Tag Archives: alignment class

Pankaj Sharma, an outstanding yoga teacher

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1918639_378943776943_3339646_nI visited Pankaj’s course in December 2014. I did not write about him then because of the lack of time. But I feel the need to do it anyway because the notes and sequences that I made on that course turned out to be so helpful, that I just feel I must write about this teacher.

Pankaj Sharma is a teacher of asana alignment (mainly, though he teaches pranayama as well) with many years of practice and teaching experience. He started in Rishikesh with local Iyengar teacher Rudra Dev and other Iyengar teachers that contributed a lot to his understanding of mechanics of the human body. Pankaj was a well known teacher in Rishikesh, then some 10 years ago or so he moved to Germany to live there with his family and chose his own path of practice – not strictly Iyengar, but still drawing a lot from similar sources and approaches. He’s Ashish’s brother and comes to Rishikesh to give just one course per year, usually in December, which he conducts in the place where Ashish normally has his classes, in the Green Hotel. This is usually 3 weeks course including 2 classes per day. The course is designed for experienced students and focuses on making them be more aware of their bodies, and learn approaches and tricks to control it better.  Over the time of these three weeks Pankaj shows a path from simplest asanas towards the most challenging ones, developing awareness, motor control, strength, flexibility and endurance.

Usually Pankaj does not allow drop-in classes, you have to take the entire course. The reason for this is very simple: Pankaj designs the course in a way that each class relies on the practice done in the previous one. The first class contains only 3-4 asanas with a lot of explanations and practice of basics, the next lesson builds on those basics to introduce new asanas, refine the previous ones, engage various parts of the body like feet or shoulder-blades or calves. So each lesson expands your understanding of previous practice, deepens and adds more nuances, and by the end of the course you see the whole picture, you are really equipped to do your own practice and know how to work with your body.
One word of caution: this is not a course for beginners. You will be doing pretty intense stuff and you better skip this course and practice with other teachers if you’re only starting your path in yoga, otherwise intensity can hurt you.

If you are interested in yoga alignment, you need to check classes of Pankaj. There are several factors that made his classes very valuable and definitely worth visiting.

He gives really well structured course

Each class is connected to previous, building wholesome picture of human body machine. It’s like you’re looking at the body through magnifying glass, learning to control one muscle at the time, and lesson by lesson connect everything together.

Good expert

Pankaj reads bodies excellently. You have probably heard those notorious anecdotes how alignment teacher looks at the student struggling with hand stand and finds the reason of those difficulties not in weakness of arms or shoulders, but in the fact that the student does not properly press the second phalanx of his index finder, or does not extend the right heel enough, or something like that. Well, jokes aside, it works. Pankaj will look at your body and will be able to identify the reason of your difficulties in certain pose, and very often, this reason will lie far away from the parts of body you think you’re doing this pose with. For example, he can fix your back bends with correct engagement of your feet, or arms, etc. It’s really amusing process and the most amusing part of it, it works.

Right degree of strictness

Pankaj is a strict teacher, he has rules and demands the students to give their best, but he does that with such softness that you never feel stressed. And you always feel that his demands are fair and are there for your own good.

Passionate encouragement

Pankaj can shout, but not in the way that some Iyengar teachers do (maybe because he is not an Iyengar teacher after all). He shouts instructions because he’s so intensely in the moment and wants everyone to pay attention, that it actually gives you encouragement and that extra energy boost. I have never felt any tension, let alone irritation, from his classes. By the contrast, some other “shouting teachers” made me want to kill someone after their classes.

He’s a practitioner

Pankaj practices and can show all those crazy things on his body, which is really helpful because you can SEE what he wants you to do. He is also one of those few teachers in Rishikesh who practice before the class. It’s also great, because you can use that time to approach him with some questions.

Charisma and friendliness

Pankaj socializes with people, very often invites everyone to join him for dinner in Chotiwala or juice place, organizes some picnics and celebrations. You feel a genuine desire to connect with people, to know them more. And this gives a wonderful effect: the whole class becomes like a one unit, one community of friends and colleagues. He knows everybody by name and jokes about himself and students, which makes classes entertaining and more “intimate”. He is really charismatic and open-hearted person.

He’ s not afraid to get his hands dirty

Once Pankaj saw Green hotel’s cleaning lady wipe the hall floor with the same rug she used for toilet. So Pankaj “fired” her right away and cleans the practice hall himself instead. That’s a rare combination of attentiveness and lack of unnecessary pride.

He does not seem to be focused on money-making

When I heard that Pankaj is coming to Rishikesh to give just one course, I thought that the prices would reflect the scarcity of that offer, and would be higher than usual Rishikesh prices. But I was wrong. Each class of the course in December of 2014 cost 200 rupees – that was the one of the LOWEST price asked by teachers in Rishikesh. Long are gone the days when yoga classes in Rishikesh cost 1 or 2 dollars. Now yoga in Rishikesh costs pretty much the same as you would pay in your home country. $5 is good price, and some classes can cost $10 or $15. 200 rupees was a very modest price in 2014 that only few people in Rishikesh charged (including Pankaj’s brother Ashish). But when you think, a teacher that comes from Germany to give just one course per year, and he does not allow drop-in students in the middle of the course (most teachers allow drop ins as it means additional income for each class), then you start thinking that money is not among the primary motivations for such teacher. Maybe this year the prices have changed – I would appreciate comments from those who have visited the course of 2015.

