Interview with Uday Bhosale

Uday taught at the Pune Iyengar Institute for over 15 years and is currently based in the UK. Frances took the chance to interview him during his recent visit to the Yoga Centre when he assisted Stephanie Quirk with her Yoga Therapy course.

On Sunday 8 October 2017 Uday will be teaching a workshop for those with more than 6 months’ experience. 

FH: So, can you tell us when you first started to practise Iyengar yoga?

UB: So I first started practising a bit informally, without knowing I was practising Iyengar yoga, which happened in my taekwondo class which was taught by Ali Dashti, one of Guruji’s senior students. So he taught us a nice blend of martial arts techniques and yoga asanas as well, so while doing it we thought it was martial arts exercises which would help us kick and punch! But then the techniques, the way he was teaching of course had the Iyengar method and that finesse to it, so it was quite attractive for me. It really clicked…that was the time I was doing my studies, my higher education and everything was lined up after that, but I picked up a liking for this. He saw the interest in me and then he recommended to me, if you really want to learn more, this is the place you should go.

FH: So you were living in Pune at the time?

UB: yes, I had been there since the age of three

FH: So then you went to classes at the Institute

UB: And reluctantly so, I must say! [laughs] Because that time I was a younger age – around 18/19 years – and taekwondo was something active…and I think because the impression of yoga was that senior members do it, and it’s pretty slow, so why would he ask us to go there? It seemed a little bit shocking – we were a little bit doubtful. Me and a couple of my friends were also told to do that. But you can’t go against master’s word, so if he’s said OK there we are! We went there, got the enrolment and it started. Then once I started being there I realised, ‘ah, this seems familiar,’ and now I understand why he must have said that.

FH: So how did you come to teach and assist the Iyengar family at the Institute?

UB: So after I got in there in this manner, of course it was a really happy time and I thought, ‘wow, I’ve come to a dream place where I can learn so much more’ and was keen to do it. And the Iyengar family they have an eye for that, I must say – automatically I think they just saw perhaps the interest and the keenness in me…of course, I was not picked up for assisting straight away. I did go in to do a few assisting kind of things, but then Geetaji saw the rawness…and said before you do assist you’d better come to my classes. And then I was given more classes than what a regular student would be given. So she said first, do the classes regularly, and that became an informal or unstructured training kind of thing, which was after every class. And that’s how it started, and then within class, they would say ‘go and check this, go and adjust that, do this, why did you do it like this,’ and ‘can’t you see that this is…’ so that is how, gradually, they started developing the eye to find out what needs to be adjusted.

FH: So she kind of trained you in the classes really, to assist and observe and teach

UB: Initially that’s how it happened, then once a decent degree of experience happened then we were asked to come to the therapy classes, where you would be asked just to bring some weight, bring a bolster, bring a belt, whatever prop needed. Hold here, support here…and thereafter, as the understanding increases then you go on adjusting and doing things like that. So it was gradual…it wasn’t like, OK, today our training starts…

FH: Right, I see – so it’s very different from our British system where you start the teacher training and it’s two and a half years, and then you take an assessment. So the Indian system is very different. It’s like an apprenticeship really…

UB: I must say it used to be until now. Still it is like that, but then I think recently things have started to change where students come straight away with that inclination or intention that ‘I want to become a teacher’. But still they are made to work, because this has to ease into it or you have to grasp a lot of things before you start helping or assisting anyone else.

FH: So how many years did it take from when you first went to the Institute to really starting to properly teach?

UB: I think around 2005 or 2006. I went there first in 1999 just like a reluctant student, as I said, but then thereafter it started in 2002. There was a teacher training programme from 2001 and 2002; I was there for 2002 and there I think again that’s where some qualities or certain things were seen and they kind of took efforts on me after that. After that Guruji said, “Go and tell Pandu that I have asked you to take a class.”

FH: Wow! A big responsibility

UB: It was a shock actually. And it didn’t happen actually that day for some reason, maybe the time that was set or whatever, I didn’t go back and report it to him. Next year he remembered and he said, “I told you to do that, why haven’t you done it? Last year only I told you!” I was like – wow, he remembers that! And I was kind of reluctant because of the Institute, and it’s such a big place – and to be a teacher there…but then when he said it for a second time and he remembered that, I thought I had better do it!

FH: So what’s brought you to live and work and teach in the UK?

