Teacher Interview #6: Pooja
Meet Pooja. The latest addition to the MLPC team. Alex was looking for someone to replace her morning vinyasa class on Wednesdays and Pooja was the perfect fit. They both connected via Instagram. Pooja style of teaching is so energetic, joyful and calm you’ll leave her sessions feeling elevated and relaxed.
Sure enough, she was able to capture the hearts of the community with her pop-up Pilates classes and visualization meditation when she subbed for Alex as she took some time off for her advanced coaching certification course.
Read all about Pooja and the journey she took to become a yoga instructor as she answers the MLPC teacher blog questions...
Where in the world are you? Tell us more about yourself?
Pooja: I currently am in Abu Dhabi and have been in the UAE for the last 7 years.
Answering the question "where are you from" is always an interesting one to answer for me because I end up confusing the listener! haha
Born and raised in Burundi, home for me is Bujumbura because my parents still live there. I however, hold a Tanzanian passport as I took my father's nationality by birth.
Both my parents are of Indian ethnicity but settled in East Africa. Most of the rest of my family lives in Canada, and that's where I'll be moving too very soon.
Other than teaching yoga, I am also a Mat Pilates instructor and practice Sound healing using Tibetian bowls.
I am also studying Ayurveda and have completed the "Ayurveda for Yoga teachers" certification course from a reputed school in India.
During my free time I like to play tennis and read, I am currently reading a book I got from a cousin "The power of now, a guide to spiritual enlightenment".
How long have you been teaching yoga and what pushed you to become an instructor?
Pooja: I have been teaching Yoga for over 3 years now.
Yoga is a lifestyle and my Yoga practice started in my childhood as my mother taught us (my brother and I) many of the spiritual practices that are part of a Yogic lifestyle such as mantra chanting, Surya namaskars, paying gratitude to the Earth, grounding by walking barefoot for example.
I was always drawn towards Indian culture and after I graduated my 12th grade, I decided to go to India to experience the culture and festivals.
That led to me spending three beautiful years in Pune and Mumbai where I pursued my further studies and regularly attended Yoga classes to deepen my practice.
Few years back I found it to be my calling to share the passion that I have for wellness and the gift of Yoga with others through my teachings and decided to get a Yoga Teacher Certification. I took leaves from work and travelled to Mysore where I got certified as a Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Teacher.
If you had to describe your teaching style, how would you?
Pooja: I would describe my teaching style as simple and enthusiastic.
I live by the mantra, whatever you do, do it with your full heart. And whenever I teach a class I just allow my passion to shine through. Because it is contagious!
Expanding the students' understanding of the wider world of Yoga philosophy is also something that I love to do through my teachings which I again like to keep accessible and simple.
As a teacher I hope and wish that the students leave the practice feeling fulfilled so I do like to know the students better in order for me to offer what suits them the best in the classes.
What is the intention you try to instill in your students?
Pooja: Using the practice as a gift to build awareness and in turn find acceptance of what IS.
Although I encourage students to set their own intention in the beginning of the practice, I do like to set a foundation by guiding them into a state of acceptance. And making them feel at ease wherever they are right at this moment.
Acceptance, of feelings, emotions, pains & joy, that might be present because I strongly believe that once we accept what is there, we are able to surrender a little more and let the magic happen!
What is your favorite posture?
Pooja: Ahhh that's a fun one.
Favourite would surely be Balasana child's pose not only because it feels super relaxing and therapeutic at literally anytime of the practice but also because I love the reaction I sometimes get during class when I say, take rest in Balasana ("yay" and giggles).
“As a teacher I hope and wish that the students leave the practice feeling fulfilled so I do like to know the students better in order for me to offer what suits them the best in the classes.”
Performing Wild Thing pose at the Emirates Palace, UAE
Set the scene for your perfect practice - paint us a picture!
Pooja: I am grateful for every single practice because like I said, every opportunity I get to practice and share my practice with any one is truly a gift and privilege but if I could add anything to make it even more beautiful it would be being in the lap of nature.
Living in Abu Dhabi, I don't get the opportunity to practice outdoors much because of the weather.
I feel so blessed to have spent my childhood and adolescence in a country like Burundi because I feel we were very much connected to nature, and away from the hustle and bustle of big countries and cities we live in today and that's something I sometimes miss.
So the picture would be: an outdoor setting, on green grass with trees and flowers around, birds chirping, gentle breeze, pollution free fresh air maybe the sound of a river flowing nearby. Makes me smile just imagining this.
What’s the biggest myth about yoga instructors? Set the record straight!
Pooja: All yoga instructors are super flexible!
I have been a runner for many years, and my hamstrings are super tight. I have learnt to embrace whatever the body's capacity and capabilities are and to be compassionate, loving and kind towards the body.
Yoga is not only about physical flexibility after all.
Also, that all yoga teachers remember all the sequences of all their classes by heart and never forget anything. I remember forgetting one posture on one side after we finished class and I went "Hey, I made you do only one side, how come no one said anything?, and they all burst out laughing and said they were happy they got that discount and that child's pose came in earlier than expected".
It happens and it's alright! That's why I like to sometimes have my sequence written somewhere close to me, just in case.
“I strongly believe that once we accept what is there, we are able to surrender a little more and let the magic happen!”
What was one of your most heartfelt moments in teaching?
Pooja: When I was teaching Yoga every Saturday, a 5 year old forced her mother to call in the middle of the week to ask me why it was taking so long for the next class to happen and that she missed Yoga. Children's innocence is something that always makes me happy and melt.
Any advice to newbies teachers/students? (And oldies?)
Pooja: Breathe, if you are breathing you are practicing Yoga.
Embrace the beauty of your own practice, there is no need to compare yourself with anyone else. We are all on different journeys.
And lastly, celebrate success! Even a small success is still success!
Where do you see yoga in the next five years?
Pooja: With all that is happening around us right now, I think it is safe to say that the spotlight is slowly but surely shifting onto the importance of wellbeing and holistic living.
Yoga practices offer all the tools needed to build resilience physically and from within, so I see it (and certainly hope so) flourishing more and more .
Thank you Pooja for the great and insightful answers. If you would like to join Pooja, click on this link.
Leave a comment below if you have any thoughts or questions.
As always, may you all be safe, happy, healthy, and free.