Tarik Dervish, a Turkish Cypriot Londoner, runs two online classes on Wednesday evenings and Thursday mornings via his website (see details below). He runs a BWYQ accredited yoga teacher training course and co-runs a 60-hour module on Ayurveda in action for yoga practitioners and teachers. He is also the author of Ayurveda in Yoga Teaching and runs a small clinic in Kings Cross, London and in central Brighton.
What’s the one thing OM readers need to know about you?
I was introduced to spiritual life at 17 when I got involved with the Prem Rawat Foundation where I was taught how to meditate and practice selfless service. The practice of asana, pranayama and mantra came in my mid-twenties when I embarked on a new adventure with the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre which became a platform for a deeper investigation into what yoga had to offer.
What first inspired you to get into yoga?
I was young and had a lot of energy, so I found that meditation wasn’t enough to satisfy my needs because I was experiencing a great deal of physical tension. The discovery of asana practice made a big difference to my sense of wellbeing and a powerful tool for helping others.
How would you describe your teaching style?
My style evolves as I do. I have practiced most of the major styles of yoga over the years, including Iyengar, Astanga Vinyasa, Sivananda and Scaravelli. I now teach and practice yoga with an Ayurvedic approach which means I adapt my sequences according to the seasons and the needs of my students.
What does yoga mean to you personally?
I have always thought of yoga as a spiritual tool but since I learned about Ayurveda, it has become more of therapeutic tool for maintaining a sense of wellness. I see yoga as an important resource for cultivating inner balance, vitality, and mental clarity. It is an essential part of my day.
I used the time to go deep into myself and draw upon the fountain of my industrious creativity. I managed to complete the book, Ayurveda in Yoga Teaching, as well as a novel I have been working on for several years. I developed a ‘lockdown sequence’ that helped me keep my body and mind in good shape throughout the pandemic.
Any good life hacks for the rest of us?
Trust your inner cues and don’t fight against yourself. When you need to rest, you will know. When you need to work and engage with the world, your inner fire will awaken, and you will have all the resources to cope with the challenges before you. It’s not a philosophy that always works because life poses unpredictable challenges but it’s reassuring how often it does, especially if you make yoga and meditation the bedrock of your day. You will align yourself better with your own innate wisdom (buddhi) and learn how to dance gracefully with time.
Anything else we need to know about you?
My work will appeal to you if you are willing to look below the surface of yoga and explore the hidden meaning of practices. There are much better teachers for simple posture work, but yoga is more than this. I am not the most flexible person nor the skinniest. I have never found the bendy approach to practice particularly meaningful and did not come into yoga seeking it. I help people find the best in themselves that is possible at any given time.
Men often shun yoga classes because they get caught up in the realm of prowess through flexibility. This is a shame because in many ways, men need yoga more. They hold a lot of tension in their bodies but recoil from the softer approach to wellness in favour of muscle building and difficult endurance sports. Yoga can meet those needs too, but it is not the best it can offer. The world is still crying out for a male liberation where the cultivation of skill, knowledge and awareness of the mind/body relationship can ultimately serve them to be better men.
Favourite yoga book?
Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, a fantastic set of tantric meditations that can light up your mind and heart in surprising ways. There are many translations, but The Bihar School of Yoga and my teacher Swami Nishchalananda’s versions are the best.
The Bhagavad Gita is full of good quotes that have perennial meaning. Quotes have resonance at different times in one’s life but this one appeals to me at the moment: “Knowledge (jnanam) certainly is better than mindless practice. And meditation (dhyana) is above that knowledge. Even superior to meditation is renouncing attachment to the fruits of your life because peace (shanti) immediately followed renunciation.(tyagan).” It’s amazing what we can get attached to in life, but I find the idea of ‘letting go and letting God’ very meaningful and apt at the moment, because there is so much in life that is out of our control. Sometimes it’s easier to trust and to believe everything will ‘come out in the wash’; we are not always in the driving seat.
Go to health drink?
If you had to take a yoga class, as a student, with any teacher ever from any time or place, who would it be and why?
I have been blessed with the teachings of so many wonderful teachers over the years that I really don’t know who I would choose. Though I was lucky to have seen Ram Dass when he visited the UK in the nineties. I think I would certainly have enjoyed a bit more time with him because of his insight, humour, and sense of fun.