A teacher who gives more

Pankaj has conducted several breathing classes during the course. One of them was based on hyperventilating technique. Pankaj was giving instructions for each inhalation and exhalation to pace the breathing properly. So he was literally shouting “INHALE!!!” – “EXHAAAALE!!!” for 2 hours, very fast and without stop. And as we were doing it, I could not help thinking, “he does not have to do it, putting so much effort, just to make us have that experience”. Being a yoga teacher myself I understand very well how much talking during class is “giving”. And when you have to shout so intensely for 2 hours without stop, that tells something about your motivation and care of people.

So I hope you see, there are a lot of reasons to come to Pankaj course next December. I will just add a personal note that in what concerns physical practice teacher, Pankaj is by far my ideal teacher – knowledgeable, bringing you to the limit but gently, not forcing; charismatic, fun, easy going yet keeping structured discipline, generous, compassionate, communicative.

December 2017. Rishikesh.

You can reach Pankaj and via his page on TopYogis
Or any other time Frankfurt. His personal site for studio in Germany

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Ashish Sharma, Excellent Asana Teacher in Rishikesh

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Ashish yoga teacher in Rishikesh

Ashish Sharma, yoga teacher in Rishikesh

Dear Yogis and Travellers! Today I will tell you about one of my favorite teachers in Rishikesh, Ashish Sharma. It’s a teacher with unique expertise, one of the best specialists in Rishikesh in the field of asana alignment and development of programs that address body’s structural misbalances.

Of course, when we’re talking about asana alignment, the teacher number one in Rishikesh in this field would be Usha Devi (to my view at least), of whom I have already written in this blog. But yet, Usha, being a wonderful master, is not a teacher for everyone. I would say she is an excellent teacher for experienced yoga practitioners or for beginners who are ready to go way beyond their comfort zone to learn correct work with the body. She teaches in strict Iyengar style and is famous around the world as a teacher who can push you beyond your limit to make you develop really fast within limited timeframe.

But if you are a beginner or a practitioner who does not want to combine yoga with stress, who would like to receive deep knowledge on how to correctly work with the body and how to activate our deepest muscles and fascia, and yet do it with comfort, with good intensity and without unnecessary extremes, Ashish is your best choice. He’s not Iyengar teacher, but he teaches a lot of information about structural integration that is invaluable to both practitioners and especially yoga teachers. Moreover, he will teach you some points that no other teacher, even Iyengars, talks about – at least the ones I know of.

Ashish has a very good skill of body reading and can easily define what muscles or body parts of particular student need to be engaged to achieve optimal opening or stability in this or that asana. I was struggling with a few poses for several years, not understanding, why my body collapses in Scorpio and what I should do to progress in it. He was the only teacher out there to define my specific weakness and give me tools to work with it. He did it with a lot of my asanas and that actually helped me to deepen my practice a lot.

Of course, once you learn that skill of engaging and exercising deepest body muscles, it will go beyond performing asanas in yoga hall and translates into your entire life, influencing your everyday posture and potentially removing some old pains or problems.

He is one of the few teachers in entire Rishikesh who can safely work with students with disabilities and injuries, such as slipped disks, hernias, scoliosis, pregnancy, knee problems, etc. You need to talk to him before the class and he will pay special attention to you during entire session, suggesting you personalized asanas, props and exercises.

Ashish is a kind of teacher who just in a week or two can lead you from very superficial, rough understanding of your body to its deep knowledge, to direct interaction with it, to precise control of deep small muscles that support your joints and even to your ability to engage skin. This will help you feel your body in a completely new way, to see it open, become strong but soft, relaxed and developed in a balanced, healthy manner. I don’t promise that within a week or a month that you’re in Rishikesh you will learn all intricacies, but you will surely get real instruments to develop your body and get it ready for further stages of yoga. And you will certainly become stronger, healthier, more flexible, open, more stable both physically and mentally, as you will learn to hold positions for a long time and train your attention to go deep inside your body and to get fixed in particular areas.

And Ashish will do all this work to you in a soft manner, without violence and shouting, with a degree of strictness, but this strictness is very friendly and even compassionate I would say.

Ashish Sharma, yoga teacher

Giving a class in Crimea, Ukraine

By reading all this you would think that I’m advertising him. I’m not working in Himalayan Yoga Academy, where he teaches, anymore, so I have no interest to advertise him, I just like him a lot. And he’s really very good.

For the balance, I need to mention some drawbacks. His one is that he often comes late to his classes, so you will need to wait some 5-15 minutes.

He teaches drop in classes in Green View Hotel yoga hall in Ram Jhula. It’s located behind Parmarth Niketan. When you walk through Parmarth Niketan garden, turn right and walk a few minutes until the next crossroad before the building of Green Hotel, then turn left and on your right you will see a stairs leading to a yoga hall. Class timings change between 9 am to 9:30 in the morning and 5 pm to 5:30 in the evening. The duration of class is usually 2 hours, sometimes even more if he’s in a mood 🙂 The cost is 200 rupees.

Ashish also often teaches courses and intensives at Himalayan Yoga Academy. But not all courses, so you better ask them at http://yogaacademy.in

You can contact Ashish or read more reviews about him on his page at TopYogis