Energy, chakras, karma, prana, kundalini, guru are all terms I had heard and read about, but never really understood – a conversation with some of the people I met during my travels is what developed a deep sense of curiosity that led me to delve deeper into these aspects of spirituality and yoga.
Yoga found me at a time when I started to feel like my whole life was on autopilot. Even today, some days are still so, but at least now, a part of me has a better sense of awareness and the practice helps me come out of this limited nature of the body and mind.
My first encounter with the practice of yoga was in school, back in the year 2006, when we were taught the practice of Brahmari pranayama; our teachers thought this would help us do well in our tests. I managed to do quite well with and without the pranayama practice, so didn’t think too much of it back then.
Then we were introduced to other yogic practices, and being a competitive athlete– the practice of yoga or the idea of going inwards meant losing practice time and amidst my fast (literally) life – I found yoga to be very slow and boring.
When Yoga was no longer slow and boring …
A few years later, in college, I had a bad sports injury, because of which I was in a cast for a few months – it wasn’t too long a time, but during that period, I was advised to stay away from my practice routine and from competing – that had led to containment and frustration. That’s when I decided to join my mom, for my first asana and pranayama class with a teacher from the Bihar School tradition. At first, I still found the whole process to be very slow and meaningless, but then there came a time when I started to feel better mentally, and less frustrated about not being able to play sports.
“When you listen to yourself, everything comes naturally. It comes from inside, like a kind of will to do something. Try to be sensitive. That is yoga.” ― Petri Räisänen
Post a specialization degree in Finance, I did my first stint in what I thought was the ‘real’ world by taking up an offer at Deloitte USI in Hyderabad. Realizing that I couldn’t truly immerse myself in the role, I moved back to Bangalore to pursue another degree in Human Resources and spent some time working with the Learning & Development department at another big 4 – KPMG. While training is something I truly enjoyed, I wanted to explore the training of a different kind – of a kind that would really change people.
It was around the same time that I also decided to pursue my hobby of food writing and worked with various hospitality brands and popular chefs on projects. At that point in time, my work involved eating some incredibly decadent food, spending time at the most luxurious properties, and living life to the fullest (as it’s popularly portrayed) . In Spite of all this, a part of me still felt very incomplete and I wondered if this was really what life is about.
Food exploration is something that I still enjoy very much, but the kind of food that I relish has transformed completely- leaning more towards local and plant based options. I also did a TEDx talk – Not Just Bread and Butter on the universal language of food.
My quest to learn more about spirituality and yoga led me to various ashrams around India where I met with some great teachers who were able to uncover concepts and ancient wisdom that changed my perspective of a whole lot of things. Then I finally decided to do a teacher training program from the Sivananda ashram in Kerala. I also went on to do my advanced teacher training program from the same lineage at Madurai.
Diving into yoga
The Ashram life was a huge shift from the regular luxuries I was used to, but spending that one-month learning and growing made me realize that only we can find joy – nothing external or nobody can give us sustainable joy and happiness. Here I also learned the importance of disciplined practice (sadhana) and spiritual growth.
I have practiced many different styles from various prolific masters- for me the essence of all the styles is the same. For many years – I’ve explored styles like Sivananda, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Iyengar, Yin Yoga, Meditation, and Advanced Kriya practices.
I don’t really plan ahead on what my practice is going to be like, I just get on the mat and explore what I feel like doing on a certain day. I hope and wish to help people discover the true meaning of yoga from my experiences and learnings handed down from my masters.
“The study of asana is not about mastering posture. It’s about using posture to understand and transform yourself.”
The transformational journey of the practice is one that I may not be able to put into words, but it gave me strength when I needed it the most. My journey has also been one of healing in so many different ways. In terms of taking up yoga as a profession, the one thing that made me take the leap, was my first group of students that I encountered – seeing them completely change their approach to life and hearing stories of their transformation kept me going. On one of my travels to Joburg,SA – I visited a yoga studio of the same Sivananda lineage that brought in a subtle way how yoga unites the whole world and how it is a universal practice that I believe will make the world a better place.
Seeing the potential of yoga instructors to change lives, I’ve spent the past year working as a training lead in Yoga with a company that is reforming the Indian fitness space – specializing in training yoga instructors on the intricacies of teaching methodology, class planning and delivery so that they can go on to transform many lives in the process. When I’m bitten by the travel bug – I take off to spend time in at some of the incredible ashrams here in India – some of my favorites are the Isha Yoga Center, Sivananda Ashrams, Ramana Maharishi’s Ashram, Parmath Niketan and of course the Art of Living ashram that’s closest to home.
My recommendations on daily practice:
- Find moments of stillness in the day
- Discover a daily ritual or dinacharya that works, be it waking up at a certain time in the morning, a few practices or a personal sadhana that brings joy, and an evening wind-down ritual.
- Regular practice of pranayama and kriyas
- Some form of movement to keep the physical body fit – it could be asanas, dancing, weight training, again it can be different on different days.
- Eat a wholesome and nourishing plant-based diet – depending on what’s best for one’s dosha.
- Find a purpose or an intention for everything you do in the day.
- Spend time with nature – gardening/forest bathing/walking meditation/just being
It’s truly empowering to be able to share the practice of yoga with others, to all those of you who are looking at taking up yoga – my recommendation would be to go for it, but in the midst of teaching others and sharing your experience, don’t forget your own sadhana. One thing I always want everyone to remember is that…
“you have to go deep to be able to go ahead.”
Keep practicing and stay blessed!
Carolyn Theresa Simon
Yoga Instructor, Fitness Model, Wellness Writer