In part 2 of this interview series with Authorized Level II Ashtanga Teacher Greg Nardi and his husband Juan Carlos, we talk about some of the challenges that come up in a relationship when one person has been doing the practice much longer than the other. We also dwell on the subject of being sensitive to the cultural differences of being a same sex couple in India.
We did go through a little bit of a teacher/student separation, which I think was very healthy for us as a couple.
Greg: Yeah, I'd say that.
Juan: It happened around the time I went to my Mysore for the first time. It became clear that I just needed a teacher who could just be my teacher. I've been very blessed that when the time came for that, the perfect teacher showed up in my life.
Greg: It's a dance, too. It's a constant dance, I think. We're actually working through a lot of that now. Because in the beginning I was always sort of very aware that there were limits on what I could do as a teacher. But I certainly stood in the role of being the authority on Ashtanga yoga. So as he deepened his practice, he's done the pilgrimage to Mysore a couple of times and he's begun teaching.
I have to let go of that role and find space for him to develop his own voice and his own path. It can be challenging for me. I'm always having to check myself. I think one of the conversations that we have all the time is because we are in very different place with the practice, how do we each add value to the conversation that we have around yoga.
I wouldn't say that my experience is more valid just because it's longer, it just means that I've got a different viewpoint than he has. There's many things that I see about his practice and where he's at in yoga that are really invigorating to me. Or sometimes you've been doing this for a very long time and when I look at where he's at with this incredible enthusiasm and exuberance, that kind of stuff it's very exciting. It's very exciting to be around it.
Juan: It's more about we just have to always remember we are a married couple first and foremost. I think the teaching a lot of time comes more from keeping each other inspired. I don't know. It's interesting, though, because in India, at least my experience has been that it's culturally acceptable for men to hold hands.
So on occasions we have held hands. Like I've never had any kind of homophobic encounter with the Ashtanga community or in the Mysore community, either.
Greg: I'm certainly aware that there's a certain taboo against homosexuality in India, and I have found that most, certainly in the western communities, it's not an issue. Men can be affectionate there. But I've had some awkward experiences.
By and large there's sort of an attitude that homosexuality doesn't exist in India, so many of the local Indians that I talk to about it seem to feel it doesn't exist and it's a western thing. I've had people make comments that were homophobic but when I say that I'm a gay man and I typically do, they've been more than tolerant, almost accepting of it.
But in a sense that this is something from my own culture, and it's also been interesting because I have met gay Indian men, but it's just a very, very closeted community.
Kind of being a little bit aware of some of the culture restrictions around it, I think that when Juan Carlos and I are there as a couple, I'm a little careful. And I am very aware. It's not just that we are holding hands in public, but in India, people tend to be very aware of each other's business.
Yeah, people are tolerant and people are accepting, but they just make you aware of your difference, of your different-ness, so I'm often aware of that I'm a gay man, more aware that I'm a gay man when I'm there, because I feel like I know it's not accepted.
You can learn more about Greg and Juan at their website Ashtanga Yoga Worldwide. Greg travels around the world teaching workshops and occasionally Juan Carlos joins him when they aren't teaching in Vancouver at Ashtanga Yoga Vancouver (Juan) and Chopra Yoga Vancouver (Greg)
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