I was 30 when I felt it.
I’d spent the last decade working late hours in highly demanding corporate roles. When I got home, I’d focus on my personal business importing goods from India instead of sleeping. There wasn’t time for sleep.
When I wasn’t working, I was probably partying. The chances of that grew after I’d left marketing for a role in IT, in which I supported post-graduate students from across the world. Once they’d finished their work, they would look for someone to help them celebrate. That someone would always be me.
My fridge was filled with drink mixers, my freezer with ice cream, and my stomach with alcohol and takeaway.
And then I felt it.
As the chilling Melbourne winter set in, a coursing pain surged through my knees. I knew the signs. I’d seen them in the elders of my family. Arthritis.
I needed a solution, some way to avoid the terrible experiences I had watched others suffer through because of the condition, but I didn’t know what that solution was. Of course, everyone was quick to offer their advice on a remedy, but none of them felt right. Not until a trusted friend suggested I try yoga.
Honestly, I thought anyone who practised yoga was probably crazy, but I decided to give it a go at a newly opened school nearby. I figured that since it was new, it probably wouldn’t be busy. Therefore, when I inevitably embarrassed myself, only a few people should be there to witness it…right?
During that session, I died, and was born anew. No, I was not flexible. Yes, I struggled to perform the postures. But the sensation that came from releasing years of built up stress and tension resonated within me like nothing ever had before.
When the class ended, I approached my teacher and asked “how often can I do this?”
“Every day”, was his reply.
And so I did, attending class five mornings a week, and on any night I was free. I was hooked.
As I developed my skills, I longed to expand my horizons. I now knew how I could help myself through yoga, but how could I help others?
For the next three years, I studied as a a full-time apprentice at the Yoga Arts Academy. During that time, I worked hands-on with a range of people with various backgrounds, abilities, and expectations. Today, some yoga teacher training courses are as short as three weeks, making me one of the fortunate few to have this kind of chance to grow in a training role. Leading classes of up to 30 students, I learnt how to verbally describe postures rather than demonstrate physically, in order to help my students discover the process of forming these postures themselves, rather than simply trying to emulate me. Such a skill would become integral to the future of my teaching.
My work took me around the world. Though I wasn’t a fan of travelling, the experience was invaluable. Visiting Tanzania, and holding workshops for lawyers on the Rwandan Genocide Criminal Tribunal, was unforgettable. Few things in life have brought me as much gratification as my time there, doing my small part to ease the burden of those people.
In July of 2010, it was time to go my own way. I moved to Brisbane, and established The Yoga Raj the following year.
In the process, the form of yoga I was teaching evolved, and began to attract a specific kind of student – people like myself. Or, more accurately, people like my former self. Lawyers, bankers, marketers, doctors; people shouldering immense tension and searching for relief in yoga.
I had the unique potential to provide this relief not only because I had experienced what they were going through, but also because of my ability to nurture and articulate. Rather than the new-age speak usually associated with yoga, I instructed them on their level with humour and sincerity, stimulating their minds in a way that allowed me to take them to greater heights in consciousness and skilful living.
My ability to communicate was what made the transition to online classes so easy…even if, at first, I was uncertain about the idea.
One of my students had come to me at the end of a meditation class. She told me that her mother, who lived in Canada, was looking for someone to instruct her in meditation, and that she’d recommended me.
I didn’t think it was going to work. Then I remembered that I’d felt the same way when I’d first started yoga. How I had denied its potential until I gathered my courage and gave it a try. So I agreed.
It was perfect. There were no barriers; nothing that made the session any less pure or impactful for either of us.
When I decided to return to Melbourne, I invited my students to continue working with me online. I had taught many of them for four years, and did not want to abandon them. Trusting me as they did, most agreed to give it a try.
Making the change was easy. Rather than having to drop what they’re doing to make their way to the studio through busy city traffic, all they have to do is click on an e-mail link, and they are in class.
The benefits have been clear from the outset. Running personalised classes with students in their homes has inspired new levels of confidence, sincerity, playfulness, and discipline.
The classes are live, not pre-recorded. In the early days especially, taking full control of your body’s movement is difficult, so my ability to see what students may be doing incorrectly and amend their posture in real time is critical.
The outcomes we are seeing outweigh those we experienced in the studio, because it allows students to practice without distraction. They also don’t feel that subconscious, very human need to compete, to push poses at a level beyond their capability because they see what others are capable of. By offering a more personalised experience, I provide students with the opportunity to focus on the only thing that matters – themselves. And when they go away for work or holidays, they can still log in for their normal sessions.
Now, after having spent the last three of my 20 years as a teacher online, I have connected with students in Canada, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, Kenya, Tanzania, India, The Netherlands, Croatia, New Zealand and Australia, and I am able spend each exciting day with a mix of them all, instructing them on how to reach their potential.
Once, I travelled the world to teach my yoga. Now, the world comes to me. And we are all better for it.
What’s more? I haven’t had signs of arthritis for over two decades.