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By Suchita S. 

My love for yoga, much like my love for coffee, is well known among my friends, acquaintances, and even those who’ve read this website before. Like a lot of people I know, before I started practicing yoga, I thought of it as something either really lazy people or really fit people did; That ‘yogis’ were either far too spiritually evolved, or just floating about in a parallel universe where everything’s about shanti, shanti, shanti. In an effort to challenge my ignorance, and honestly because I was distraught with facing burly men at Fitness First, I decided to give this ancient practice a shot. It’s been two years, and I’m still going strong, telling the world about it, getting friends to join class, and – at the risk of coming off as a pretentious nut – finding utmost strength, balance, patience and focus in everything I do.

Sure, it’s become a fad to do a headstand {which I still can’t do}, and drop words like vinyasa flow, suryanamaskar, and animal-named poses. But yoga isn’t just about breaking into a warrior 1, 2 and 3 – for me, it’s been an exploration of my own resilience, a way to understand my body and its limitations, and find a provocation for my own boundaries. Unlike what I’d initially assumed, you don’t need to be a gymnast to benefit from the practice. My classes are pretty strenuous, depending on the extent to which I up the ante, and at the end of 75 minutes, the yoga studio is filled with radiant but perspiring students {hey- sweat is the new black} of every height, built, gender and cultural background.

I caught up with my teacher, Seema Sondhi- who gets props for changing my approach to life, work and other things- to tell us a bit about yoga’s origin, tips and pointers for beginners, things regular practitioners should be mindful about, and what it means to be a yogi.

seemasondhi

LBBD | Can you tell us a bit about the origin of yoga, and the principles it embodies?

Seema | So yoga dates back to the 2nd century. It’s believed that yoga was started by Lord Shiva, who taught it to Parvati. Patanjali is the father of yoga, and it’s said that he is the direct reincarnation of Shiv. He’s the one who made it accessible to us, and wrote the Yogasutra. The Yogasutra, from which the practice of yoga is derived, has 196 shlokas, and basically gives a detailed account of how one can live a happy and content life. As it suggests, this is very easily available to each and every one of us. Patanjali gave us the 8 limbs – the ashtanga yoga- yamas, niyamas, asanas, pranayama, pratihara, dharna & dhyana, and at the end of this practice, we realize who we really are. He said that if we follow these 8 limbs, we’ll be able to lead a healthy, happy and balanced life.

LBBD | Are there different “types” of yoga? Could you tell us a bit about each of them? Which is the most commonly practiced form of yoga in Delhi?

S | Actually, there are no different types of yoga per se, because yoga is one, which Patanjali has given to us. But the way it is practiced by the teacher gives us different schools of yoga. In India, there are 5 different schools; each of these teachers has interpreted it in their own different way, but the root and the fruit is one. So there’s the Bihar school of yoga, started by Swami Satyananda, which focuses on more therapeutic yoga and research is an important component of this particular practice. Then there’s Sivananda, which was started by Swami Sivananda and spread by his disciple Swami Devananda. They work on 5 principles; in order to have a balanced life, you need to work on having good food, a good body, good breath, relaxation and you need to de-stress to have a positive mind. The third school was started by Krishnamacharya, and is called the Desikachar school {named after his student who continued this style}. This says that each individual is different, and the practice must be accommodated to each individual’s needs, so they usually work on a one-on-one basis. Then we have Iyengar style, which was started by BKS Iyengar, and they work on alignment. They use a lot of props – like blocks, belts, bolsters – and say that the body has to be well aligned to ensure that the breath flows freely, for the mind to feel balanced. Finally, there’s Pattabhi Jois from Mysore. They have a more dynamic approach to the poses; so they focus on a dynamic flow of yoga, which is how power yoga and vinyasa flow have started.

I think it’s important to always remember that you must do whatever suits you best. The end result will be the same – peace of mind, a sense of balance and happiness.

LBBD | They say yoga is a slow practice. What are the general pointers/tips you’d give to someone getting initiated with yoga?

