Here we’re bringing the first Yoga teacher interview in our series. The aim of this series is to give you a behind the scenes look at what it is to be a teacher, and an opportunity to see Yoga from unique perspectives. Every Yoga teacher has a story to share – and we know you’ll love to hear them! You can check out an interview with our founder & Yoga teacher Aanika here.
Today we’re interviewing Yoga teacher and philosophy enthusiast Ervin Menyhart. He has over 30 years of experience with Yoga, and over 19 teaching. He’s been teaching Ashtanga Yoga in Coventry and Warwickshire for many years and is well known for his breadth of knowledge on the true roots of Yoga.
What was your first experience of Yoga?
I lived in Darwin, Northern Territory of Australia in 1983-84. I studied the works of Krishnamurti and it triggered the interest to take a look. The I first started to practice yoga regularly in 1984. 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.
You’ve been in the industry for a long time – how has it changed since you first started?
Like for most people, my early interest and experiences with yoga were superficial. It took some years, a lot of research, testing various systems before I got closer to the essence of this amazing spiritual discipline.
The yoga widely taught and practiced today does not come near to what the original intention might have been. The evidence of commercialization was already well visible to me from the beginning. Wide-spread ‘quackery’, self-made yoga experts and dubious schools – money has moved in right from the beginning and started doing the corrupting… This is not the fault of yoga, this is us humans messing everything up for the sake of money. To me there is the ’true’ yoga that cannot be messed up by manipulation, and the ‘Mickey Mouse yoga’ of modern studios, pseudo-spirituality, body-beautiful obsession, etc.
There are some good teachers around, but they are notoriously difficult to find as they tend to shy away from the ‘yoga industry’. This industry is now world-wide and is worth billions of £/$.
I am only interested in the subject, not the ‘industry’ and the money.
What made you decide to become a teacher?
My first teacher James Critchlow suggested that I should consider the path. I’m glad I listened – the practice and the further training taught me a lot.
What’s a common misconception about Yoga you’d like people to know?
Yoga is an internal, spiritual practice and there are many paths one can take. It certainly isn’t about looking good naked or being able to put your leg behind your neck.
What aspect(s) of life do you believe Yoga practice helps most with?
Stop and think, look within, get out of the hamster wheel. The physical practice will help to get fitter, stronger – but essentially it is only a portal to the deeper, internal practice. As said above, it is a spiritual practice.
What resource(s) have you found most inspiring?
Norman Sjoman’s books and personal tuition. An outstanding, true expert in the field. I’m very lucky to have him as a mentor and friend.
Describe milestone or a time where you felt like you’d really achieved something in your Yoga journey?
The first one (27th September 1999) was finding James Critchlow and starting to learn Ashtanga yoga under his guidance. The second one was when he told me I should learn to teach, the third one was when he instructed me to start to teach (20th December 2000). Many other minor milestones were encountered over the years. Many were actually quite negative, calling into question my work in the field (I was on the verge of quitting several times). Another major one was meeting Norman Sjoman. It was under his guidance that I have learned the most about the history and philosophy of yoga, I am still benefiting from his wisdom today.
Most recent major decision was to pull out of the ‘commercial’ environment – abandoning studio and class based teaching.
Who in the industry do you find most inspiring?
It is the above mentioned Norman Sjoman, head and shoulders above everyone else.
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…
How have you adapted your teaching during the pandemic?
I moved to run a couple of small online groups a week via Zoom and having Zoom meetings discussing philosophical aspects…
Do you feel the pandemic has affected your ability to teach in a negative (or positive) way?
In a way it helped, got a better perspective of what I want and what I don’t want to do.
What are your plans going forward?
I’ve moved out of the commercial field altogether. Closed down my yoga website – I am no longer willing ’to compete for customers’ – I don’t need to. Focusing on a smaller number of seriously interested, committed individuals. I will run the occasional workshop, some consulting / teacher training support, some individual tuition.
Contact Ervin at firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about classes or talk Stoic philosophy!
You can look forward to more in our Yoga teacher interview series soon! So stay tuned!
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