Aadil Palkhivala was first introduced to yoga when he was still inside his mother’s womb. “My mother could not get pregnant,” said Palkhivala. “She tried for seven years.” It wasn’t until Palkhivala’s mother started practicing yoga with the renowned B.K.S. Iyengar that she finally was able to conceive. “My first experience (with yoga) was in the womb hearing Iyengar’s voice.” Today, Palkhivala is known worldwide as a yoga master and one of the foremost “teachers of teachers.” He has spent a lifetime mastering yoga, and today shares his gift with his students across the globe and at his Bellevue yoga studio, Alive and Shine Center , which celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2017. We spoke with Palkhivala to learn more about his approach to yoga and what it was like opening Bellevue’s first yoga studio 25 years ago.
When did you first start practicing yoga?
I started observing the great B.K.S. Iyengar teaching my parents when I was about 3 years old. I would do art class downstairs, and then I’d climb up the stairs and sit and watch while Iyengar taught a few students. In those days, he was not famous. And I watched, and I did not pay much attention to it. I just had the feeling of what they were doing. And then at the age of 7, I was allowed to join.
What was it like studying under B.K.S. Iyengar?
I did not want to do it. And the reason was because B.K.S. Iyengar was the world’s greatest asana master, and he would jump on me and push me and pull me and make me cry and make me hurt … But I kept going because in India you don’t defy your parents. You trust them. And so, because of the trust I had for my parents and that they knew what was best for me, I continued going.
When did you transition from student to teacher?
My principal asked me to teach yoga to my colleagues, so I asked Iyengar and said, “Guruji, they want me to teach in school. Should I teach?” And he said, “Yes, teach!” And so I started teaching about the age of 15.
What brought you from India to the United States?
It had nothing to do with yoga. This was plain and simple love. I fell in love with a lady. The most beautiful girl in the world, of course, and she lived in the States, and I lived in India, so we had a long-range romance for four years. I wrote her hundreds and hundreds of letters — one letter every day, sometimes two. And then I asked my teacher (Iyengar), I said, “She lives there, I live here — I would love to go there. What do you think?” And Iyengar said, “Don’t worry. I’ll arrange it for you.” And so he arranged a worldwide tour. I was in America for about seven months, then I went to Canada for two (months), then I was in Europe for about four months. I traveled around the world spreading his message, and the traditional, very formal, very rigorous, authentic style of asana.
You eventually planted roots in Bellevue. What inspired you to open your own yoga center?
I started teaching on the Eastside in 1986. I was teaching at the Pro Club, and then started teaching at the Washington Athletic Club in Seattle, and then I started teaching at the Little Gym out here — I was teaching at different locations all over the city. And one of my students said, “Why don’t you open your own center?” And at that time, I was also traveling around the world teaching, so I said, “Find a place close to my house. If you find a place within five minutes of my house, I’ll do it.” And she did! She found this location, and so we started our center in 1992.
You opened Alive and Shine Center 25 years ago. When it opened, it was the first yoga studio in Bellevue. How has yoga changed in the past 25 years?
The word started to get around, studies started getting published, and so yoga studios started to spring up around the city. As people started to experience the yoga that we taught, they expected the same thing out of the studios that were closer to their homes because people would drive from everywhere to come here. And so slowly, over time, the competition, if you will, started to increase. At one time we counted, and there were more than 36 yoga studios around our area in Bellevue, including classes at the Y — not just actual studios — but places where yoga was taught.
How has an abundance in yoga classes changed the way people do yoga?
(People) don’t know the difference, and so they just jump into anything that’s cheap. And that’s what has happened to yoga now. It’s become cheap. And so the quality, of course, has gone down the drain. You can’t get great teaching when you haven’t had great study.
At Alive and Shine Center, you teach Purna Yoga. What is it?
Our yoga (Purna Yoga) is the only yoga that has all of yoga in it … (it’s) the physical, the spirit work with Heartfull Meditation, the applied philosophy, and the nutrition and lifestyle. Those are the four major petals of Purna Yoga.
Your wife, Savitri, is a meditation master. She developed the Heartful Meditation that you incorporate into Purna Yoga. What is Heartfull Meditation?
Savitri developed Heartfull Meditation to cultivate the light in your heart, which is where you feel love. You don’t feel love in your mind; you feel love in your heart. And so she developed this technique of Heartfull Meditation. It’s the only meditation that has techniques where you actually move the energy with your hands — you actually move it, rather than just sit around.
Why should people incorporate yoga as a regular practice in their daily lives?
If you practice (yoga) regularly, if you do the correct things, then yoga will actually help you deal with the stress in your life. Yoga will help you deal with the aches and pains in your body. Yoga will help you keep your mind fresh and alert. Yoga will help you with backaches. Yoga will help you with your relationships … there are mental benefits, physical benefits, and the big one: the reduction of stress.
