With Urban Yogis UK yoga teacher training (YTT) programme starting in September 2023, we caught up with Bali-based Rohil Jethmalani who is collaborating with UYUK in the YTT programme.
For those unfamiliar with our upcoming (and very first!) YTT programme, it’s a 300hr teacher training which is all about creating a cohort of yoga teachers who’ll be trained at working with young people (and teenagers more specifically), but also working with people living in marginalised communities. And we are very excited that Bali-based Rohil is joining the team!
First introduced to UYUK director Ben Eckett a few years back (thanks to a mutual friend connecting them via Instagram), Rohil is now on board to help with the YTT manual and preparing the yoga history and yoga philosophy sections. Working alongside Ben and YTT lead Helen McCabe, the aim is to make these modules more practical and accessible, rather than just theoretical.
Dialling in from London to Bali, UYUK team member Grace Watson spoke to Rohil about his ongoing yoga journey, discovering important lessons and misconceptions around teaching, valuable advice for those considering YTT, and how, at its essence, yoga is really about serving and bringing joy to others.
Tell us a bit about your journey into yoga and then teaching yoga?
Originally from India, both my parents were yoga practitioners so I was very lucky to be introduced to the practice from a young age. This early introduction made my entry into yoga as an adult a lot easier.
My teaching journey happened somewhat organically.
After I finished my BA, I took a year off and deeply immersed myself in yoga. Afterwards, I returned to my parents house and people in the neighbourhood started asking if I could teach them or, in many cases, their child. I had a good rapport with these kids, and they looked up to me, so their parents would ask me to help by teaching yoga.
Soon I was teaching four or five hours a day; I wasn’t thinking about making yoga a career, it just happened really organically.
How has teaching influenced your personal practice?
I make sure I set aside time in the year (one or two months) where I can focus on my own practice because with teaching you often don’t get a lot of time for self-practice. As time goes on, the work-life balance is getting better.
Also, teaching is a great learning practice itself.
The moment I started to teach, my practice deepened because of the students’ questions and challenges–it helps me see a different perspective and I think more deeply about things, whether it’s alignment, the teaching or the philosophy.
What style of yoga do you practice and then teach?
I love the Ashtanga style and also practice meditation and pranayama (breathwork). But because of my experience in teacher trainings, I am able to (and do) teach other styles of yoga, such as Hatha and Yin. I teach a bit of everything including yoga philosophy and history, anatomy, asana alignment and adjustment.
What’s the most valuable lesson since becoming a yoga teacher?
The lesson I keep relearning is that whether it’s your own personal practice, or teaching, or anything in life, it’s important to keep the continuity of your own self-practice and not take a long break. It’s similar to the law of compounding in Economics and Business: you don’t stop the compounding, you keep it going for as long as possible without a break.
Also, trying to make sure I am more present for my students rather than just finishing the class and coming straight back to my own life.
What qualities do you think make a good yoga teacher?
Humility is very important.
A yoga teacher that is humble and also able to form relationships and share knowledge in a horizontal manner, rather than a more hierarchical and dogmatic vertical manner. I find that teachers who are able to do this, are able to create a nice community comprising students who are also often acquaintances and/or friends.
What are some misconceptions about being a yoga teacher?
While yoga is growing and there is a lot of scope and new jobs being created, it, like any industry, is a competitive one and the teachers with more experience will have an advantage.
It’s always better to make the transition to teaching yoga more slowly.
Also, don’t pursue teaching just to live in beautiful places and/or leave the corporate world, but because you are passionate and would love to be in the teaching role–as not all of us are teachers! Consider what your skill-sets are and ask questions like “am I good around other people?”, “am I good at public speaking?”.
Drawing from your experience teaching young people (YP) in India, please share with us a few tips in teaching YP?
The approach needs to be in a different format to how we teach adults–specifically more fun.
It’s all about connecting with young people at that interpersonal level, rather than being a teacher who says “do this, do that”.
Young people love some friendly competition and a few good laughs–and if you can encourage them to laugh, then they are all the more engrossed.
What advice would you consider giving to anyone interested in training to teach yoga?
Treat it like starting your own business–ask other people their thoughts, and spend time really considering all aspects. Embrace being in a fast-paced environment and learning multiple skills, which will allow you to focus on building your brand (website; and social media).
To also work on your public speaking and ability to project your voice and speak confidently in front of groups.
Considering how Yoga is not as accessible to those in marginalised communities, what do you think yoga can bring to these communities, and why is it important to work with young people from these communities?
Yoga is a great way to deal with stress and anxiety because it brings together movement and breath.
It’s not just sitting and breathing, or sitting and meditating (which a lot of people might find very difficult), or just doing a therapy session. It is actively embodying moving our body while we are breathing.
Research has shown that we hold stress in the physical body, and that different emotions and trauma affect us physically. Because yoga has a strong component of movement, we can use Yoga to reconnect with our physical body and begin to work through our traumas.
I think the power in yoga is also the philosophy that comes with it–it’s a whole state of mind and way of living. Yoga gives us a framework to better deal with the world, which could be valuable for marginalised communities. And the youth within marginalised communities who have access to these teachings benefit by simply knowing that such a way of life exists, and that there are people in the world who live with this outlook and these philosophies.
It’s like planting a seed.
A lot of these young people’s lives are filled with darkness, difficulty, and challenges, so it’s about creating opportunity and offering hope (while they are young), so that one day, should they want to take things into their own hands, they will have access to a new path.
Any other thoughts?
A big part of yoga traditionally has been about seva, about service, about doing for others. I think that Urban Yogis as an organisation and group of people are really trying to embody this: teaching yoga, but also using yoga to serve communities and uplift people… And I think that is at the core of what yoga really is.
Follow Rohil on Insta, HERE, and find out more about UYUK YTT Programme, HERE. For any young person who is interested in learning more about the programme, please ping us a direct message on Insta or email us at Info[at]urbanyogisuk.com
Interview by Grace Watson | Editing by Sarah Picton | Images © Rohil Jethmalani