If there was an award for ‘Best Voice in Yoga’ it would triumphantly be handed on a silver platter to Mr Rishin Paonaskar. Soothing, meditative and deceiving to the pure muscular fire you feel in his classes. Rishin has mastered the art of a slow ‘inhale for 4 counts (but really 25), exhale for double (and a little bit extra)’, leaving the room shaking for dear life but loving him for it. Rishin designs his classes at just the right level of easy going and hardcore. Empowering but not overwhelming. Strong yet soft. Light amidst the dark. Love and also hate… I jest. But what this ultimately shows us is how Rishin embodies the paradoxes within his teaching. It becomes a lesson of balance. A lesson in how so many things are not always as they seem.
Rishin was born in the UK but moved to India when he was 5. Shortly after, his yoga ‘journey’ began. ‘We were made to do yoga and I didn’t really like it, we used to just mess about’. I love hearing how cultures vary and relate to one another, as I remember being forced to go to ballet and didn’t much care for it at 5 years old either. He moved back to the UK to go to university and then worked in banking and finance for 10 years. Once in his 30’s Rishin endeavoured to find a new working venture and at the same time rediscovered his yoga practise. One which of course was almost unrecognisable to that which was thrust upon him 25 years earlier. One that incorporated meditation and was now steeped in 30 years of life experience. I believe our yoga practice evolves every year, every month, perhaps even every week depending on what’s occurring in our lives. We need movement, not just physical but emotional and mental. Yoga often grasps the attention of those in need of real change. To help free any stagnation of a current routine. If nothing changes, nothing changes. To have yoga re-enter Rishin’s life at this point of time, certainly leads me to believe in it’s role sparking such change in his career path.
Initially the plan was to start up a food company. Rishin made protein balls just before the world went absolutely bonkers for them. Around the same time, in 2013, he’d just undergone his 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training with Hot Power Yoga. There was no intention to teach full or even part time. He’d simply undergone the training out of curiosity and a desire to deepen his practice.
Of course one thing led to another…
Rishin is an incredibly grounded and humble human, let alone teacher. It’s no surprise to me that his innocent step into the unknown sparked interest in studio owners and fellow teachers about his whereabouts in the yoga world. I see Rishin as, if not for a better use of words, as ‘hot totty’ for yoga studios! He’s appealing to have on a timetable for a number of reasons.
He’s male. Currently female teachers dominate the yoga community (except frustratingly like in every industry, ‘the top tier’. We could discuss this for days so I’ll hush for now) but what I do want to highlight is that he is a male teacher with absolutely zero ego. I’m lucky enough to know a collection of wonderfully humble male teachers who I can sing to the heavens about. And I don’t want to paint the female race to be above and beyond such qualities of egotism because that simply isn’t true. Male teachers however are harder to come by simply because there are less of them.
His teaching is unique. Not because he’s on a quest to produce his own branded style of yoga but because he can weave his way across the umbrella of yoga styles without losing his integrity. He is steady. Consistent. Calming. Precise. Friendly. Intuitive. Authentic… So many commendable one words I could give him. However, Professional he most certainly is and with this comes his remarkable work ethic. Even during a health scar last year, Rishin had his sights set on getting back to the studio quickly, to almost celebrate his recovery. Even then he was the positive influence we all needed.
Rishin teaches a lot of classes. He’s no stranger to burn out. We’ve all fallen into similar patterns of being overstretched (excuse the pun) but these moments are vital to every individual in any career to learn from. He recognises the signs of exhaustion and disconnection now. Keeping up his personal practice definitely plays a key role in his ‘burnout management’.
When I asked Rishin what yoga was to him, the heart of his response was ‘Connection’. Yoga keeps him connected to himself. Who and where he chooses to practice comes down to if he has a genuine relationship with the studio and/or teacher. It’s not just about the postures. That’s only one stem of the yoga wheel. I appreciate anyone who gives themselves exactly as they are and fully accepts and wants to receive the same in return. That’s connection right? It’s not one-sided. It’s not shallow or ambiguous. It’s wholesome. A form of unity. It’s a humble bow to all that there is and is yet to be. (He’s also almost always up for a pint and a catch up at any given notice which is another commendable trait). Rishin is a connected human being. A lovable, easy going, (sweat inducing), smooth talking yoga teacher.
If you can’t get to one of his studio classes you can still practice online with Rishin on Yogaia.com where he guides classes in vinyasa, ‘relaxing stretch’, yoga for neck and shoulders, yoga for hips and meditation.