Everything started back in 2013 when I made up my mind to go to India again. This time my intention was to do the yoga teacher training course. Then I was planning to come back home and start doing what I love. I was mentally prepared to cope with living on a tight budget. I felt that this was part of the challenges of beginning a new… career. And I was saying to myself that everything is going to work smoothly fall into place after a while.
Having all these possible challenges in mind, I sold some of my belongings to cover the costs of my journey to India. I left, in spite of all those dear to me, who were worried that I was going to destroy my perspectives once I decided not to be employed any more. At that time, the only way I could think of my future was as a four-week training course that would offer me the opportunity to learn as much as I could. I thought I was going to discover afterwards, step by step, what it would involve working as a freelancer.
In India, on my first school day I got pretty scared when I realised we were supposed to sing mantras in Sanskrit. I said to myself that this could be something optional or just part of a symbolic ritual, something similar to our singing the national anthem at the official ceremony at the beginning of a new school year. But when I realised this was actually the way we were supposed to start a yoga class, I wondered “What have I got myself into?”. And as if things couldn’t get worse, I found out that I was to learn everything by heart for the final exam.
The teacher was strict/ harsh with all of us who were taking the Ashtanga class. He thought we were just some spoilt European girls who were his clients. So he was trying to intimidate us and make us feel like some helpless students. And he was really good at doing this. I immediately came up with a survival strategy. I was well aware of the fact that I was not going to sing these mantras at my future classes and I also knew that I was going to learn the by heart for the exam. And this is how, long before starting my “to do list for my future classes”, I started my list with “things not to do”.
Then I had long nights when I used to fall asleep repeating the mantras in Sanskrit:
”Vande gurunam charanaravinde /
Sandarshita satvam sukhava boddhem
Nih shreyasa jangalikamayane
The Indian teacher used to tell us off if we couldn’t parrot the words of the mantras. He used to think that it is a sign of disrespect if we did not honour Patanjali, the creator of the Yoga Sutras. He used to encourage us to utter OM at least three times, at the beginning and at the end of the class, in case we might not have time in the future to say the whole mantra. Perceiving this as a compromise, I decided to apologise to the whole India as a sign of respect, being aware that I was not going to do this either at my classes. I was sure that Patanjali could understand and respect my decision, but I was not that sure my teacher could do the same. But when it was my turn to say the whole mantra in front of the class, I just couldn’t help and I burst out laughing. The rebel inside me was stronger than the nerdy part of me, that was quite scared the teacher would consider my musical performance an offence to the Indian cultural legacy. I just tried to see my teacher\’s reaction and I noticed him doing something he had not done before: he was laughing. I apologised for my lack of singing skills and I promised I would keep rehearsing.
Then I decided to put something else on my ” things not to do at my classes” list: the Sanskrit names of the asanas. I considered that uttering those words during a yoga class in my country may greatly disturb the hearing perception. Or it might have resembled in my opinion to that version of Japanese I was trying to talk with my sister when we were little and we wanted to say things that we wouldn’t have otherwise dared to utter. There would have been a greater risk to burst out laughing and to find myself having again an embarrassingly disrespectful attitude towards the Indian spiritual culture.
I was very keen on the topic of chakras. But I could not imagine myself like that instructor teaching about things that are invisible even to herself. In fact, I could not picture myself talking too much during my yoga classes… Therefore, when I came back home and I actually started having classes, I knew for sure that I was going to be that type of yoga teacher without chakras, OM or Sanskrit names. So there seemed to be very few choices left for what I should be like… I said to myself that I was going to compensate by offering short and straightforward scientific explanations regarding the benefits of the practice and my intention was to use language that would seem… familiar. Maybe it would sound urban…or businesslike, as I was the one who used to work in a multinational company environment: energy management, human resources, may we have high energy, not low energy…(to be continued…)
Photo Credit: Razvan Ionescu