From Deadlines to a Lifeline – Manish Pole

15 years ago I was struggling to meet deadlines as a Copywriter. I was working really long hours, way past 5 pm, and still couldn’t get myself to complete the all important Ad that had to be written on a given day. I figured this was mainly because of lack of focus and this made me look around for places where I could train my brain to focus. It is around this time a friend had suggested that I try Yoga and Meditation.

Being born a Christian and having a western interest in lifestyle and culture, I was not really familiar with Yoga philosophy and had never really tried Yoga before. However, I decided to attend my first class and this decision changed my perception of life as well as many other aspects that were affecting my personal and professional life. To tell you the truth, my first class absolutely blew me!

“Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” The Bhagavad Gita

I knew I had connected with and had experienced something very powerful. I continued to attend the classes and in a couple of weeks I was training to become a Yoga Teacher. It did not take me long to realise that is a life-long study and will require my complete involvement. I thus decided to let go of my Copywriting job and pursue Meditation training full time.

Finding a Lifeline

Two decades ago the concept of making a living as a full-time Yoga Teacher did not really exist. Also, there weren’t many Yoga Teacher Training Courses that you could attend. People joined the centers or courses mainly to learn basic yoga stretches and to practice the art of meditation.  To learn Meditation you had to go live with your Guru in an Ashram. Thankfully even today, this how the meditation technique is passed down – from the teacher to the student. Today, Yoga training, especially at the asana level, has grown a thousand-fold in terms of courses offered in India and globally.

My decision to quit my full-time job so I could go live with my Guru and pursue training in Yoga and Meditation seemed rather radical. What I thought would be a 3 month living internship, lasted all of 7 years! Needless to say, those were the most magical 7 years of my life. I experienced how it was to see Life through the eyes of a Yogi.  

Living with a Yogi

Often people ask me what is it that Yoga has taught me? And I always relate to the the 7 years I had spent in training my mind to see Life in a more refined way. I was lucky to have the opportunity to live with my Guru. I believe the time spent with a Yogi is invaluable and any amount of theoretical study or asana practice can’t replicate the reality and deeper understanding of life, which begin to manifest when you are observing and living a yogic life. The simplicity of a Yogi’s life shows you the mirror, and the mirror shows your true self, makes you reflect on your own complicated life – and when you’ve done that long enough, you emerge as the simplest, most easy-going version of yourself.

“Calming the mind is yoga. Not just standing on the head.” Swami Satchidananda.

All Yogic knowledge points towards leading an authentic life, a life where your actions, words and beliefs are in agreement and you set yourself free from inner conflict, a life in which you are not pretending to be someone else, a life when you realise who you truly are; and to see someone doing that on a daily basis is all the Inspiration you require to do that yourself.

Life as a Teacher

Ever since I had started teaching, I was very particular to not identify myself as a Yoga Teacher. I’ve always believed that how you identify yourself becomes your limitation. And so I think to become a Yogi – I use that word with utmost reverence. It serves as a reminder that I have to stay true to growing and not get caught in the trappings that come along with identifying myself as a Yoga teacher. This has given me a sense of Freedom to be myself and stay true to my Journey even whilst the wave of Yoga sweeps us all.

I have seen a generational shift in urban India in terms of people attending yoga classes. When I had started teaching Yoga I was around 22 years old and almost everyone attending my classes were older than me. I had gained tremendously from teaching Yoga to some of the brightest artists, sportspeople, business leaders and politicians in India.

Teaching people like Anoushka Shankar, Sunil Mittal and Sachin Pilot was as an invaluable learning experience in my early twenties. I had also experienced the humane side that success and celebrity-hood obscures.

Riding the Wave

I consider myself very lucky that there is a global Yoga wave! I was perfectly placed to ride that having already taught for a decade and it’s amazing that so many people I know have gotten into Yoga – it allows me to have much deeper conversations with a lot of people I know. Today, the average age group of people enrolling for yoga is 24-25 years, which is way younger than back in the day. This is great because Yoga and Meditation is best undertaken when you are younger, when you have the energy to train yourself and make significant changes in your life’s direction.

“Always keep growing.”

After almost five years of teaching of Yoga, I noticed that we were getting a lot of enquiries for Yoga Teacher Training courses. That’s when I had realised that this is a viable career! Today Yoga is a global language like Music. You can go anywhere in the world and teach Yoga and make friends through that process.

Total Yoga

I had established Total Yoga along with my co-founder Neetu Singh in 2010. It has been a remarkable and humbling journey. Since I had begun Yoga to train my Focus, that has remained as my interest in Yoga. I never really did Yoga for the flexibility or any other of the possible reasons, and so I wanted to teach Yoga as I had authentically understood and create a Yoga style that catered to Mindfulness training.

Total Yoga was this endeavour and we began in Pune. We had an idea that Total Yoga is somewhere between the strict discipline of Iyengar Yoga and the creativity of Osho – and hence we chose Pune to launch Total Yoga. We had set up 5 studios in a year and the following year we had set up in Singapore, and then in 2012 we came to Bangalore. Over the last 7 years, we’ve also set up in California, Dubai, Derby and Auckland and are looking at establishing Total Yoga in Mumbai, Gurgaon and Amsterdam. It has been hugely rewarding to find a community of like-minded Yogis globally.

We’ve also launched the Yomaste Yoga retreats where we take Yogis on an Yoga inspired adventure to Himalayan destinations – we’ve got Rishikesh, Ladakh, Nepal and Varanasi lined up in 2018! I’m excited to be working on Anahata which is a Yoga and Music experience that is designed for Yoga festivals, workshops and also music for Yogis!

I’m excited about shifting my base to Mcleodganj in 2019 for the Teacher Training Courses we run. I’ve always wanted to live in a Himalayan town and Mcleodganj is my current favourite. I believe that one Yoga TTC is all you should ever require! Cause after the basics are taught you should explore on your own and not get caught up in learning from the outside. But that’s just my view cause that’s how I learn. In fact over the years, rather than getting more advanced, I find I’m getting more simpler with Yoga 🙂

I look forward to meeting Yogis all over the world as I gear up for touring with Yomaste retreats, Anahata yoga + music experiences and the Total Yoga TTC!

Manish Pole,

Co-founder and Director Total Yoga


Instagram: @manishpole, Twitter:@TotalYoga

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