Special guest, Raji Thron, shares stories from his life lived in the pursuit of yoga. Raji is full of interesting tales of adventure from his birth in India that started him on the path of yoga.
During this conversation he speaks about:
- Living in an India as a youth.
- What was the state of yoga in Boulder in the 70”s and 80’s?
- Making the decision to become a yogi.
- How he met Richard Freeman?
- Falling in love with ashtanga.
- Guru Barometer and respect for elders.
- Reframing the guru/ yogi dynamic.
- The rise and fall of John Friend.
Raji is the co-owner of Yoga Synthesis studios and Program Director of YS Teacher Trainings, which since its inception in 1999 has had hundreds of graduates who have earned certifications. He is registered with Yoga Alliance as a E-RYT 500, lead trainer and continuing education provider and certified through International Association of Yoga Therapists (CIAYT) as a Yoga therapist.
Visit Raji at his website: https://www.yogasynthesis.com
Also on his personal website: https://www.rajithron.com
Follow him on Instagram @yogasynthesis : https://www.instagram.com/yogasynthesis/?hl=en
Welcome to Native Yoga Toddcast. My name is Todd McLaughlin. I have the pleasure of bringing Raji Thron to the podcast today. And Raji is the founder and co director of Yoga Synthesis in Ramsey, New Jersey, which was founded in 1999. Please visit his website, yogasynthesis.com. And you can also check out his personal website Rajithron.com. And I had a really incredible discussion with Raji, I’m so excited for you to hear this. And he’s got a very rich and vast history of personal practice experience with yoga and the world of yoga. And I’ve heard amazing things about Raji years ago from a student that came and visited and I happened upon his website. And I thought, I wonder if this is the Raji that my friend Tim was talking about? And it is! All right. I’ll let him speak for himself here. Let’s get started.
I’m so excited to have Raji Thron here today with me. Raji, thank you so much for joining me. How are you doing today?
Listen to the full episode for free here.
I’m great. Thanks.
Just to get started here, you’re in New Jersey. Is that correct?
Well, actually, yeah, we live just over the border in New York.
Rockland County. So pretty much like Northern New Jersey, it feels the same.
Yeah, I bet. I bet I hear you. And you have a yoga studio called Yoga Synthesis. Right?
Yeah in Ramsey, New Jersey.
Wonderful. I feel like somewhere along the way, someone has come in to our studio and told me about you before. And I feel like I’ve heard about you over the years. The way that I found your website actually was I had purchased that an anatomy coloring book by I believe…. a woman that may have practiced or taught for you at your studio.
Yes, she was one of our main teachers for a while.
And in the process of looking to see like, where she was, I found your website. When I saw your bio, and I was like, Wow, he looks really interesting. You have a really rich history of practice and teaching. So I’m excited to have this chance to ask you some questions about your yoga journey. On that note, can you give me a little bit of a historical perspective about how and when you started yoga practice?
Well, I guess I should go back to I was born in India, in Chandigarh, and my father was a mathematics professor. He was teaching at the university in Punjab, which is in northern India. So we traveled there on a number of occasions. And the time I first learned yoga was when I turned 12. And we were living in San Diego at the time.
And so then coming back to the United States, I kind of got into it and got really hooked. This is like mid 70s.
That’s the short answer.
That’s the short answer. That’s good. That paints a really cool picture. You learned yoga in India at the age of 12! What an incredible age to have such a eyes opening experience.
And then you find what type of yoga class or yoga teacher experience? What was that like?
Well, in India, I studied with an old man. He was actually in his 80s. He was a friend or our family. And he, he passed away that year. And so it was what I would call a classical hatha yoga practice. And it was a very kind of intense time, as you might imagine, for me, coming from Boulder, Colorado, where we lived, where I grew up, when went back to there. That’s where my dad, you know, was teaching, was a professor. So basically, the teaching that I got from my teacher there was when I turned 12. By the way, his name was Yogendra Paul, which is kind of wild.
Yogendra Paul Yogananda. Paul. So he
was he was a yogi named Yoginder. Yeah. He was an older man, and he taught me just basic, hatha yoga. Let’s just say, that’s what I call a classical hatha yoga. Now, I know not everyone uses that terminology. I like to use that. Because, you know, when you have kind of the standard form that you might see in India, it’s not Ashtanga. It’s not Ashtanga vinyasa anyway. And it’s not Iyengar. And it’s just, you go to any town, any village, you’re gonna find yoga that has a certain in the way it’s kind of come to the modern world, modern yoga, modern India. It’s what I would call a classical hatha yoga.
Can you paint a picture what a practice session with him would look like then? I’m guessing classical positions, such as like a triangle?
Yeah. classical sense. Fluid is different from the Ashtanga sense. You’re probably familiar with that, like stepping back, going to cobra, upward dog. And then stepping into the lunge. You know that whole form? And then classical poses. Really actually, in the beginning, it was way less standing poses. And more just sitting, you know, doing forward bends, twists, and hip openers, some back bends, and inversions was covering a framework of these basic poses. But I mean, at the time, I was really young.
So did he try to impart any information regarding theory or philosophy?
Interestingly, after he passed, I was still living in India for a little while before we moved back to the United States. And so, I mean, he was less philosophically oriented. He was definitely oriented in a certain way, telling me about Mahatma Gandhi, and like Indian saints, and that sort of thing. Yeah. Then I met a younger man, whose name was Surindir who was a Sikh member in Punjab in India. Those are names of a lot of Sikhs. So, this guy was definitely a major influence on me philosophically. He was actually a cricket player at the university, you know, being in shape and he wasn’t doing so much yoga per se, but he did all kinds of exercise and we’d sit and he would talk to me about basically the reality of existence. And you know, how and you know, being 12 years old, is definitely it was a shaking up, transformational time for me, because there I was having come from, you know, being in this very, kind of like, what would you call it upper middle class kind of situation and maybe middle class, whatever you call it, professorial? Yes, University, you know, yeah. And going living in India, and the first time I ever really saw poverty, and, you know, living at a standard of living that was much lower than I was used to. Sleeping on cots with, with a concrete floor. Yeah. And just the whole, the whole thing of seeing India. I could look over the wall from where we lived. And, you know, there were shards of glass on the top of the wall, right. And on the other side was a slum. I could see it from our balcony, and I’d see these people like, basically living right there. So for me, there was this whole interesting Awakening on so many different levels, you know, to really the blessings of life. Knowing that life can be hard. Yeah. You know, and it’s like, how do we learn to relate, personally and collectively, to this, this existence, this human existence? So there’s a lot of conversation I was having with Surindir. Questions like why is this happening? Why are people living like this? You know, yeah.
So did he have an answer for you? Did he offer you any more insight?
It was really into how he personally had gone off to travel around India. And he was like, he was in his 20s. And he said, he left home, he traveled around India. And that’s why he was so kind of philosophically inclined. Yeah. And he is like, yeah, you know, you get out there and you see what’s going on. And it makes you realize certain things like being a wandering Sadhu, you know, yes, you go. I think this is, this is part of what yoga, you know, in a way, the essence pointing to the essence of it is to let go of all these outer trappings. Yeah, this holding on to sit really almost anything at a certain point, you know, yeah. But, I mean, we do love our creature comforts. Yeah, it’s still, it’s definitely you know, there’s a certain pointing towards, you know, austerity are asceticism. And, for me at the time, I was questions like, What are you? So then, you know, actually, as I got further along, I realized, you know, what, what the implication was, and even now, I’m still still trying to, you know, integrate. I don’t know, I’m not sure if I’m giving you the nutshell of it very clearly. But it’s, it’s, it’s really a lot of different aspects.
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