Reposted from article at https://seattleyoganews.com/great-yoga-teacher-aadil-palkhivala/
Aadil Palkhivala has been teaching yoga for over 35 years and he has been recognized as the yoga teacher of the year during the 2016 edition of the Seattle Yoga Awards hosted by Seattle Yoga News. We decided to ask him a few questions about teaching yoga and what makes a great yoga teacher. Here is what he had to say:
Seattle Yoga News : What is it about becoming a yoga teacher that has made it such a popular thing to do these days?
Aadil Palkhivala : I would like to believe that the real reason for the popularity of becoming a yoga teacher is each human being’s inner need to serve others and be of value in the world. It is being part of a movement of growth and self – knowledge and evolution. True yoga also helps us connect with our Spirit and, as we help others connect with their Spirit a deep satisfaction and happiness fills us. This creates a feeling of fulfillment as we teach real yoga. Therefore, a true yoga teacher who understands the deeper yoga feels valuable and of service to humanity.
Seattle Yoga News : What do you think are the key characteristics of great yoga teachers?
Aadil Palkhivala : Great yoga teachers know their subject inside out and have lived their yoga rather than merely practice asana. Great yoga teachers are connected with the Spirit within them and use their decades of experience as a backdrop for the Spirit’s call of the moment. This means that every class is different, unique. Every class is tailored to the students in front of the teacher. When a student takes a class with a great yoga teacher, the student feels that the class was customized just for him or her!
Also, great yoga teachers have Clarity, Confidence and Compassion. Above all, great yoga teachers are always studying with other great yoga teachers. A great yoga teacher is humble and never stops learning. A great yoga teacher is first and foremost a great yoga student.
Seattle Yoga News : What are some practical tips new yoga teachers can follow to improve their teaching of yoga over time?
Aadil Palkhivala : Study, study, study. Never stop learning. Practice asana every day. Practice Heartfull™ Meditation every day. Watch your choices. Do you speak kind words? Do you listen to uplifting music? Do you only see movies without foul language or violence? By uplifting your energy you uplift your teaching. Eat only organic food. Wear happy colors. Make your lifestyle that of a true yogi. Live the yama and niyama all the time. It is only when you are living yoga that you can improve your teaching. A real yoga teacher is less interested in the shape of his or her body and more interested in the quality of his or her life.
Seattle Yoga News : What is your approach to teaching yoga when leading a new group of students through a class or a workshop?
Aadil Palkhivala : My signature approach is helping new students realize that yoga is far, far, far more than physical postures. I teach new students that even though physical asana is necessary, it is not important. I tell them that asana is like brushing your teeth. You must do it every day but you don’t live for teeth brushing! New students are taught by me to make their life worthwhile and uplifting. How to open their hearts and bring love into their life. How to appreciate their physical body. How to live at the highest level of their current awareness.
That being said, the practice of asana has to be done with great care and precision to avoid injuries. Beginners must be taught the fundamental principles of alignment and action. Basics must be repeated and clarified. The teacher must have the eyes of a hawk to scan the room for mistakes that could lead to injuries.
Seattle Yoga News : Who are some of the key people who have influenced you to become the teacher you are today?
Aadil Palkhivala : Savitri, creator of Heartfull ™ Meditation , The Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Sri Aurobindo, my close personal family, my great asana teacher B.K.S. Iyengar, the Indian singer – saint Dilip Kumar Roy and his disciple Indira Devi and the countless interactions with students in the past 51 years of yoga practice. Also, watching “popular” teachers teach at large conferences and reading Manuals of other Teacher Training programs continuously remind me how important quality in teaching is, and hence we are constantly improving our program in teaching Purna Yoga™.
Seattle Yoga News : Anything else you’d like to add?
Aadil Palkhivala : The popularity of yoga has led to its dilution and distortion and, unless its essence is brought back, may lead to its demise. It is sad that people associate yoga not with truth and light and purity but with hot rooms and contortionism. My purpose continues to be to bring the essence of yoga from the past and merge it with the work of Sri Aurobindo, The Mother and Savitri to move yoga into a more luminous future.
Aadil Palkhivala’s Bio:
With degrees in law, physics and mathematics, Aadil is one of the world’s top yoga teachers and, for over 35 years, has had the reputation as the “teacher of teachers,” since the world’s finest teachers study with him. His passion is to create health, wealth and happiness in the lives of his students who truly embrace Purna Yoga’s teachings and lifestyle.
