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Life lessons from a yoga practice

  • Yoga teachers on the ‘asanas’ that tested them and the life lessons learnt while practicing the form

Gaurav Chauhan, yoga instructor with Cafe Reset, Bengaluru does an arm stand
Gaurav Chauhan, yoga instructor with Cafe Reset, Bengaluru does an arm stand (Gaurav Chauhan)

Yoga teachers – they are just like us. Before becoming masters of the practice, they too had to fall down multiple times; spend hours, days and months to perfect asanas or poses that perplexed them; most of all, they had to face their fears and overcome them—all on the yoga mat. Medha Bhaskar, co-founder of Bengaluru-based Amrutha Bindu Yoga School remembers falling off while doing the Trikonasana (Triangle pose) during the initial days of her Yoga Teacher Training course. “This was 12 years back. I was 21 and my cousin had asked me to join the teacher training course he was conducting. Because I had been practicing karate for many years, I joined thinking how difficult could it be? And so there I was, in my first class, falling off doing the Trikonasana. I remember wondering how I had managed to fall off with both my feet on the ground?” laughs Bhaskar recalling those early days.

Bhaskar’s journey into yoga, like a sine curve, has had its share of ups and downs. During the initial months of the teacher training course, she remembers skipping classes for the simplest of reasons. “I’d call my cousin and say, ‘I wasn’t coming because I had a cold. Or I was feeling tired. My cousin would ignore me and my messages but after a point, I realised that I couldn’t just keep giving him excuses and skip classes. So, one day, when my body was in extraordinary pain, I decided to just show up for the class. And that day, just the act of showing up made me feel so open that I decided that I would keep showing up,” Bhaskar recalls.

Also read: How yoga helps people lead an active life

Keep showing up
Being consistent in practice is advice that almost every yoga trainer swears by. After all, gaining balance, poise and control cannot be achieved in a day. And in yoga, being able to do challenging poses is just one of the sweet rewards of consistency. Regeesh Vattakandy, founder of Ayana Yoga Academy in Bengaluru, was 20 when he decided he wanted to pursue a career in yoga. Based in Thalassery, Kerala at the time, the classes were held once a week on Saturdays. “I’d attend class every Saturday morning and for the rest of the week, I’d spend my mornings and evenings practicing what was taught. When you do yoga consistently, you begin to see changes happening to your body. You see it becoming stronger; you sense a lot of internal changes happening too. Most of all, you become happier every time you practice,” Vattakandy says. For Bhaskar, the simple decision to just show up for the class every day proved to be a game changer. “I started seeing a shift in my thought process. I started thinking that if I was going to show up, I might as well prepare for the classes by eating the right food on time and sleeping on time. My attitude became, ‘If I am showing up, I may as well give my best’,” Bhaskar says.

Learn how to fall gracefully
Gaurav Chauhan, yoga instructor at Café Reset, Bengaluru readily admits to his struggles with backbend exercises. “In yoga, in terms of asanas, there are some you can do easily and some that you struggle with. For me, doing backbend exercises has always proven challenging. Even today, when it comes to backbends, I have students who do them better than me. I envy them,” jokes Chauhan whose immediate goal is to ace the Scorpion pose (Vrischikasana). A yoga practitioner since 2017, Chauhan got into it after years of working out in the gym made him realise that flexibility was important to reduce body injury. While becoming a yoga teacher was the last thing he had in mind, Chauhan says that over the past five years, pursuing the path has taught him a few things.

“Learning yoga is not a linear path where you keep getting better every day. When you are a student of yoga, you will have days where you think you are progressing, and then, with one fall, you find yourself back to square one. It’s a lot like life. There are going to be ups and downs but you’ve got to break the mental barrier that you can’t do something because you fell down. Instead, learn to fall gracefully without injuring yourself,” Chauhan explains. Yoga instructor Dipti Nayak had to fall a few times to get the head stand (Sirsasana) right. And in mastering the visually stunning and graceful form of aerial yoga, she also had to overcome her fear of heights.

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If it scares you, you should do it 
“When you stretch beyond your normal range of movements, you will initially find it difficult. So, when I started learning yoga, even doing the Surya namaskar took effort. The Sirsasana was one of the difficult ones,” Nayak, a former IT professional and mother of two, reveals. “I fell so many times! But the thing about yoga is that every time you do it and fall, you start again from zero. This constant relearning taught me the importance of consistency and patience. I also realised that it’s important to listen to your body – it talks to you,” Nayak adds. Another key takeaway came to her by way of her aerial yoga instructor, whose succinct response to her reservation about learning aerial yoga because of her fear of heights was, “If it scares you, you should definitely do it. How else will you overcome the fear?”

Stories of individuals overcoming their weaknesses, fears and failures sound good, and in retrospect, are great fodder for inspiration. But zero in onto those moments and you’ll see blood, sweat and tears. Bhaskar says it like it is. “It sounds magical while talking about how you overcame your fears but the experience itself is very rooted, humbling, and at times, drastic,” she says before revealing that she began enjoying her yoga practice the day she decided to stop worrying about being able to do the asanas ‘perfectly’. “I got tired of how bad I was feeling,” she says before pointing how such a thought can be helpful today where we are seeing the ‘Instagrammisation of Yoga’.

Minute-long challenges and doing asanas in scenic backgrounds wearing the perfect workout wear is the cool thing to do. Vattakandy rues this current trend where the understanding of yoga is limited to its physical aspect. “The approach to yoga is supposed to be spiritual. But today, it has become about gaining likes for achieving a posture. This competition-based yoga is a new thing,” he says before underlining the intrinsic power of yoga. “There’s nothing better than yoga that can functionally and systematically change your body and mind.”

Also read: Yoga can reduce risk of cancer spreading, new research finds

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