I’d interviewed people throughout my shortlived career of journalism but nothing beats the sensation of being interviewed. It feels like you’ve been awarded with honor.
The article was originally written in Bahasa Indonesia. But here I wrote it just for you in English. Below is the list of questions and answers of my email exchange with the journalist, Wiwi of Jawa Pos newspaper. This is the raw, uncut version of the interview.
Q: How were you first involved in Yoga Gembira Community?
A: Initially I got involved in the community by accident. I came to Taman Suropati on one Sunday morning in December 2010. At the time, I already discovered the information somewhere on the web about what the community did. It happened to be near where I reside, in Jakarta Selatan. I was looking for a pastime activity on weekends. Prior to that, I had been reading several books on yoga and watched some videos yet I had never learned how to practice correctly and properly under a guru’s supervision. I definitely needed one to start practicing yoga.
I was interested in yoga simply because yoga can be practiced anywhere, anytime. I’m not obliged to go to a certain place to do yoga. I don’t have to go to a gym or studio once I master the basic techniques.
But still I wanted to start doing yoga with a guru’s assistance so as to prevent injuries because learning yoga asanas from books and videos on YouTube seems inadequate.
At the time, I encountered Yudhi Widdyantoro in Taman Suropati. He’s my first yoga teacher. He initiated the community as a social movement to empower the society, making parks in the city filled with more energy so there won’t be more new malls built. We have had too many malls, he always says.
Yudhi has taught me a lot about yoga ever since. Every Sunday morning, I showed up and started to be actively involved in each activity of the community. That led me to Yoga Gembira Festival (YOGFEST), a yoga festival held annually since 2014.
In 2013, I took part in Indonesia Yoga School yoga teacher training as a student. I chose the school as I wanted to study more from Yudhi in a formal way. He taught pranayama (the breathing techniques in yoga), yin yoga and philosophy of yoga there. Since then, I began teaching privately. I taught an American expatriate working in Jakarta but this class lasted only a few months as he had to go home after the company closed down. That was how I started my career as a private yoga guru in Jakarta. Now I have more classes and small groups to teach. Most of them are employees of companies.
Q: Can you share some of your unique experiences as a participant and instructor in Yoga Gembira Community?
A: Experiences are many. For example, the class just began when Anjasmara Prasetya was teaching us at Taman Suropati. Suddenly at the same time a music band of youths played their tracks with fast beat rhythm. The class could hardly hear what Anjasmara instructed us to do.
Once we also had to deal with a mosquito fogging team in the neighborhood. In the middle of Anjasmara’s class, they sprayed the chemical substances into the air. The fog killed not only the larvae but also the class’ serenity without further ado. We couldn’t breathe! Thank God most of us stayed and the wind blew, sweeping away all the artificial toxics from the supposedly pristine air of the park.
Q: How significant is yoga to you and why?
A: Yoga makes me more balanced and sane in some way as I wade through the mundane world filled with physical, mental, psychological, and intelligential demands. I can liken yoga to a Formula 1 car at a pit stop. It’s where and when one can just take a break for a while, take care of what needs to be taken care of, change what should be corrected, balance what needs balancing, and so forth.
Q: What does it take to be a yoga instructor?
A: To be a yoga instructor these days, one is required to attend a registered yoga school and complete it. The certificate of completion may vary based on the duration of participation; some are 100-hour, 200-hour, 300-hour or 500-hour.
Usually, the requirements vary from a yoga school to another. A future student might be required to be able to perform an assisted headstand or wheel pose (urdhva dhanurasana). Yet, some others encourage their future students to have enthusiasm and sincere willingness to spread the teachings.
This is way different from the era of contemporary modern yoga in the early 20th century. It was the time when a yoga guru wasn’t encouraged to have a certificate. To be a yoga guru in the past, one was to attend a lengthy training period under a more experienced yoga guru’s supervision and guidance.