Yoga in Indonesia has the opportunity to chat with Yuddhi Widdyantoro, the founder of YOGA GEMBIRA. A Yoga community in the park that holds the motto of Beryoga, Bergembira, Berilmu dan Beramal (Yoga, Happy, Knowledge and Charity). Let's get to know him and find out what his vision and mission are and also his personal message to all yoga practitioners in Indonesia.
Q. How did you find yoga and what does yoga mean to you?
YW: Back to 1980’s when i always felt sick physically and mentally. I also suffered from liver disease , very bad migraine and insomnia. I was temperamental, a negative thinker and was always in conflict with people who were not on the same path with me. My credo was “people against state” because i had good relations with NGO activists. Furthermore i felt like the government was horrible and must be resisted.
I had spiritual crisis and always quetioned the existence of God and if He really is fair, because i saw many contradictions between what i’ve heard from the preech of religious leaders and the reality amongs the society where i was living at that time. The attitude of the people who were acting like they were chosen to be servants of God did not reflect any social piety and many more like the thoughts of Feurbach and Karl Marx.
If you watch Robert De Niro at the movie Taxi Driver i went though the same kind of thing like the movie character, always out at night, thick books, reading under the street light and always tried to think about the ideal country, like how Plato thought about state policy or like Zarathrustra of Nietzche.
Back in High School i was very much involved in juvenile deliquance, i often skipped school, partied at discotheque, smoked pot and drank alcohol. There was one time when i skipped school and went to Sukabumi and had a motorcycle accident, i think that was the source of my migraine and insomnia.
I was raised in a condensed Javanese culture, my mother is a Moslem but my father always applied the Kejawen tradition and very superstitious, i was very close to my father and he talked a lot about kanuragan (supernatural martial art), metaphysical and Javanese cosmology. From being very familiar with the mystical world and sufism it finally took me to Merpati Putih self defence, Satria Nusantara and Susila Budhi Dharma that was very much related to Javanese culture.
When i was at Merpati Putih, i got to the point where i needed to have a very high concentration, i had to be able to read or find things blind folded. That got me thinking, meditation will support my practice and accomplish my goal, then i searched for a place where i can learn how to meditate. I went to Jawahahral Nehru Indian Cultral Center. At that time i knew nothing about yoga, my aim was only to learn how to meditate to increase my concentration level to achieve my goals at Merpati Putih. I then met Professor GD Sharma, an Indian teacher that asked me to join his class and his class was a yoga class. When i was there i met a friend who took me to the Krishnamurti reviewer group that talked a lot about “mind”. Taken from Yoga Sutra Patanjali, the definition of yoga is closer to meditation or yoga citta vriti nirodhah, yoga to stop a volatile mind.
How important yoga is for me? apart from the source of income, i owe so much to yoga in term of transformation. It’s a bit personal to tell, but if i can joke a little i can say that yoga is my religion because of two factors, belief and ritual. I feel yoga works for me, i feel healthier, fresher and sexier haha. I feel blessed, many of my friends from elementary, secondary and highschool have deceased and i am blessed to still be here.
Why it is like a ritual? Because there is no day without a yoga practice. I start my day with meditation, sitting, pranayama, couple rounds of suryanamaskar and headstand. That’s my ritual everyday.
Q. You are the founder of Yoga in The Park, Yoga Gembira. What inspire you to create Yoga Gembira
YW: There was one time when yoga in Indonesia faced a dark era, dark means when Malaysia announced that yoga was forbidden. MUI (Majelis Ulama Indonesia) was forced to ban Yoga like how it was in Malaysia. Even the decree was not formalized yet, a bad impact was clearly seen. Yoga classes was quiter than before, a friend of mine almost needed to shut down his studio because there was less interest in yoga. I was really upset by this, so to neutralize the situation i then created Yoga Gembira (yoga in the park).
My aim was to show that yoga is not something that is scary and yoga has the potential to unite people. Yoga means Union with other human beings and the nature.
I use the word “Gembira” (Happy) with the hope that people are happy doing yoga,and yes the activitiy are usually really fun, we pair everyone to assist each other in getting into “proper poses”, some people bring food to be shared after practice or we go for breakfast together.
I am thinking that a park is not something that was given. The park in the city are something that has to be fight for, so doing activity inside the city that is safe, comfortable, productive with an ecologic insight is a much needed activity. Practicing yoga in the park is like paying our debt to the nature because nature has inspired the phylosophy of life , back to the root with love and devotion.
Q. Yoga Gembira has become an icon, it’s a form of learning and giving, what are your future vision and mission?
YW: I have the faith that Yoga Gembira Community, Yoga in The Park can be a platform for amendments so for many people. With the donation system, this community has evolved to be a solid community. The fund from the donation that was collected is used for social and charity activities. This group has contributed well to the community. I hope i can also create a new perspective to the people who ban yoga. I want to change the way people think about yoga. Yoga does not make you convert to Hinduism, you do not have to be a vegan to be a yoga practitioner, yoga is not expensive, yoga does not always have to be done in a studio or a gym.
If we see a tree in a park, that looks like the journey of yoga, from the roots that can be paired with Yama, universal moral precept until Samadhi thatcan be exemplified like the fruits. Fruits are not only for the tree, but also for human and animal, so ideally the benefits of yoga that we practice can be beneficial to the people who are less fortunate than us, That is what i meant by “giving” I hope there will be more people practicing yoga in the park and look after the park at the same time.
Q. You just recently held Yoga Gembira Festival, can you tell us a little bit about it?
YW: We started by having the thought that the city is the main controller of the development of a country. City building gives a lot of opportunities for improvement in education, health, employment and other icon related to the prosperity of a nation. On the other hand city development causes traffic jam, polution and other problem due to the spatial planning that is not creative and without ecological awareness that is manifested inside natural recource exploitation.
As we approach EARTH DAY, i felt like it was the right moment to do a yoga festival in the park. It is a celebration to all yoga gembira community that are spread everywhere to remind them that park is a heaven in the city that is also the lung of the city, a place to breathe and a place for activity center. I want Yoga Gembira Festival to be an oasis of the aridity and thirst of a city and to take our mind off political years after the democratic party.
At the first yoga festival there was also the social activity that we have been doing for the past years. We invited students from Dhuafa school of nature, and the elderly to practice yoga for free. And to be more specific, we formulated an outreach program, that some of the profit from the festival will go to the practice of drugs rehabilitation center and also those in prison. Something that has always been the spirit of our community, Yoga, Happy, Knowledge and Charity.
Q. What is your personal message to all yogis in Indonesia?
YW: I have high expectations for yoga practitioners in Indonesia. Yoga has been developing well in Indonesia with the growth of yoga events like yoga workshops, teacher training with International teachers and social media that is swarmed by asana poses. This is really good knowing that more people are practicing yoga. However i feel sad by the competition, yoga being monetized, sacralized and the ego of one practitioner who devoted to one style of yoga.
I am also far from being perfect, who am i?
I do not have any message for yoga practitioners in Indonesia but this message is for my personal reminder to always practice the value in Yama and Niyama in asana and daily life. I often challenge myself to simplify my though. A great yogi, a yoga Guru has a very simple thought because “gentleness of mind is an attribute of a yogi”. Power without humilitty breed arrogance and tyranny
Thank you Mas Yudhi :)