S | Yoga’s a gentle, but a very powerful practice. It should be done very slowly and in your own rhythm. Each body has its own rhythm… every day we are different, and every day our practice changes. Poses are not going to be perfected at one time. I’m still learning! Each day of our lives offers a new set of stresses, emotional challenges, and our body’s taking it all. You’ll find your ability to come into a pose changes daily, because of the way your body responds to these day to day stresses. So while you work with these changes and predispositions, it’s really important to keep at the back of your mind that yoga is a healing practice. And every step of the way, with each asana, you need to be aware of your body’s alignment, the way your body feels in that moment, and then let your breath guide you.

LBBD | What are the common mistakes people make while practicing yoga?

S | A common mistake is that people want to rush into a pose. They’re misaligned, and they’re not with their breath. They want to do as many poses as they can in 75 minutes, and they don’t combine the mind with the body. The mind needs to feel it first, then the message transpires to the rest of the body.

LBBD | Could you tell us what the average yoga student is like; do they have to have a certain level of fitness to benefit from the practice? 

S | With yoga, you can start at any point in time, and irrespective of your age, weight or built. It’s easily accessible to everyone; all you’ve got to do is adapt the asanas to your body. Where you come from, what you eat, when you eat… all these things affect a practice. If you had a late night dinner, and come for an 8 am class, I can’t make you do the shoulder stand because it’ll leave you feeling uncomfortable. So small tweaks need to be made to adjust it to your routine and your body type. Even if one’s overweight – start slow, change a pose so it suits you better. But it can be done by anyone, and at any point in their lives. It’s just really important to find a good teacher who understands where you’re coming from, and can help you with the process.

LBBD | Does yoga help in losing weight?

S | Yup! We’ve all seen the way it benefits students who are diligent in their practice and also sensible about what they eat at home.

LBBD | What’s the most interesting change you’ve seen in peoples’ approach to yoga over the past 15 years of teaching?

S | Earlier, yoga was a way of life, and now it’s become a fad. We’ve all seen the new Levis ad – you’ll spot a shoulder stand. It’s become the “in thing”. And the only “in” thing they’re doing is asanas… There’s a lack of focus on other aspects of the practice. When my parents did yoga, they became better people, better human beings. Now, it’s become the cool new thing to talk about. I feel like it’s going to change again over the next 2-3 years because of the amount of stress we’re putting ourselves through. Young people are facing problems like diabetes, knee pain, lower back pain, arthritis. I feel with these changing times, people will understand and see yoga as a healing practice, rather than just something to chatter about. I have students who’ve been with me for 10-15 years, who’ve felt the benefit. There’s much more to it!

LBBD | What about injuries – yoga’s said to be good for people with back and knee pain…

S | I hurt my lower back, after which I started my practice of yoga. I have, personally, benefited tremendously from my practice, and I feel it can heal anything. That said, I always emphasize on the need to corroborate with your doctor – it’s important to be careful before your start your practice. What I’d say is, first find a teacher who can understand your problem – a well qualified teacher/instructor. The process and movement must be done in a slow and steady way. When you’re in your poses, it’ll ache a lot, it’ll pain, but just don’t give up. In order to heal yourself, you need to go through a little bit of pain. So stay with it… All you’ve got to gain is peace of mind. In your practice, you need to be present in what you’re doing; if you don’t do that you’ll find that you could hurt yourself.

LBBD | The exercises I’d recommend are |

For knee pain | Knee rotation with squat… Most knee pains can be relieved through hip opening exercises such as the butterfly pose, and wide angled forward bend.

seema-sondhi{Butterfly Pose}

wide-angled-squat

{Wide Angled Forward Bend}

{Image courtesy: Yogapaws.com}

For back pain, try back bends such as bhujang asana, salab asana, child’s pose and downward dog.

1

{Bhujang Asana}

{Image courtesy: mylifemystuff.wordpress.com}

yoga poses - Locust Pose position (salabhasana)

{Salab Asana}

{Image courtesy: flickriver.com}

3

{Child’s Pose}

{Image courtesy: karinhagberg.com}

4

{Downward Dog}

{Image Courtesy: getfittherightway.com}

 

On yoga being a way of life – how would you describe the Yogi way of life?

