By Jane Mason
Jane lives and works in India and is part of the yoga.in team. She is trained in vinyasa, hatha, viniyoga and prana vashya yoga, having practised with many teachers and explored different techniques around the world. She is currently completing her 500-hour yoga teacher training as well as training in yoga therapy. Here she shares some tips for yoga teachers who are just starting out, or for those who are looking for inspiring ideas on how to thrive as a yoga teacher.
Mysore is known by most as the capital of ashtanga yoga but for me it is where I discovered Prana Vashya Yoga, a new and unique style of yoga developed by a modest but increasingly well known teacher named Vinay Kumar.
Sometimes in life there are certain suggestions (call it fate if you will) that we can’t ignore. A few years ago I was practising in Rishikesh where I met a women who over a cup of tea told me of a little-known teacher in Mysore who was making quite a name for himself. Like me, she discovered Vinay by word of mouth. “A very special man and a very special teacher,” is how she described him.
Over the years, her words often popped into my head and one day I decided it was time to act and packed my bags for Mysore. I signed up straight away for the 2-month teacher training course with Vinay and it turned out to be one of the most rewarding and challenging training programmes I have done (this was my 4th).
Prana (life-force) Vashya (control) yoga follows the breath, and through breath regulation in asana, it works at channelling energy into a more useful form. Vinay states that this yoga helps the practitioner to recognise his or her own physical and psychological capacities and to develop them in a positive way. Through Prana Vashya practice, my understanding of myself and my relationship to my practice changed and developed immensely.
Vinay has a presence which is felt immediately. His inner conviction is evident and his complete dedication to the practice and to his students is faultless. He only takes 12 people in a class and only four in the teacher training. This is very unique in today’s commercial yoga world. He is a strong teacher but a warm and soft person.
Pranavashya has a primary series of 62 postures and is a very intense practice, one that puts most ashtangis to the test. However, the sequencing and the unique breathwork create a calming and levelling of the body and mind that I have not felt with any other yoga practice. Pranavashya can be practiced by anyone. I know of a number of people who had injured themselves while doing other forms of yoga, and after hearing about Vinay had practiced with him while injured and healing. He will always respect your current level of practice and provide modifications and therapy where needed but still leave you feeling challenged.
Pranayama (breath control), chanting and kriyas (cleansing techniques) play a big part in Vinay’s teaching methodology. A typical morning practice will include 1.5 hours of asana (yoga postures), followed by approximately 1 – 1.5 hours of chanting and pranayama. Kriyas (cleansing techniques) are performed twice per week. If you have taken on the teacher training – for which you will be granted automatic respect from the yoga community in Mysore! – the days begin very early: 5:30am and finish at noon or even 1pm. Its tough, there is no denying this, but the personal attention and knowledge shared during these times can only be treasured.
The afternoons are for back bending and general flexibility. These classes are tailored to the individual and were my favourite part of the day. I found myself in a complete state of surrender to the practice.
When practising with Vinay, the ego is left at the door. He is so humble that it tends to attract students of a similar state of mind, or transforms them. I went on a big journey during my time with Vinay; there was excitement, resistance, expectation, acceptance and also some tears of change along the way. I was supported both on and off the mat the entire time.
Things I loved: the chanting, the pranayama, finding myself in places both physically and spiritually that I never imagined possible, the back bending, the little family that the students become, the personal touch to the teacher training with only four students, Vinay’s mum… she is a judge of yoga competitions and in fact critiques your practice exam in the teacher training class and she also holds bhajans (sessions of devotional singing) on Saturdays!
Things I didn’t like so much: There is not a lot to say here….there were some early mornings that I was not so happy when my alarm went off…that is until I was on the mat of course!
For more information on Prana Vashya Yoga, visit their website.
Did you enjoy this article? Look out for an interview with Vinay Kumar due to be published in the near future on the yoga.in blog.
Images courtesy of Prana Vashya Yoga.