Ervin’s journey with yoga

I first started to practice yoga regularly in 1984 in Australia. The style was hatha yoga, as taught by Swami Vishnudevananda (Shivananda yoga). A few months later I bought the book ‘Light on Yoga’ by B.K.S. Iyengar (Iyengar yoga). This book became the main guide for my early home practice.

The study and practice of yoga continued on and off throughout the years, with interest and commitment wildly fluctuating. I found most classes uninspiring, most books tedious, full of religious and pseudo-spiritual hocus-pocus. Admittedly I had some long breaks from yoga. During the early years I mostly practiced and studied at home.

Exploration of the more dynamic styles began in 1998. Learning the Ashtanga style started in 1999 under the guidance of James Critchlow in Birmingham. His classes were much more inspiring, down to earth, energetic. For the first time I really committed to studying and practicing yoga.

James also taught me to teach, through an apprenticeship approach, focused on hands-on learning, and encouraged me to set up my own classes. His love of yoga, his commitment, dedication and his person-to-person teaching style fuelled my motivation over the years. I have started to run my own classes when James instructed me to do so, on 20th December 2000.

Over the years I have undergone a lot of training to further my own practice and to improve my ability to pass on what I have learnt. I completed a teacher training course with David Swenson, one of the most ‘prominent’ ashtanga teachers worldwide. I have also benefited from teaching by John Scott, and attended workshops with many other highly respected teachers. Among them I have found Richard Freeman’s teaching particularly useful and inspirational.

It is worth to mention here that many of the teachers I have learnt from, have been ‘misinformed’ about the origins, history, philosophy and techniques of yoga. Lots of myths have been created and cultivated in order to lend yoga credibility. Many of the ‘great teachers’, whom have now been elevated to almost-sainthood, or to demigod status, have been more than liberal with the truth – invented stories and made claims that cannot be substantiated. Their artificial constructions have been passed down the line of the American, European and Indian teachers, so the faery tales go on…

In 2002 I have traveled to India to research and practice Ashtanga yoga. During my stay in Mysore I practiced at the yoga shala of K. Pattabhi Jois, who was then still the guru of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. While in Mysore, I also attended classes run by Sri Sheshadri. I found his classes much more useful than those of Pattabhi Jois.

More recently I also had the opportunity to learn from Norman Sjoman. His unparalleled knowledge of the history and philosophy of yoga has opened my eyes to many things I haven’t been able to grasp before. Norman also shared with me some very effective postural alignment and opening techniques. He is now my ‘yoga mentor’ and also a good friend, with whom I maintain a close contact. Over the years we have organised many joint events in the UK, Hungary, Poland and Estonia.

The India experience was more useful in terms of gaining insight into just how much misconception exists with regard to yoga, and how frequently it is misrepresented, mis-sold, and often how badly it is taught. As the years passed and my own teaching experience grew, I understood that I have to set myself apart from the now flourishing ‘yoga industry’. Today I am independent from any school, any organisation, and I intend to remain so. Many of the views I held in my earlier yoga years have been burnt away in the light and fire of more recent learning – I see this as a natural and positive development.

One more important thought – in my view yoga cannot be taught. It has to be discovered, and to make the discovery possible one has to look very carefully. It is essential to re-train, to re-condition mind, body and heart, to make it receptive, to open up to revelation.

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