Californian Joseph Le Page, with training in Anthropology and a Master’s degree in Education, realized a dream in his spiritual journey. After several years of study and questioning, including time at the well known Kripalu Yoga Center, he and his wife Lilian founded the Enchanted Mountain Yoga Center in Garopaba, on the coast of Santa Catarina in the south of Brazil.
The center is the home of Integrative Yoga Therapy, which he has been developing for more than a decade. The focus of Integrative Yoga Therapy is to offer Yoga as vehicle for integration of all the aspects of the human being (physical, mental, emotional, energetic, and spiritual). It presents the practical knowledge of Yoga in an accessible, clear, and non-dogmatic format, embracing all styles of Yoga, to serve as an instrument of integration, well-being, self-knowledge, and the ability to live fully in the world. Here we get to know a little of his life story.
Soul Brasil – Why did you decide to practice yoga? How long ago?
My generation embraced Yoga at a time when the planet breathed new alternatives for personal growth. In the 1970’s, California became a cradle of social change with the intention of self-knowledge. We started to learn about the philosophy and psychology of Eastern humanism and to try different forms of spiritual seeking . In this context, in 1972, I was introduced to Yoga as a style of living.
Soul Brasil – Define what Yoga means to you.
Yoga is a way to understand the meaning of life as a human being. We can say that Yoga is supported by four pillars. In the first place, Yoga can be understood as a life vision; second, as the proper spiritual way to realize this vision; third, as a set of techniques and specific tools to support the realization; and finally, as a way to see Yoga as the proper experience of freedom, its bigger objective. All of these pillars act simultaneously to enhance our understanding of who we are.
Soul Brazil – What is the importance of this ancient practice in your life?
It began as a way to discover who I am. It was a long journey. I grew up in a very confusing situation; on one hand, I come from a dysfunctional family; on the other hand, I had a fairly rigid catholic education. I left home at 18 with many questions about life and the reasons for the suffering in the world. Perhaps because of this, I chose Buddhism as my first approach to philosophical study. At the same time, I studied anthropology to understand the purpose of existence, to better understand the nature of the human being. I traveled to India for the first time in 1974. Many people at that time had chosen one guru or another one as a solution. In my case, I continued traveling the world, questioning and studying. It was a long journey with one central question: who am I? I can say that today I live with more peace and happiness as the fruit of this journey.
Soul Brazil – Why did you choose to live in Brazil?
When I married Lilian, who is Brazilian, a little more than four years ago, we intended to live in Santa Barbara for a few years, maybe later finding a place in Brazil to put down roots. When we visited Garopaba, in SC, and discovered the place where Enchanted Mountain center is located now, we knew that this would be the ideal place for us, and decided to move there. Garopaba is like Santa Barbara in many ways. The climate is quite similar, with temperate winters and some cold days. However, Santa Catarina does not have Santa Barbara’s fog in the summer, thank God. In Garopaba, we have a little more rain, giving us the exuberant green that can be especially appreciated from our Center, which is surrounded by temperate rainforest. Another big difference is the cost of living. In Garopaba, a nice house can be rented for about $150.00 dollars a month. Therefore, we prefer to live in Garopaba and to visit California about once or twice a year to offer Yoga training programs and to surf.
Soul Brazil – In your opinion, what is the basic difference between the Yoga practiced in Brazil and in the U.S.?
The practice of Yoga in each country tends to reflect its cultural values, although the culture here in Brazil has been much influenced by American Culture. Yoga in U.S. tends to be more competitive, and often is used to alleviate the stress of the rapid pace of life. Americans tend to work to conquer and perfect any project they undertake, including the practice of Yoga. This results in Americans emphasizing the more external aspects of Yoga, such as physical postures, while, at the same time, it makes it more difficult for them to understand the essence of Yoga, with an attitude of balancing effort with surrender. Brazilians, on the other hand, have more experience with surrendering, because they face complex situations without easy solutions every day. The difficulty of organizing in Brazil is also reflected in the structure of the Yoga profession, where the some organizations end up not being able to arrive at an agreement on the regulation of the profession of Yoga teaching.
Soul Brazil – Currently the practice of Yoga has become very popular in this country with the support of the media. Which are the pros and cons of this?
I believe that we have reached a turning point: will Yoga turn trendy or keep on the spiritual path? I find it fundamental to preserve the real direction of what Yoga is, a complete way of freedom that eliminates the trend of living for consumerism, fashion, status, fame, wealth and all the rest that the media promotes as ideal life. The media need to define the true meaning of Yoga for the public, without reducing the practice of Yoga to simple physical exercise. We can take advantage of this time when Yoga is popular to inform and educate the public on the true direction of this ancient Indian practice, with the aid of well trained Yoga teachers.
Soul Brazil – In your opinion, what are the basic requirements for a professional in this area?
A Yoga teacher must have an understanding of Yoga in all its dimensions: physical body, mental, emotional, energetic, and spiritual. The Yoga teacher needs to have a global vision of the benefits and contraindications of practice for each of these the five interrelated levels. If the teacher works only on one level, a lack of balance in the other levels can occur, since they are all connected.
When people with highly developed physical ability begin teaching Yoga, as in the case of dancers and gymnasts, it is necessary to have knowledge of the other aspects of the being, so that Yoga can really be taught. Sometimes, these people actually need more time and more education to become good Yoga teachers. Besides learning everything that Yoga is, they need to be re-educated, because they have learned to see the body only as a physical entity, and Yoga takes the opposite approach, using the body as a vehicle to understand that we are much more than a physical body.
Soul Brazil – What precautions should a practitioner take to practice Yoga safely?
The first contact with Yoga is often made through the practice of asanas, or physical postures. Each of the techniques of Yoga has importance, benefits and contraindications. The more athletic and vigorous practices that bring awareness to the body in movement in the postures are valid, but the practitioner needs to take more care with this form of Yoga, because aerobic movements have more capacity to cause damage in the joints than the isometric, static movements present in the traditional forms of Yoga. The body warms up more quickly and gains more flexibility in a vigorous practice, but this flexibility through heat increases the possibility of injuries in the joints and muscles. This more athletic form of Yoga was practiced traditionally in India only within a context that included all the dimensions of the Yoga.
Those that practice this form of Yoga without the global vision will be more likely to suffer injuries. The method of Yoga taught is not the most important aspect of teaching, because each method can be appropriate for different types of people. The essential element is the context of self-knowledge and integration with the intention of freedom. There are no shortcuts in the process of spiritual development. The person has to develop as a whole, and, when only one of the aspects, such the physical body, develops very quickly and the others are left behind, there are more obstacles and challenges in the medium and long run.
Soul Brazil – What type of programs do you have at Enchanted Mountain Yoga Center?
The approach of the Center is to offer training courses for Yoga teachers in English and Portuguese. We also host Yoga Vacations for groups of Americans. These programs include Yoga classes and workshops, as well as trips to the beaches and mountains of our region, which are among the most beautiful in Brazil.