He began his studies with B.K.S. Iyengar at the age of 7, and was the youngest person to be awarded the Advanced Yoga Teacher’s Certificate from Iyengar at the age of 22. He has been training yoga teachers in India, Asia, Europe and the United States since 1976. Aadil writes for Yoga Journal Magazine and been an “Asana Expert” for both the magazine and website. He is frequently a keynote speaker internationally. Aadil is the author of three Teacher Training manuals and Fire of Love , the book that seeks to restore the essence of yoga. Aadil is a Certified Shiatsu and Swedish Bodyworker and a Clinical Hypnotherapist and has extensively studied alternative health and Ayurveda. Aadil is the co-founder and co-director of internationally – renowned Alive and Shine Center in Bellevue , Washington and Purna Yoga College, a 200-hour, 500-hour, 2,000-hour, and 5,000+ hour Teacher Training program. For more information go to www.aadil.com
With degrees in law, physics and mathematics, Aadil Palkhivala is one of the world’s top yoga teachers and, for over 35 years, has had the reputation as the “teacher of teachers,” since the world’s finest teachers study with him*. He has completed over 51 years of yoga practice!
Aadil’s experience of holistic healing was originally prenatal, as his mother could not conceive for 7 years and, only after practicing yoga with B.K.S. Iyengar, did she conceive her first child: Aadil! Aadil began observing Iyengar’s classes at the age of three, commenced formal study at the age of seven, and was the youngest person to be awarded the Advanced Yoga Teacher’s Certificate at the age of twenty-two!
Aadil and his wife, Savitri, moved to the Pacific Northwest from California (where he introduced Iyengar yoga to the original founders of Yoga Works in Santa Monica) in the 1980’s. Once his family moved to Bellevue, Aadil taught out of his home studio and several other places like the Washington Athletic Club, leaving his law practice to pursue yoga full-time. He opened the first yoga studio in Bellevue in 1992. As one of only 6 Advanced Iyengar teachers in the world, and as a part of the Iyengar Association, he was one of the only teachers offering teacher trainings in the area. He taught Beginning Teacher Trainings, Intermediate Teacher Trainings, Therapeutic Teacher Trainings, and multiple week-long asana immersions every year. After 25 years in business, we are the oldest yoga studio in Bellevue.
Aadil studied for over 14,000 hours with B.K.S. Iyengar and 5,000 of those hours were focused on yoga therapy. Aadil has worked with thousands of students therapeutically.
In 2004, Aadil’s teacher training officially became a state certified vocational school and with BKS Iyengar’s blessings, Aadil formally stepped away from the strict Iyengar curriculum to teach a more holistic yoga called Purna Yoga. Aadil and his wife, Savitri, are the founders of Purna Yoga, a holistic synthesis of yogic traditions based on the work of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. Aadil and Savitri are the founders and directors of Alive and Shine Center™ in Bellevue, Washington and Purna Yoga College™, a 200-hour, 500-hour, 2,000-hour and 4,000+hour Teacher Training program.
Aadil is the author of Fire of Love, a book that seeks to restore the rapidly fading essence of yoga. He has also co-authored three manuals with Savitri, which are used in his beginning, intermediate, and therapeutic teacher trainings. In addition, Aadil has written and filmed extensively for Yoga International and Yoga Journal as the “Asana Expert” for both the magazine and the website. He has served as advisor and board member to Prevention Magazine, Yoga Alliance, Yoga Journal and The Iyengar Yoga National Association of the United States. Aadil developed the use of short series and created the Opening Series, the Hip Series and the Spinal Rejuvenation Series (Reversing the Aging of the Spine Series). Aadil also refined the Morning Series and Classical Surya Namaskār to integrate principles of safety and alignment.
Aadil expanded Iyengar’s work with props to make yoga more accessible and therapeutic, by creating specific props and modifications that address the issues of our modern lifestyle. Aadil invented new systems and series using the wall ropes for relaxation, anti-aging, traction, āsana modifications, as well as therapeutic applications.
Therapeutic applications influence all of Aadil’s teachings. His ingenuity and constant inspiration to create benefit for his students and the world are at the forefront of his yoga teaching.
* Local teachers that have studied with Aadil: Ian Gray, Lisa Black, Liz Doyle, Jo Leffingwell, Theresa Elliot, Kathleen Hunt, Kitty Whittkower, Felicity Green, Karen Guzak, Richard Schactel, and Ana Forrest. National teachers: David Life and Sharron Gannon, Barron Baptist, Seane Corn, Maty Ezraty, Tias Little, David Swenson, Chuck Miller, Roger Cole, Joan White, Bryan Legere, Patricia Walden, John Schumacher, Natasha Rizopoulos, Annie Carpenter, Erich Schiffmann, Rod Striker, John Friend, Jason Crandell, Bo Forbes.