Posted on Apr 17, 2019 #recent
Recently, one of my friends asked me “You practice yoga, how has it changed your life?” However, how could I know what changed when I can’t remember a time when I didn’t practice yoga?
I was very hyperactive as a child so my parents encouraged me to play sports and other physical activities. It was my grandmother who got me to start practicing yoga.
My grandmother was my first guru.
Since then I have fallen in love with practicing yoga. It makes my body feel alive and my mind refreshed. If some days I am not able to practice, it makes me restless. So, this is where my yoga journey started, almost 20 years ago, under the gentle and encouraging guidance of my grandmother.
I loved yoga and playing all sorts of sports. So, in school I was always participating in competitions. My love for yoga kept increasing. When the time came to decide what I was going to do after I graduated high school, I had only one thing in mind: I wanted to be a yoga teacher. But back then, yoga was not booming as it is now. My parents encouraged me to look at other interests which could help me earn. I was (and still am) interested in wildlife so I completed my Bachelor’s and Master’s in Biodiversity. I continued practicing yoga and I thought I could teach it as a hobby - if not take it up as a career.
During the summer break, I attended a fitness instructor course which got me a part time job at a gym. During my final year of my Bachelor's, one of my clients at the gym asked if I practiced yoga as she thought I was very good at teaching her different stretches. She then asked me if I could start yoga classes at the gym.
I was overwhelmed.
I had never thought that I would get to live my dream of becoming a yoga teacher! I was extremely nervous and scared as I had never talked in front of so many people! Let alone teach them anything! Also, I was only 20 years old and all my students were above 40 years of age - which was intimidating. What if no one listened to me? What if no one liked how I was teaching? What if someone was injured because I gave the wrong instructions? These were the questions running through my mind.
My parents, the gym manager, and the clients each encouraged me to at least give it a try. So, I decided to teach a trial class. Only 5 people enrolled that day but even that was too much for me! On the day of the class, I was up early reading up about each asana and the sequence I had chosen. When I started teaching, even though I was nervous the entire time, I was surprisingly confident. I found out that I was learning quite a lot in the process of teaching! The people who came for the class were kind and encouraged me to keep teaching, saying they would attend my classes every week.
At first, teaching was terrifying.
I painstakingly planned out entire classes, posture by posture. I practiced explaining how to get in and out of poses. I searched for hours on end until I came up with a theme or focus for my classes that I truly felt inspired by. I researched answers to potential questions from students. It was time consuming but the effort was rewarding. It never felt like work. Teaching yoga gave me a sense of satisfaction and happiness that I had never experienced before. To advance my knowledge in yoga and to get a formal certificate as a yoga teacher, I completed a Yoga Instructor Course from SVYASA University, Bangalore. This opened so many opportunities for me.
I started conducting classes at the yoga center at a very reputable hospital in Pune. Here, I conducted sessions for doctors and hospital staff. Many of my students were doctors and knew much more about the human body than I did. They gave me feedback to improve my anatomical cues for my classes.
I went back to my yoga school to teach yoga to kids. Teaching yoga and other sports to kids was a very rewarding experience. This made me realize the importance of yoga for improving overall health and sports performance.
I got the opportunity to teach yoga and fitness to table tennis players who take part in competitions at state and national levels. My training has helped them improve their strength, flexibility and their game.
I conducted two sessions on yoga for Workplace Stress Management at the Amazon office in Pune. Here I taught corporate employees how to manage and relieve stress with easy asanas, breathing and meditation which could be done at their desks. I taught two online yoga sessions at the College of Charleston, USA as a part of the curriculum for Indian Culture.
I now have 7 years of yoga teaching experience.
I have experienced the benefits of yoga and I want to pass that on to as many people as I can. My classes have been a wonderful learning experience for me as a teacher and as an individual. They helped me to overcome my fear of public speaking, improve my communication skills and develop networking skills. I think these are essential for people in all walks of life.
Just as my personal practice gave me the confidence to be who I am, teaching made me realize that confidence is very different from the confidence you need when teaching others. My experience has helped me gain that confidence over the years and I have reached a point where I can confidently teach a class of at least 30 students comfortably. I always want to keep learning and during my Master’s I found out that I like doing research. I have decided to pursue a degree in Exercise and Fitness research. I want to get into research about yoga so that what I teach will have scientific backing and not just ancient wisdom.
Yoga has opened up so many opportunities for me and I hope to keep on growing and learning.
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