UB: Basically first of all the main reason is my wife moved here for work, so that’s the main big reason. She came here first, she started working and she enjoyed working here, it was really nice for her to be here and work, experience-wise, time-wise, and of course the monetary aspect as well – it was good, rather than being in India. So she kind of liked it here, but my reluctance was I didn’t want to leave the Institute, because I had seen by now people all over the world crave to be there, they start counting their days and hours spent at the Institute. And I always felt, if I leave this place it’s going to be foolish. That’s how I ended up sticking around even while I was doing my Batchelor’s and Master’s programme because otherwise as these higher education studies become a bit intense, my friends, those who joined, they drifted, they went along with the academics. For me, the academics were like an extra-curricular activity! [laughs] But I should thank my family as they let me do this. So I had this keen interest in this and went on doing it – it was quite difficult for me to leave it and then come here…

So by then we had got married, I was working and doing my classes here. In the morning I would teach private classes, then full daytime office work, and in the evening I used to come to the institute for classes, so it used to end up being a very long day. So for a few years it was quite a stretch. Because the office was also quite demanding…so I was complaining that I didn’t have enough time for my own practise, I wanted to read things but I couldn’t do that. And that’s when my wife said, “Why not try and come here for some time? You don’t even need to work in the beginning. Take a few months off, you wanted all that time for yourself, do whatever you want – practise, read, see how it goes.” That was the kind of bed I think she put for me and I went for it…and I am glad. Of course there’s no doubt about missing the Institute, I miss being there and being taught by these great teachers, but what I noticed after coming here is, it would give me time to assimilate or let those things sink in. Because there, all these big teachers, there’s constant input. And the years were also always outwards. To see what someone is saying, what they are doing, what they’re asking. And here, everything stopped suddenly. So it was just me and the props on my mat. And that’s when things started to come, and when I am doing it on my own I am not trying to do it…because even in the practice hall…you are kind of performing….

FH: Yes, and there’s also a little bit of competition I think, sometimes?

UB: Competition and at times trying to just be safe and not to get picked on

FH: Yes

UB: Like, “You are just lazing around” or “you are foolish, who taught you like this?” – things can come up like that, so you are trying to just make sure none of this happens! So it’s still trying to play something or playing a role there. whereas here, it’s nothing like that. And that’s when things started to make sense in a different way.

FH: It’s like you could absorb all those years of learning

UB: And I’m still feeling that…so do I miss the Institute? Yes, but then, am I really sad about it? I’m not saying no, but the learning doesn’t stop, I feel. So I am really glad about that part of it. And of course, being here, I gradually started getting opportunities and invitations. It seems people are liking the way I am teaching…

FH: Yes definitely, we’re really pleased you’re here. It’s like having a little taste of Pune here in our lives.

UB: I’m really glad about that!

FH: So here in Sheffield, this course, you’ve been assisting Stephanie [Quirk] which we’re really pleased about. Do you find any differences between the health issues of students in India and in the UK? Or what are the differences, do you feel?

UB: To be honest I have been just at the Institute, so in Pune we used to get students coming for therapy sessions from different areas, different parts, and of course all over the world. Because of their name, because of the kind of work the Iyengars are able to do. So the local population of course was coming with common ailments, common problems which we can see everywhere I think. Suffering from back, neck, blood pressure, heart conditions, things like that. So that was there, but then complex cases were coming for the medical classes as well. And here I think of course I haven’t had a chance yet to run a medical class or be part of a medical class over here. So all of the cases have just been common problems in the regular classes, like some knee issues, or someone having back issues and things like that. Which is kind of the same everywhere. I can see people are a bit more into running, cycling and things like that. I can see a lot of them are much stiffer – those who are doing such activities than is commonly observed.

FH: Stiff in the legs, in the hips?
UB: Yes. Hips a bit more, because in India sitting cross-legged on the floor is pretty much common, or you can easily…it depends, you might not be able to sit for long hours, but you could sit down. For some of them over here, that can be a big task. So these are simple structural differences which I have noticed. At times some of them are quite stiff in the shoulders as well.

FH: And do you find that the lifestyle, the Western lifestyle, does that seem like it’s more stressful than what you’ve seen or experienced in India? Or do think it’s getting to be the same?

UB: [laughs] In India I’m sorry to say we are catching up really fast on that!

FH: Catching up with our stress levels…

UB: If not caught up already…and at times I might go to the other extreme and say that the stress levels are pretty much higher in the other sense, because work stress, and all those things – yes, that will be everywhere depending on what kind, of job you do. But apart from that the other stress of commute, all those things can add up much more. Which perhaps over here they are not to that extent. As you must have seen in Indian cities…

FH: Yes, and the traffic…yes

UB: So that way it is a bit less, but again, stress-busters or whatever you may label it as…in India the way we commonly end up meeting friends or doing things…I don’t know if it happens to that extent over here, I feel it’s a bit more structured or a little bit more formal than the way it happens in India. Like if you and me are good friends but still I will ask you if you have time at the weekend, or should we come and meet up, whereas in India we would just say ‘hey, I’m coming to your place, I want to do this,’ or ‘let’s go there’ even if you say ‘no, I have to do something.’ [laughs]

FH: So that connection is there, yes

UB: It must be over here as well, but it depends…

FH: Yes I think so but I know what you mean, we’re a little bit more formal in how we communicate…

UB: A bit more polite

FH: Yes

FH: That’s great, we’re looking forward to you coming back to teach a workshop for us in October so that’s brilliant, it’s lovely to have all that background information so thank you.

UB: Thank you, I’m looking forward to being here.

On Sunday 8 October 2017 Uday will be teaching a workshop for those with more than 6 months’ experience. Click here for details.

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