Sandeep Manur: fighting against odds and winning

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Sandeep is the co-founder of Amrutha Bindu*, a yoga center in South Bangalore. He’s a yoga teacher with almost 20 years of experience.

But that introduction does little justice to him. Hopefully this  interview does a better job. Read on. :)

I first spoke to Sandeep a couple of years ago, when I was looking around for a studio, to learn and practice yoga.

Since then, I've learned a ton from him. Asanas? pranayama? meditation? Yes, of course.

More than anything though, Sandeep has helped me to channelize my creative energy. It’s probably not an exaggeration to say, that Good Karma may not have existed, if I hadn't met him.

So it's a no-brainer that I wanted to interview him for this blog. I hope that this interview will inspire you and give you some ideas to pursue your dreams as well.

[Two quick announcements before we get to the interview: 

  • We post a new inspiring interview every Wednesday. Like our FB page to get notified when we publish the next episode.

  • Disclaimer: Amrutha Bindu is a customer of our business management product.]

Without further ado, let's get to the interview.

A dramatic beginning

 

At the age of 4, Sandeep accidentally fell into an open drain while walking to school. There was severe impact to the head, he fell unconscious and was brought into the hospital in a state of coma.

He tested positive for pyogenic meningitis - an inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.

He regained consciousness soon after, but it took three months to for him to recover and to come back home.

Although I was in coma, I still remember everything - being brought into the hospital, the tests being done on me, lying motionless.

Ailing health

He was now back home, but still far from normal health. He was feeling weak with little strength left to do most anything on his own.

He did eventually recover - but the feeling of weakness didn’t go away.

I was only 7 then, but I had this deep desire to become strong physically.

Martial arts training

The answer to his desire for building strength came in the form of Judo training. He started practice at the age of 7 and got hooked to the rigours of the physical practice.

He went on to explore different martial arts and eventually found kung-fu as his life’s practice.  

I think I was 13 when I got my first black belt. I was doing well. But I was also very angry.

The financial and social situation didn’t afford him the things many of us take for granted. For example, just attending school regularly was a challenge.

As a child, this made him resentful and angry.

Letting off steam

His kung-fu teacher asked him to practice yoga - to complement his martial arts practice and work with his anger. Did Sandeep enjoy it?

I found Yoga super boring. It wasn’t powerful at all.

But he stuck with it anyways. If it was boring, why did he stick with it?

His response was illuminating. The end goal of both the martial arts and yoga is the same: to overcome the ego. The methods are very different though. Martial arts take a more forceful approach to “break” the ego, whereas yoga uses a subtle approach to “dissolve” the ego.

Eventually he started to enjoy practising yoga. There was no turning back after that.

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First teaching experience

At 17 he was invited to join his master to yoga demonstration event. There were about 300 people in the audience.

The plan was simple: He would be with his master on stage. The master would lead and he would follow. And the audience would practice along seeing the two of them on the stage.

Except the master couldn’t make it. The show had to go on, of course. Can’t disappoint 300 people. The master asked the 17 year old boy to run the show.

I’m not qualified to teach, I told him. He told me to go ahead anyways

Thus began what would become Sandeep’s yoga teaching career.

Dropping out of school

If that isn’t eventful enough when you’re just 13, how does dropping out of school sound?

The difficult financial situation required Sandeep to quit school at grade 8.

I wrote the 10 standard board exams in a public center for home-schooled candidates.

I was already rolling my eyes at this point in the interview. That’s when Sandeep added yet another jolting fact.

Circumstances outside pushed him to drop out of school and start working.  He worked odd jobs - to supplement the family income, while preparing for his board exams.

[At this point of the interview, I started to join some dots in my own mind.

There was a reason Sandeep had been so effective as my teacher. It started to make sense as to why he was able to help me cope with my own struggles.

He had learned to cope with more difficulties before he turned 18 - than most of us learn to cope with, when we’re twice that age.]

A meandering path

The next few years were a bit of a daze, but no less eventful. Here’s a quick list of things that Sandeep did:

  • Enrolled for a software networking diploma program

  • Interned at a networking company

  • Moved up the ranks quickly to become an “Ethical hacker”

  • Started making money

  • Traveled to the Himalayas, met teachers who shaped his spiritual journey

  • Started spending money, lots of it. Smoking, drinking, partying.

  • Traveled for work.

  • Taught martial arts & yoga.

Perhaps it was that last bit - teaching yoga, that helped Sandeep retain his sanity. He didn’t tell me that - but with so much going on, most of us would find it hard to keep our feet on the ground and get our act together.

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It didn’t take long for him to eschew the “high life” and go after his calling.

Back to yoga, for good.

At one Sandeep’s teaching gigs, he met a fellow yoga teacher - who recommended that he get certified in “Power yoga”.

I went through the whole training program and got myself certified. But I came out of that experience - knowing one thing. I would NOT teach Power Yoga.

In his opinion, Power Yoga doesn’t focus on dissolving the ego - which is the primary goal of yoga.

With the intent of deepening his own practice and diversifying his perspective, he traveled extensively and learned Vinyasa Krama, Ashtanga Vinyasa, Iyengar yoga and traditional Hatha Yoga from various institutions across the country.

All this while he continued teaching, sharing from his own new experiences and gradually bringing his own unique style into his teaching practice.

Amrutha Bindu

Over the course of 6-8 years, he built up a fan base for his own teaching techniques. After being prompted repeatedly by his students to open his yoga center, he finally opened Amrutha Bindu in 2015.

I asked him why someone should join Amrutha Bindu, rather than somewhere else. His response:

Yoga is a way of life. It’s all about the depth of your practice.

From the looks of it, that perspective seems to be working for Amrutha Bindu. They’ve moved into a brand new much larger studio [or “shala”, as they prefer to call it] recently - and are now catering to a growing number of aspiring yogis.

Rapid fire questions

Before concluding the interview, I asked Sandeep some rapid fire questions:

Your advice for someone thinking about or interested in practicing yoga?

“Don’t procrastinate. Don’t ask others for an opinion.”

Your advice for someone who wants to become a yoga teacher?

“Learn to learn. The teacher in your will emerge automatically when you’re ripe. Don’t force it.”

Your advice for someone who wants to open a new yoga center?

“Serve. Give, don’t take. The rest will happen automatically.”

Your advice for practitioners struggling to remain consistent in their practice?

“When you have a need or rather, a burning need, you will automatically start to practice. Don’t force yourself to do anything. It’ll happen when the time is right.”

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

  • “My uncles”

  • Krishnamacharya - for setting such high standards of practice."

What 2-3 books would you recommend for yoga practitioners?

Here his quick list:

More importantly, his caveat for you:

It’s important to remember this: Don’t get stuck with the ideas that you read about. When you practice, keep those ideas aside and listen to yourself. Make it your own practice, not somebody else’s.

What should I have asked you, that I didn't?

"Am I satisfied right now?

And the answer would be that, yes, mostly I am."

Conclusion

I've known Sandeep for over 2 years at this point. And I've interacted with him many times during this time. And therefore, I did not expect to learn much from this interview myself.

Boy, am I glad that I did the interview anyways. I came out of the interview with renewed enthusiasm and determination - to tackle my own obstacles.

I hope you found this interview useful as well. Please do share your thoughts and any questions that you have for Sandeep in the comments below. 

How to reach Sandeep

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About Good Karma

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Learn more at GoodKarmaYoga.in.