S | Yoga is about how you live your life – it’s not just about asanas. If you really follow the 8 limbs, you will be a perfectly balanced person. Many people don’t follow the yamas or niyams... which are very integral to the practice. Most of us just want a perfect body, so all we do is work on the asanas. But through the body, we need to feel the mind. And in order to really find joy in life, we need to feel a few things like love, compassion, gratitude, surrender, which are a part of yamas and niyamas. What I’ll emphasize is on this – irrespective of whichever walk of life you’re from, you’ll only benefit from this theory. It enhances your personality, and at the same time it gives you a healthy body through asanas. So it’s all linked.. the physical practice, the inwardness, the outwardness, the breath; it’s all linked.

Personally, over more than 15 years of practice and teaching, it’s taught me that it’ll always be easier to run away from the world, and hide yourself, but it’s better to stay here. It’s what Buddha says – live like a lotus. Find a way to bloom even through the muck, the rough times. You have to experience the good and bad of life, and find a way to come out as a better person, and to find a way to deal with it all. It’s helped me understand that love can change everything. If you give joy to someone… by something as simple as smiling at the person in the car next to you at a redlight, that’s it. Just show compassion.

Any centers/teachers that you would suggest one could check out?

Sivananda Yoga Centre |

Where | Branches in Kailash Colony and Gurgaon

Iyengar Yoga Centre Yogakshema | 

Where | Plot No.65,66,67, Deendayal Upadhyay Marg, Rouse Avenue

Contact | 011 23234356, 011 2323 4357

Dia Pinto | 

Where | Shaurya Centre, 68/4, Jagan Nath Market, Mathura Road, Opposite Maharani Bagh

Contact | 01126920406

Madhavi Bhatia |

Where | House No. 262, Sector-15A, Noida

Contact | 9810796794

*

Join us at Seema Sondhi- The Yoga Studio

Where | E Block Market, Hauz Khas {close to Mother Dairy booth}; Contact | 9811131368

Related Post:
The Yoga Studio

Sivananda Yoga Centre
F-40, South City 1, Sector 41, Gurgaon
+919810645850
Iyengar Yoga Yogakshema
Plot No.65,66,67, Deendayal Upadhyay Marg, Rouse Avenue, New Delhi
+911123234356
Dia Pinto
Shaurya Centre 68/4, Jagan Nath Market, Mathura Road, New Delhi
+91126920406
Seema Sondhi - The Yoga Studio
D-43, Hauz Khas, New Delhi
+919811131368

Learning to Breathe | Yoga 101

Multiple Locations

By Suchita S. 

My love for yoga, much like my love for coffee, is well known among my friends, acquaintances, and even those who’ve read this website before. Like a lot of people I know, before I started practicing yoga, I thought of it as something either really lazy people or really fit people did; That ‘yogis’ were either far too spiritually evolved, or just floating about in a parallel universe where everything’s about shanti, shanti, shanti. In an effort to challenge my ignorance, and honestly because I was distraught with facing burly men at Fitness First, I decided to give this ancient practice a shot. It’s been two years, and I’m still going strong, telling the world about it, getting friends to join class, and – at the risk of coming off as a pretentious nut – finding utmost strength, balance, patience and focus in everything I do.

Sure, it’s become a fad to do a headstand {which I still can’t do}, and drop words like vinyasa flow, suryanamaskar, and animal-named poses. But yoga isn’t just about breaking into a warrior 1, 2 and 3 – for me, it’s been an exploration of my own resilience, a way to understand my body and its limitations, and find a provocation for my own boundaries. Unlike what I’d initially assumed, you don’t need to be a gymnast to benefit from the practice. My classes are pretty strenuous, depending on the extent to which I up the ante, and at the end of 75 minutes, the yoga studio is filled with radiant but perspiring students {hey- sweat is the new black} of every height, built, gender and cultural background.

I caught up with my teacher, Seema Sondhi- who gets props for changing my approach to life, work and other things- to tell us a bit about yoga’s origin, tips and pointers for beginners, things regular practitioners should be mindful about, and what it means to be a yogi.

seemasondhi

LBBD | Can you tell us a bit about the origin of yoga, and the principles it embodies?

