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The Guru Next Door

While searching for the perfect teacher, one student almost misses what's right in front of him.

By Joshua Berman

On my final morning at Yoga Niketan, I am no closer to finding my omniscient guru, but I notice my body feels fantastic after a week of twice-daily stretching and sitting. Vikash's focus on lengthening the spine, which I thought was so boring, has created new space in my lower back. As I appreciate this, my teacher enters the hall, spraying a sweet-smelling mist of rose water over our heads. He steps onto the platform, lights some incense, sits, and begins the class.

The entire week falls away, including my frantic search for some nonexistent nirvana. Because of my distracted mind and high expectations during the first few days, Vikash did not deliver me to enlightenment. He didn't even teach me any new poses. But now I realize that his simple stances have clicked to form vinyasa sequences that I arrogantly thought I already knew. His voice is powerful and dynamic, rising and falling with the asanas, at once calming and encouraging. He walks among us, smiling and shouting as we stretch toward the ceiling. "Reach!" he yells, his voice pulling my fingers higher, lifting me onto the tips of my toes. Vikash has taught me more than I realized. As he walks up my row and passes near me, his smile is infectious. One more time, he sings out, "Reeeach!"

Joshua Berman is a guidebook author for Moon Handbooks.

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