"You have to be aware of what you are doing, feel everything. What does your elbow, shoulder and all joints do when you make this movement? This is yoga. Go!" - AJAY KUMAR -
|Ajay practicing asanas at age 14|
Since that young age Ajay decided to dedicate his life to the practice of ashtanga yoga. Today he is very busy teaching yoga at Sthalam8 Yoga Shala in Mysore, training future yoga teachers, giving workshops around the world and doing a masters in Advaita Vedanta at the Sanskrit University in Mysore. He has a wife and a baby girl almost one year old.
The first time that I joined his class I was immediately thrilled by his teaching style. He is very dynamic and continuously gives all his energy to help his students achieve their fullest potential. He likes to keep the discipline in his class but although he is very strict and demanding he knows how to make his students laugh.
Ajay is also really good at making you stop and think why you are doing what you are doing. From time to time while giving you an adjustment or while leading either his popular vinyasa class or back bending class he would say a few words that would strike your mind and make you wonder, "What am I doing wrong? What do I need to improve?" or perhaps "aha, now I get it!"
To preserve Ajay's style of English, to which his students are so familiar with, I have transcribed the interview using his exact words except for some minor corrections to make sure that the message is understood.
What does yoga means to you?
Yoga means everything to me, all life is yoga. This is our main thing, without that we can't live. So this is our whole life, we started very young and until now we are doing it and it's just an amazing feeling. Yoga means everything, first is yoga then other things.
How did you get into yoga?
|Gulab Jamun by Aditya, CC BY-NC-SA|
So I used to go to a gymnasium. My grandpa was scolding me, "why do you go to gymnasium, is that good? Why don't you do yoga?" and you know that's when I got to ask myself, "ok yoga, where did they do?" and it was at BNS Iyengar Shala, at the Parakala Mutt near Jaganmohan Palace which was very close to my home.
Why did you decide to teach yoga and particularly ashtanga yoga?
Actually starting after that only, when I was twelve years old only I decided. Before that as usual all other kids we used to say "What do you wanna be? Doctor? Engineer?" we use to say like this, you know when we were seven, eight, nine and ten years but after that when I started to practice yoga that's when only I started to say "no, I wanna be a very good teacher."
How would you describe your teaching style?
We just want everyone to be doing yoga, not the asana, as you know we always explain in every class that we don't want people coming and doing the asana, we want people to be doing the yoga, it takes a lot but that's the best. That's our whole deal actually that's why we do all the things very strictly and properly and how it needs to be done and this is the way, this is the way. We just want people to be doing yoga more than anything, that's all.
Who are your spiritual heroes or role models?
All the greatest yoga people, we just follow the steps of the guru. BNS Iyengar, Shri K. Pattabhi Jois, BKS Iyengar, Krishnamacharya. It doesn't matter, guru parampara (the whole lineage) and not only one person. It's a tree's branches. A tree is one but branches many, so many branches are there. So we come from the guru parampara of that and we follow their footsteps only.
What is the biggest lesson that you've learned through your own yoga practice?
The biggest lesson that I learned from my yoga practice is not to leave my practice because even though you leave your practice it's just impossible to leave yourself.
And that's what we implement in our teaching as well, we just wanna make sure everyone comes everyday, we do that everyday so you feel good and they feel good, that's the thing. The one thing we learn is not to miss the practice any of the days, we have to do everyday.
What is the biggest lesson that you've learned through your guru?
|Ajay at age 12 with his guru BNS Iyengar|
That's the same way that we teach in our shala. But for that you need time, time to establish the connection between the student and the teacher. That's why we don't allow drop in classes here, the minimum time that we require is one week. We need to know the student and the student needs to know the teacher so we can establish the connection.
What is the main lesson that you want your students to take away from practicing ashtanga yoga with you?
Like I mentioned before we want people to do yoga and not just asanas. That's why we try to do everything proper here. If you want to do just asanas you can go anywhere, but if you want to do yoga then you come here. It takes a long time and it's difficult but that's the best. That's why we try to keep the discipline here. There is a reason behind everything that we do here, you might not understand it but we do.
You might also like:
- Interview with BNS Iyengar, Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Teacher in Mysore
- The Best Ashtanga Yoga Teachers in Mysore, India
- What to Pack for Your Next Travel and Yoga Adventure to India
If you want to know more about Ajay or if you wish to practice ashtanga yoga with him you can visit his website: sthalam8.com. If you are interested in reading about other Ashtanga Yoga Teachers in Mysore then you might like to read The Best Ashtanga Yoga Teachers in Mysore, India