I wasn’t even a teenager when I was introduced to Yoga, I was merely 12-years-old and still had a lot of thoughts that a seventh grader might have in school, what to watch, what to eat and when to play! Like most parents, my Mom wanted to ensure that I maintain my routine of waking up early even during my summer break. So she enrolled me for Yoga classes and this is how it all began!
I used to attend Yoga classes that were taught in a nearby school campus. Just like any other school, we had our beloved PT teacher who would conduct the classes. As I said earlier, I was only 12-years-old, so there wasn’t an option to avoid the classes. So yes, I was a regular student who always showed up no matter what.
A week or 10 days later, Yoga Guru Purushotham Deraje visited the school to demonstrate few Yoga asanas and to teach us the right technique. It was my first time when I had witnessed a well-known personality in the field of Yoga.You can call his natural instinct or just his keen observation that he immediately noticed how flexible I was. I was taken completely by surprise when he asked me to join his regular Yoga classes at his studio.
At that time I never took his offer seriously because I had no idea about what Yoga is and the importance of a good teacher. So I never called him or visited him. But fate had different plans. Almost a month later, I met him again, this time on a bus when I was on my way to school. He remembered me and requested for my dad’s number. He spoke to my father and explained why I should attend his classes.
Looking back now, I sincerely thank my Guru who left no stone unturned to train me and bring me on the Yogic path. Though I didn’t have enough resources to fund my training, he never gave up on me and guided me. I never mentioned about my financial situation at home and my Guru somehow understood this, hence he never charged me for any of his classes.
“Yoga allows you to find a new kind of freedom that you may not have known even existed.” BKS Iyengar
10 years and counting I am still being trained under him and in all these years he has never charged me a penny. For him, the only focus is that I shouldn’t quit. It is at times difficult to believe that in today’s materialistic world … people like my Guruji are willing to look beyond money or materialistic gains and are truly passionate about teaching and helping those in need. I am fortunate that this is how Yoga found me.
When Yoga became more than just exercise
I was young and naïve and had a playful approach to Yoga, just like towards other things in my life back then. So other than the improved strength and flexibility I was unaware about its effect on my mind.
Due to my flexibility my Guruji taught me advanced asanas and took me along with him to participate in Yoga championships and competitions. The continuous exposure to such events got me motivated and with it, I just kept getting better and better in my asana practice. It was roughly six years after I had started my practice that I became aware of the effect of Yoga on my mind and emotional health.
This was when I had started my engineering course. I still remember that I had to travel for five hours every day to my college and back. If you are an engineering student, you might understand where I am coming from. Multitasking, daily attendance, projects, etc., can get really demanding, especially when it involves travelling for such long hours. I couldn’t bear the stress, hence I stopped my Yoga practice for almost ten months.Those ten months were more than enough to make me realise how much of a positive impact Yoga had had on my body and mind.
Life is ironic. It takes sadness to know what happiness is, noise to appreciate silence, and absence to value presence.
In the absence of Yoga, I dealt with physical and mental stress almost every day. I had become physically weak due to the hectic routine and I wasn’t able to concentrate much on my studies. That is when I realised what I have been missing after giving up on Yoga. To get back to routine I had to save some travel time. I thus convinced my parents and moved to a hostel near the college and started my regular Yoga practice again.
It was bliss as I cannot express in words, not then and not now, that how relieved I was to be back on my mat. Apart from asana practice, I also took some time to study Yoga theory and found the book, Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar, very helpful. The book was my guide that helped me get through some tough times. The main attraction in this book is the huge collection of photos of BKS Iyengar demonstrating these asanas even in his old age. Of course the detailed instructions for each asana, discussion on Yoga philosophy, pranayama, etc make this book a must have for anyone who wants to learn Yoga.
Yoga improves balance on and off the mat
I was pursuing a Mechanical Engineering degree at Christ University, Bangalore. I love being a Mechanical Engineer.Designing, innovation, and manufacturing was almost a part of my life. Having said this, I completed more than 25 projects during my engineering course, which included go-karts, off road ATVs, Formula 3 cars and electric ATVs.
Sorry to bore you with the details…but like Yoga, engineering is my passion too and it required hours and hours of study and hands-on work to complete so many projects in a relatively short span of time. I practically had to live in the college workshop space. And at times I did stay back to weld stuff for hours together :). But to be able to do all this and also excel academically I had to be as fit as I could. Thus no matter what… I used to practice Yoga every damn day!!!
“Yoga is designed for a vast and profound purpose, and for it to be truly called Yoga, its essence must be embodied.” Aadil Palkhivala.
Looking back now, how I was introduced to Yoga, to developing a daily routine and participating in championships and during my college days when I managed my studies and yoga, it all seems to have been worthwhile. Thanks to Yoga, it helped me sail through the madness and also excel academically.
There were days when I used to get home at around 10 pm. Before starting my 1 hour long practice at 10.30 pm, I also went for a 30 minute jog. I use to have dinner at around 12.15 am and then try and catch up on some midnight sleep.
Of course I will not recommend this routine to anyone. I knew that practicing Yoga asana at midnight is not good…but at that time, I had no other choice and the practice kept me going! I graduated as a Mechanical Engineer with 8.4 CGPA and also secured a job at Mercedes-Benz R&D India Pvt Ltd.
Today, I don’t really have any regrets and I feel that I am on the right path. I’m grateful to have such loving and supporting parents Mr. Ranganayakalu (father) and Mrs. Jayanthi (mother) and a tough and dedicated Yoga Guru, Mr. Purushotham Deraje. I am truly blessed to have such a great teacher who has not only taught me Yoga but also the way of life!
When and how to start
I believe it was my fate that my teacher found me. But you don’t necessarily have to wait for the right time or right teacher. Today, there is enough evidence about how Yoga has helped transform lives. There are also free Yoga videos and lessons available online, but it is always recommended to find a teacher that suits your needs. In my case, both, studio practice under a teacher’s guidance as well as regular home practice, have been extremely helpful.
Yoga has been a wonderful guide and inspiration to me to be a better version of myself in anything I do. If you are a student or work for long hours, do not hesitate to start Yoga. If you are new to Yoga, I would recommend that you start with gentle Hatha practice and then explore different styles of Yoga. I started young, so I practice advanced Hatha Yoga and I also have a liking towards Ashtanga Yoga. And recently I have grown interest towards handstands and teaching handstands to others. There is this unexplainably huge amount of joy when you see people overcome their fear and master handstands and that’s one of the reason I love teaching handstands.
Apart from sharing tips on Instagram on Yoga poses, I also try and interact with my followers as much as I can and discuss Yoga related topics. Apart from questions on flexibility and strength, another question which I have been asked repeatedly is about the diet I follow. As per Yoga, one size does not fit all, thus we have variations. Likewise, I believe that one diet is not suitable for everyone. As per me, consistency is important. So whatever you choose to follow… be consistent with it.
“Teach what is inside you. Not as it applies to you, to yourself, but as it applies to the other.” Tirumalai Krishnamacharya
If you want to become a Yoga teacher, I believe that before you don the role of a teacher, you should have a better understanding of the Self and that’s what a Yogic lifestyle and regular practice teaches you and the Teacher Training Course will take care of other key aspects such as posture correction, alignment, advanced asanas and discussion on Yoga philosophy; more than all this the journey of a YTTC course with like minded people is what truly transforms you to a teacher!
Yogi Chandraprakash R Naidu