and courses based on the cards, I'm using my daily practice to make truly innovative teachings methods to bring this knowledge to students. 

Your course invites students to find natural alignment by educating the body to follow universal movement patterns. Can you further clarify what you mean by “universal movement patterns”?

This understanding of universal movement patterns was introduced to me through Tai Chi, which I was lucky to be exposed to at a young age. The most fundamental of these is the relationship between yin and yang : expansion-contraction, rise-fall, weight-levity, push-pull. The interplay of these energies in our body and mind make up universal patterns that allow us to move with grace, power and expressiveness. In Tai Chi there are internal movement patterns that are applied eg. rooting, uniting lower and upper body, circularity, and external rules that are followed to align with them.

When it came to doing yoga asana, I intuited that these patterns were present, but it wasn't until I encountered the work of Donna Farhi that it all started to click. Her seven moving principles of practice really make the practice of yoga asana a kind of internal dance with many layers of complexity that help us to find functional alignment in our poses. The more they are internalised, the more the natural intelligence of the body starts to emerge and there is less need for an external teacher...it awakens the somatic intelligence within you. 

Different movement principles apply more significantly in different categories of asana i.e. standing postures, sitting postures, bending postures and inversions. However, once you know the movement principles you can use them to help you assume and align through any range of the asana.

You also incorporate insights from science and psychology in teaching yoga. How has these modern leanings complemented or supported the wisdom you have gained from the much more ancient system of yoga?

Well, this is interesting because science and psychology is a continuum of knowledge and practice over thousands of years. Yoga excelled within a certain dimension of this continuum (unless you subscribe to the increasingly substantiated claims that some ancient civilisations had some advanced technology exceeding our current capabilities). Patanjali and Buddha are unsurpassed psychologists even to this day, yet their psychology leads us from the sub-conscious to the superconscious realms. Modern psychology is more pre-occupied with the sub-conscious, unconscious and collective unconscious. While there is a growth in positive psychology and human potential research - with the science of flow states dovetailing with yogic knowledge - they cannot compare with the depths of Eastern esoteric knowledge and inner sciences.

Yet, what I deem most important is what's needed now. The world today is characterised by many generations of trauma - driven by war, economic  exploitation, cultural poverty and unconscious parenting - and for those seeking to expand their consciousness and elevate, we must also deal with the material in the basement...all that has been suppressed in us. Modern psychotherapy, somatic psychology and other trauma-informed practices can help us to navigate the wounds that we carry and bring them to the surface for healing. 

An example of this is the work of Dr. Gabor Mate. Having just completed a year-long certification in his modality, Compassionate Inquiry, I find myself far more capable to understand and relate to what lies behind the appearance I/we present to the world and drill down to the core stories we are telling ourselves. Using Compassionate Inquiry, both the individual and therapist unveil the level of consciousness, mental climate, hidden assumptions, implicit memories and body states that form the real message that words both express and conceal.

I think it's obvious how helpful this is for a seeker of truth, which is what the practice of yoga is really about. 

Can you share your thoughts about the paradigm shift that we’re currently experiencing as a collective consciousness?

The word paradigm was really popularised by Thomas Kuhn's "Structure of Scientific Revolutions". In essence, what he showed was how our systems of knowledge and inquiry are deeply influenced by prevailing assumptions of how the world works and how we should relate. Galilieo, Newton, Einstein - all of these individuals played an enormous role in shaping our view of humans and the universe, from the macrocosm to the microcosm, completely changing the scientific paradigm of the time. Starting from the period of the enlightenment, this became the most enduring source of progress and allowed science to really flourish.

Now we are discovering that scientific progress has made life more convenient but not necessarily happier. The explosion in mindfulness has revealed that humans are scrambling to find some semblance of peace and sanity in a world that is moving too fast, driven by an invisible force that seems to be devouring our energy and attention while leaving us empty in the end. Look at the degree of social unrest happening in the world today - the world is out of balance. 

The current paradigm shift you are speaking of is a growing recognition of the philosophical, cultural and scientific knowledge systems that will bring us back into balance. The science and culture of indigenous and oriental peoples have become relevant again, and a holistic view of the world is starting to emerge. These systems speak of the interconnectedness of life with the primacy of consciousness in the construction or reality - all of which are being corroborated by modern science.

We're all part of a magnificent, evolving universe that is more like a play, or a dance, then a purposeless machine. The purpose of life seems to be the expression of the virtues of the Spirit, the evolution of consciousness that transcends and includes all life-forms, and the creative frequencies of the cosmos to which human beings have unique access as self-aware beings.

We need education to help this happen, especially now. The more we move towards artificial intelligence, the more pressing the need to activate and cultivate our spiritual and creative intelligence to manage and enjoy our technology...the alternative is scary. This must also be accompanied by the return to a more simple and natural life connected with the earth. I feel this is part of the paradigm shift that is occurring and it largely influences my work and contribution to the world. 

If you’re being called to explore your realms within, join Zamir and our family of international seekers online for the Inner Path course. 

When: Saturdays 10:00 am SGT

Class Starts: June 13th - July 25th

Level: 1+ year of yoga experience

Platform: Zoom

Investment : $20 drop-in or 1 session from package

Class is limited to 20 students to ensure adequate attention is given to each participant. You will be monitored and supported through the class, with verbal adjustments suggested. Spaces are limited so once you have paid for the class, you will receive an email with the Zoom Link for the upcoming class. Book your virtual spot here!

Written by Izzy Liyana, content creator & writer for HOA