Learning to say 'no'

Travelling to India is by far one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences I have had so far. The extremes of wealth and poverty, beautiful landscapes and cities full of filth, locals who are beyond friendly and helpful to those who just see you as a dollar sign. This country has it all and you need a thick skin along with a lot of patience in order to navigate and survive this place.

What led me there was an opportunity to teach and manage a yoga studio in the North of India, this was to be my home for the next 6 weeks. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this small city, 5 hours north of New Delhi. It’s situated in the Punjabi region, the amount of wealth here was astounding as we had witnessed so much poverty before arriving here.

The studio owners offered me and my partner their home to live in, meals provided by their chef/caretaker and a peaceful environment to take a break from the craziness of traveling through India.

The studio was located about a 15-minute bike ride away from the house and my mode of transport to get there was on a very old and rickety bicycle to ride. I would hazard a guess that it was made in the 40’s or 50’s, however it did the job getting me to and from the studio each day. The yoga space was the whole ground floor of a large house that could comfortably fit up to 10 students.

The owner of the house was a well-known local dancer and musician who also conducted her own regular classes. In the evenings before my class began I would watch the little girls practicing their dancing, as I walked up the garden path I could hear the jingling of their bells before I had reached the entrance.

I was teaching 10 classes a week over 4 days, a combination of morning and evening classes.  In the first week, I only had a handful of students coming to the classes as the studio had been closed for a few weeks over the Christmas/New Years break. I had 1-2 students in each class and most were regular students who had been coming for a few months.

I was a little disheartened at first as I was expecting it to be a little busier and that a few new students might start coming too. By the end of my second week of teaching, I realized that the best I could hope for was that people would at least show up to the classes as the numbers, although small to start with had already started to dwindle. I quickly realized that even though the students paid for the whole month up front it didn’t necessarily mean that they would be turning up to the classes.

However, my biggest concern was with the couple who owned the studio. The reason why I was offered this volunteer position in the first place was that they had made plans to travel interstate to further their yoga studies. They then planned to take a break in Thailand before returning back to resume classes at their studio. 

The owners were very clear as to how they wanted me to run/teach the classes, checking up daily about every little thing, ringing students in my first week of teaching to get 'constructive feedback', my every move being watched and critiqued with constant questions and criticisms being constantly fired at me.

I have learned over my years of teaching that you need to be true to your style and not let other people or students try to change you or tell you how to teach. I can now also easily detect when I feel I'm being taken advantage of or used in a way that's not in alignment with my morals and values.  

I decided to cut my time short here but I'm thankful for the experience as the few dedicated students who did come to the classes were always so friendly, helpful and embraced my way of teaching. It was also a very beautiful space to teach in and came fully equipped with all of the mats/props that I could ever need to provide support for the students.

This whole experience also allowed me to stand up for myself and have the courage to say 'no, this isn't working for me and it's just not a good fit.'

I have been very lucky to have already had some incredible opportunities and experiences teaching in other countries in SE Asia. I'm not going to let this experience dampen my spirits or scare me off from applying for more teaching opportunities. If anything this was an invaluable lesson for me to learn and to stand up for myself in a difficult situation.