Read the first part of an interview with Peter Mišík, unique Slovak Yoga teacher, genuine Yogi, who trains up yoga students in Košice for dozens of years and created the first yoga units in former Czechoslovakia. Although I don’t live in Košice anymore, I do my best to attend his regular yoga retreats. The last one in November 2017.
You belong to the founders of the first yoga units and yoga culture in former Czechoslovakia. Can you, please, reveal to the public the stages of this evolution? What are your memories of that time?
So very beginnings were more or less about mysticism. We read a magazine called the Psyché published by Weinfurter and it was our first contact with yoga. Subsequently, we came across Man´s Highest Purpose (The Lost World Regained). The mysticism called the tune completely. This direction was unsatisfactory for us, and we have started to practice yoga completely different. Quite simply, in fact, at my instigation and after I came across books brought by my sister, who lived in Havirov at that time. It was in fact book from the French yogi, dealing with hatha yoga and asanas. Right at the start, the relaxation and breathing techniques have been mentioned as the means of gaining a healthy lifestyle. And so I started to practice.
“I boasted of my yoga practice to my friends and they have told me about their friend who claimed to have ten years of yoga experience. I was introduced to him. His name was Gejza Timčák.”
I tried abdominal exercises, some asanas and so on. I boasted of my yoga practice to my friends and they have told me about their friend who claimed to have ten years of yoga experience. I was introduced to him. His name was Gejza Timčák. His first encounters with yoga were different. I know that he studied at Oxford. I have proposed to set up an official yoga unit. So we established it in Slavia, at the Technical University. He was an employee in Slavia and, in fact, since then we pull it together. First, we started to experiment with various cleansing exercises, fully focusing on health. It’s very important to know that we were most interested in healthy lifestyle. By regular practicing of these techniques, I healed myself. Therefore other elements such as meditation, contemplation and similar have been rather in the background, cut off.
“It’s very important to know that we were most interested in healthy lifestyle. By regular practicing of these techniques, I healed myself. Therefore other elements such as meditation, contemplation and similar have been rather in the background, cut off..”
Which books did you study at that point in time?
The initial literature was various and officially difficult to get. For example, a book by Aladár Kogler or books by Yesudian. We also received some translations from our emigrants, some of a good, other of a bad quality, also books about Tibetan yoga and various other which we received from different sources. And so we have gradually learned new yoga techniques.
Thanks to your activities and your cooperation with doctors, spinal exercises have become part of rehabilitation programs and remained so till now. How did it come to this?
We were able to cooperate with the health authority, thanks to a doctor from KEM, who was then a chief physician here in Košice. He kept watching over us and protecting us so that we produced a film called The Dormant Possibilities. It was a black-and-white movie, where we, Gejza and I, played leading roles. In fact, we performed Surya Namaskar and something similar. We won a prize for the film. Either first or second one at the medical film festival in Pilsen. This award opened the door to new possibilities for us. Suddenly everyone knew that we have been practicing yoga for its health benefits. Yoga for health, thus not for meditation, or some sort of spiritism, not religious yoga. In addition, we have experienced other yoga aspects, however, not officially.
But spinal exercises are a completely different story. It all began after we had arrived from our first trip to India in 1977 and brought books dealing with spinal exercises and its effects on health. So we started. Doctor Vele from Prague initially attempted to usurp spinal exercises for himself and asked to call them “spinal exercises by Doctor Vele”. We strongly disagreed, thus the title has remained neutral. Even then, we closely cooperated with yoga practitioners from Prague, lead by Máša Svobodová. We organized many courses focused on yogic cleansing techniques, particularly shank prakshalana. The cleansing technique in which practitioner drinks water until it leaves the body via anus as clean, as consumed. We went to the mountains near Ružín together with yogis from Prague, Poprad and the High Tatras region to clean our digestive tract.
“State security was such that maybe they were present. They didn’t wear nametags “Secret political police” on their forehead. So even when they came, they had to flush their stomach and intestines, what we normally did then. And so they were sure that it was nor religious, nor anti-socialist community trying to damage the ruling communist party.”
How do you recall ŠTB – state security (secret political police force) in the former Czechoslovak Socialist Republic? Did they interfere with your activities or did they leave you alone?
State security was such that maybe they were present. They didn’t wear nametags “Secret political police” on their forehead. So even when they came, they had to flush their stomach and intestines, what we normally did then. And so they were sure that it was nor religious, nor anti-socialist community trying to damage the ruling communist party. So, in my opinion, we’ve chosen the best approach available at that time. Yoga for health. They left us alone to work peacefully and evolve yoga as a healthy lifestyle, which we prefer even today.
What do you think has to be done to make sure that yoga will survive keeping its quality for the future generations?
Just keep on practicing. Stay enthusiastic. Focus mainly on the outcomes, don’t hide it. Promote yoga with the positive effects of its practices.