Seema | So yoga dates back to the 2nd century. It’s believed that yoga was started by Lord Shiva, who taught it to Parvati. Patanjali is the father of yoga, and it’s said that he is the direct reincarnation of Shiv. He’s the one who made it accessible to us, and wrote the Yogasutra. The Yogasutra, from which the practice of yoga is derived, has 196 shlokas, and basically gives a detailed account of how one can live a happy and content life. As it suggests, this is very easily available to each and every one of us. Patanjali gave us the 8 limbs – the ashtanga yoga- yamas, niyamas, asanas, pranayama, pratihara, dharna & dhyana, and at the end of this practice, we realize who we really are. He said that if we follow these 8 limbs, we’ll be able to lead a healthy, happy and balanced life.

LBBD | Are there different “types” of yoga? Could you tell us a bit about each of them? Which is the most commonly practiced form of yoga in Delhi?

S | Actually, there are no different types of yoga per se, because yoga is one, which Patanjali has given to us. But the way it is practiced by the teacher gives us different schools of yoga. In India, there are 5 different schools; each of these teachers has interpreted it in their own different way, but the root and the fruit is one. So there’s the Bihar school of yoga, started by Swami Satyananda, which focuses on more therapeutic yoga and research is an important component of this particular practice. Then there’s Sivananda, which was started by Swami Sivananda and spread by his disciple Swami Devananda. They work on 5 principles; in order to have a balanced life, you need to work on having good food, a good body, good breath, relaxation and you need to de-stress to have a positive mind. The third school was started by Krishnamacharya, and is called the Desikachar school {named after his student who continued this style}. This says that each individual is different, and the practice must be accommodated to each individual’s needs, so they usually work on a one-on-one basis. Then we have Iyengar style, which was started by BKS Iyengar, and they work on alignment. They use a lot of props – like blocks, belts, bolsters – and say that the body has to be well aligned to ensure that the breath flows freely, for the mind to feel balanced. Finally, there’s Pattabhi Jois from Mysore. They have a more dynamic approach to the poses; so they focus on a dynamic flow of yoga, which is how power yoga and vinyasa flow have started.

I think it’s important to always remember that you must do whatever suits you best. The end result will be the same – peace of mind, a sense of balance and happiness.

LBBD | They say yoga is a slow practice. What are the general pointers/tips you’d give to someone getting initiated with yoga?

S | Yoga’s a gentle, but a very powerful practice. It should be done very slowly and in your own rhythm. Each body has its own rhythm… every day we are different, and every day our practice changes. Poses are not going to be perfected at one time. I’m still learning! Each day of our lives offers a new set of stresses, emotional challenges, and our body’s taking it all. You’ll find your ability to come into a pose changes daily, because of the way your body responds to these day to day stresses. So while you work with these changes and predispositions, it’s really important to keep at the back of your mind that yoga is a healing practice. And every step of the way, with each asana, you need to be aware of your body’s alignment, the way your body feels in that moment, and then let your breath guide you.

LBBD | What are the common mistakes people make while practicing yoga?

S | A common mistake is that people want to rush into a pose. They’re misaligned, and they’re not with their breath. They want to do as many poses as they can in 75 minutes, and they don’t combine the mind with the body. The mind needs to feel it first, then the message transpires to the rest of the body.

LBBD | Could you tell us what the average yoga student is like; do they have to have a certain level of fitness to benefit from the practice? 

S | With yoga, you can start at any point in time, and irrespective of your age, weight or built. It’s easily accessible to everyone; all you’ve got to do is adapt the asanas to your body. Where you come from, what you eat, when you eat… all these things affect a practice. If you had a late night dinner, and come for an 8 am class, I can’t make you do the shoulder stand because it’ll leave you feeling uncomfortable. So small tweaks need to be made to adjust it to your routine and your body type. Even if one’s overweight – start slow, change a pose so it suits you better. But it can be done by anyone, and at any point in their lives. It’s just really important to find a good teacher who understands where you’re coming from, and can help you with the process.

LBBD | Does yoga help in losing weight?

S | Yup! We’ve all seen the way it benefits students who are diligent in their practice and also sensible about what they eat at home.

LBBD | What’s the most interesting change you’ve seen in peoples’ approach to yoga over the past 15 years of teaching?

