I taught my first yoga asana class in 2008.
And I still remembered that day. All nervous and shaking while trying to memorize the sequence I drew the night before. It was not easy to stand in front of the class, with all the curious eyes watching in anticipation of what will be coming next. The nerve alone was enough to make me rushed through the poses, putting all those child poses in between so that I could hide for a while from those watchful eyes. Public speaking was never my forte and teaching was really nerve breaking for me back then. But I survived. And continue to survive for the next 2,5 years while my confidence slowly grew and I was no longer nervous whenever I needed to stand in front of a class.
Unfortunately over time I had to make a choice between exploring my personal practice and dedicating my time to teach a yoga class. I chose the former and for more than 6 years now spent most of my free time to travel to see my Teachers, study and practice. I love being a student and being in the classroom and in the presence of my Teacher is always my happiest moment. I have known for a long time that my path is the path of a student and a practitioner. In my days of solitary travel and practice, I always told myself that yoga is a lonely practice : only you and you alone know how it feels and what is going on inside you. At the same time, it is also important to have a Teacher who will guide you through the foreign paths, navigating the ups and downs, trying to learn and understand with trust and persistence.
However, from time to time, I do miss being in front of a classroom, seeing those curious eyes in front of me and feeling my heart expanding with warmth and joy knowing that somehow I was able to share whatever little that I know of a practice that I truly love and believe in. To share the words of my Teachers while at the same time reminding myself of how the practice should be and why I do it. To face the fear and to stand in front of the class, to laugh at my mistakes and to learn from the students with gratefulness. I love to see all the smile of bliss at the end of the class. On days when I felt the “itch”, I sometimes wonder, can I still do it? Do I still have it in me after those years of hiding?
Back in 2011, on the day I decided that it was going to be my last class, I was at the point where I had little motivation, without inspiration, and going to class was becoming a chore. I have lost the love and the warmth of heart, and I could not bring myself to continue. I was ashamed for not being able to give my best, for losing my own practice and to no longer feel the love for teaching a class like I used too. I lost my confidence. It was not the same anymore and thus I thought it will be best for me to stop instead of being a teacher without a heart. I retreated and took my heart back to school. To ignite the fire, to rediscover inspiration, and to find the love that I have lost. I was putting my heart on an intensive rehab. Going to solitary retreats to find those stillness and quietness to slowly replenished what was missing.
Also in 2011, a few months after I taught my last class, I met my Teachers, O.P Tiwari and Paul Dallaghan. It was truly a blessing how the Universe works in a certain way. At the very moment when I felt lost, I found love, guidance and direction. I still remembered Paul’s first instruction to me on my very first Pranayama retreat in October of 2011 – “if you are really serious about being in this path, you should drop whatever that you have been doing previously when it comes to Pranayama technique. Take an attitude of a true beginner, and learn from nothing. Develop your trust in the practice and it will come together nicely”. So I did exactly that, and it was the best decision I have made – to learn from zero and to finally develop the trust in the words and teaching of the Teachers.
After 6 years of Pranayama practice, I do feel that I would love to share the beautiful practice and for the past 2 years have started to do a few Pranayama workshop on my own or together with my partner, Juha. I am still working on getting back my confidence, but I do enjoy the feeling of love and joy that comes from being in front of the class while sharing the little knowledge that I have. To speak of my life and love affair with fire and passion that will hopefully ignites the same light to those who are willing to absorb it with an open heart. It is not easy, it will never be, but at least I know that I am not who I was 6 years ago. The heart has returned. The love is there. I can feel the butterflies fluttering their wings with joyfulness, and that’s all that matters. I am best when I am happy. And I can share the most when I am happy. The same happiness that you feel when you fall in love. The first time, the second time, the many times round.
As my Teacher Tiwariji said, “In whatever you do, do it with Love. Even when it may cause disappointment in others, do it with Love.”
At the end of the day, I know that I am and will always be a student, who are so extremely lucky to be surrounded by two wonderful Teachers who truly give with their heart. No man is an island, not even a yogi. And while yoga is a practice of alone-ness, it doesn’t always have to be done in complete solitary. In my 6 years of solitude, I have rediscovered love and I am now ready to come out and share it.
“You have to know how to be alone without being lonely. Aloneness should not feel lonely” – OP Tiwari –
Koh Samui, Thailand – 15 July 2017