Rod Stryker on (Pursuing) Happiness


ParaYoga’s founder Rod Stryker took the stage at the Himalayan Institute at the tail end of April2012 for a special discussion that began with the words, “It’s true that I’ve been teaching yoga for over three decades.”

Yet his recently published book on the “yoga of fulfillment and happiness,” The Four Desires, isn’t about asana. It’s about how to find happiness when you’re not doing yoga.

Read our excerpt of Stryker’s discussion with HI faculty member and yoga teacher Steve Harris below or listen to the full hour-long podcast.

Unfamiliar with the book? Check out this excerpt of The Four Desires.

On The Four Desires and unhappy yoga practitioners:

There are people who are happy who don’t do yoga. And there are people who do yoga—who do asana—and are not happy. So the genesis of the book was really, “How do we address fulfillment?”

On how to understand your dharma:

The truth is that the context of fulfilling our life’s purpose is not something we can rationalize. [Dharma] is inherent. It’s not something we have to make up. It’s not something I choose—“Well, Gandhi had a great purpose” or “Donald Trump seems to have a pretty cool purpose, so I’ll just go for their version.” It’s inherent in our very soul.

So the question then becomes, how do we do it?

I remind my students that Buddha didn’t stop meditating after that moment under the Boddhi tree. He kept practicing. Jesus didn’t stop praying or meditating. Neither did Moses.

How does dharma evolve?

Dharma doesn’t change, but the way it will be expressed will change. Honestly, if I can self-reflect for a moment, I can tell you I was being my best self when I was 10 years old, it’s just a little younger version. More blonde, a shorter version of me today. When I’m being my best today I’m doing my dharma just like when I was doing my best at 10. I was doing my dharma. I didn’t always do my best at 10, by the way, just in case you were wondering—it’s not a big mystery. But the point being that dharma doesn’t change. But the way I express it changes.

Before I was married, or before I had children, my dharma didn’t get to express itself as a father. But it did have the opportunity to express it in other ways.

Dharma isn’t limited to profession. It’s simply a ray, and the same dharma expresses as father, teacher, son, professional, citizen.

On how spiritual practice relates to everyday life:

The point of yoga is to develop a level of clarity and self-understanding so that when we’re done doing our yoga practice we make really good decisions, because that will determine whether we’re fulfilled. Not the quality of our poses. But really the yoga is what happens when we’re done practicing yoga.

On teaching fulfillment beyond asana:

There is no magic pose that makes all your challenges go away and the golden path to fulfillment open up.

If you don’t understand the meaning and purpose of your life, and moreover if you’re not then actively working to fulfill that meaning and purpose, I can tell you it doesn’t matter how long you stand on your head, you’re not going to be a happy person.

About the Teacher

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Dakota Sexton
Dakota Sexton is a freelance writer, designer, and the former Web Director of Yoga International magazine.... Read more