Talking Shop With a Yoga Master

I was born in Bombay to a family of lawyers. I started my yoga training with BKS Iyengar at age 7 and by age 22 I was the youngest student to earn an Advanced Teacher Training Certificate. As a child I was taught the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother of Pondicherry, both of whom are my spiritual teachers, along with my wife Mirra, who teaches Purna Yoga Meditation. I became a lawyer, certified naturopath, Ayurvedic practitioner, and a body worker. Mirra and I co-direct our studio, Yoga Centers, in Bellevue, WA, and I run a food company called Eastern Essence Organic Whole Foods.

I am often asked what it was like studying with Mr. Iyengar as a child. It was very intense. Iyengar is a very strict teacher-though not as strict now as he was then! Since I wasn’t exactly born supple, I had to work really hard to get the movement he wanted. But he was more than just a teacher to me, he was also a friend. He would come over to our house, and we’d have breakfast and lunch and all that. Often he would stay at our house when he came to teach in Bombay many weekends. So we got to know the other side of him, which is one of the major reasons my family stayed with yoga. Had we only known him as the powerful teacher, we may not have continued, because his other side is very beautiful-gentle, sweet, childlike, full of fun, and loves adventure. Obviously my asana teaching is based on the Iyengar method. I have a very firm belief that yoga is very vast. I cannot say this is my yoga and that is your yoga, because I believe that yoga is so big that we all have to share what we know. I believe that the blending of knowledge is very important without losing the essence of what you are teaching. I can’t teach Ashtanga: I can’t teach Viniyoga. But I can learn from them and see what is appropriate in my system.

So that’s what I do; I teach mostly physical yoga in the Iyengar method and the internal yoga is based on my wife Mirra’s meditation teaching and Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s teachings. A consistent question I get is how I find time for my own practice with such a busy schedule. There is just no option. Every morning I get up, do my basic rituals, and then go and practice. Practice is the first thing I do. If I miss the practice in the morning, I never practice! So it just goes without saying: I always do my practice first thing in the morning. People often ask me how my background in so many vocations affects my teaching. It really helps to have experience in different fields. Then, when you are teaching, you can tap into the different experiences and use language that resonates with different people. For example, one of my greatest loves is poetry-and I’m talking about classical, gorgeous, romantic poetry from Browning, Milton, Keats, Byron. And when I quote these, it makes a huge difference in class. Similarly, if I use a legal term or an anatomical term, it resonates with certain people, and it makes the class richer. The best advice I can offer beginning yoga students is to find a teacher who truly knows the subject, which can be a tough thing because if you are a new student, you don’t know if your teacher knows the subject. This is the main pitfall and the main joy of being a beginning student in yoga. It’s a time to explore and find somebody who truly knows their job. And then stick with that teacher for a good five to ten years. And then, of course, yoga becomes one’s life-long journey to internal revelation. © 2008 Aadil Palkhivala

Source by Aadil Palkhivala

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