S | Earlier, yoga was a way of life, and now it’s become a fad. We’ve all seen the new Levis ad – you’ll spot a shoulder stand. It’s become the “in thing”. And the only “in” thing they’re doing is asanas… There’s a lack of focus on other aspects of the practice. When my parents did yoga, they became better people, better human beings. Now, it’s become the cool new thing to talk about. I feel like it’s going to change again over the next 2-3 years because of the amount of stress we’re putting ourselves through. Young people are facing problems like diabetes, knee pain, lower back pain, arthritis. I feel with these changing times, people will understand and see yoga as a healing practice, rather than just something to chatter about. I have students who’ve been with me for 10-15 years, who’ve felt the benefit. There’s much more to it!

LBBD | What about injuries – yoga’s said to be good for people with back and knee pain…

S | I hurt my lower back, after which I started my practice of yoga. I have, personally, benefited tremendously from my practice, and I feel it can heal anything. That said, I always emphasize on the need to corroborate with your doctor – it’s important to be careful before your start your practice. What I’d say is, first find a teacher who can understand your problem – a well qualified teacher/instructor. The process and movement must be done in a slow and steady way. When you’re in your poses, it’ll ache a lot, it’ll pain, but just don’t give up. In order to heal yourself, you need to go through a little bit of pain. So stay with it… All you’ve got to gain is peace of mind. In your practice, you need to be present in what you’re doing; if you don’t do that you’ll find that you could hurt yourself.

LBBD | The exercises I’d recommend are |

For knee pain | Knee rotation with squat… Most knee pains can be relieved through hip opening exercises such as the butterfly pose, and wide angled forward bend.

seema-sondhi{Butterfly Pose}

wide-angled-squat

{Wide Angled Forward Bend}

{Image courtesy: Yogapaws.com}

For back pain, try back bends such as bhujang asana, salab asana, child’s pose and downward dog.

1

{Bhujang Asana}

{Image courtesy: mylifemystuff.wordpress.com}

yoga poses - Locust Pose position (salabhasana)

{Salab Asana}

{Image courtesy: flickriver.com}

3

{Child’s Pose}

{Image courtesy: karinhagberg.com}

4

{Downward Dog}

{Image Courtesy: getfittherightway.com}

On yoga being a way of life – how would you describe the Yogi way of life?

S | Yoga is about how you live your life – it’s not just about asanas. If you really follow the 8 limbs, you will be a perfectly balanced person. Many people don’t follow the yamas or niyams... which are very integral to the practice. Most of us just want a perfect body, so all we do is work on the asanas. But through the body, we need to feel the mind. And in order to really find joy in life, we need to feel a few things like love, compassion, gratitude, surrender, which are a part of yamas and niyamas. What I’ll emphasize is on this – irrespective of whichever walk of life you’re from, you’ll only benefit from this theory. It enhances your personality, and at the same time it gives you a healthy body through asanas. So it’s all linked.. the physical practice, the inwardness, the outwardness, the breath; it’s all linked.

Personally, over more than 15 years of practice and teaching, it’s taught me that it’ll always be easier to run away from the world, and hide yourself, but it’s better to stay here. It’s what Buddha says – live like a lotus. Find a way to bloom even through the muck, the rough times. You have to experience the good and bad of life, and find a way to come out as a better person, and to find a way to deal with it all. It’s helped me understand that love can change everything. If you give joy to someone… by something as simple as smiling at the person in the car next to you at a redlight, that’s it. Just show compassion.

Any centers/teachers that you would suggest one could check out?

Sivananda Yoga Centre |

Where | Branches in Kailash Colony and Gurgaon

Iyengar Yoga Centre Yogakshema | 

Where | Plot No.65,66,67, Deendayal Upadhyay Marg, Rouse Avenue

Contact | 011 23234356, 011 2323 4357

Dia Pinto | 

Where | Shaurya Centre, 68/4, Jagan Nath Market, Mathura Road, Opposite Maharani Bagh

Contact | 01126920406

Madhavi Bhatia |

Where | House No. 262, Sector-15A, Noida

Contact | 9810796794

*

Join us at Seema Sondhi- The Yoga Studio

Where | E Block Market, Hauz Khas {close to Mother Dairy booth}; Contact | 9811131368

Related Post:
The Yoga Studio

The former events manager, and PR and Marketing executive decided to give up the good life, to take on something greater- running her own start-up. Give her a non-fiction book, some place in the outdoors, running shoes, Bombay Bicycle Club and Jay Z, and you've got a happy camper.

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