Yoga Leads The I – Radha Charya

Since childhood, Yoga was always after me. I have come a long way from being a curious nine year old girl who disturbed her father’s Yoga practise. This was  when Yoga first peeped into my life. Whenever I had a chance, I peered at the Yoga books and charts of my father who practiced Yoga regularly. My father, however, misunderstood my curiosity and initiated me into the practice.

The veranda overlooking the backyard was our Yoga classroom. I tried to practice along with my father but the veranda had kept me close to nature and I would get busy with admiring the earth, the sky and the birds perched on the trees. While my father practiced his pranayama, I would laze around reading the books and amuse myself with diagrams of the complicated asanas, and on days I was not very keen on practise, I imitated the bird calls and chased squirrels.

My father was a man of deep intuition. He probably  knew that I would eventually turn to the path of Yoga. After a few more attempts to make me practise, he left me saying – life will teach you!

Yoga and I were Looking at One Another

When I was in my twenties, I had injured the ligaments in my knees. A friend suggested that I consult her doctor,  who also had ‘clinical’ Yoga practice. He taught me a few asanas and cautioned me against sitting on the floor or lying down on the floor.  That was crippling. I love to be close to the floor and there he was asking me to be knee-length away from it! The rebel in me could not follow this for more than a year. I was back to sitting on the floor and using my knees the way it was meant to be used.

But then the pain …it visited me like a close friend and had no qualms about staying with me for long! It would be there with me in the cooler months (we never have cold months in Chennai!). However, I soon realised that the pain was a friend indeed – it helped me listen and pay attention to my body, tugged me out of my laziness to practice Yoga and taught me not to complain.

“Crave for a thing, you will get it. Renounce the craving, the object will follow you by itself.” Swami Sivananda

After a few years, I went to another teacher who taught me specific asanas to keep my knees in good health. Teachers and asanas changed; however, I continued being that inconsistent rebellious brat and kept exploring whenever the opportunity and need arose.

By then, I had also picked up some meditation practice. I was ashamed when I realised that I could not hold my body upright and steady for more than a couple of minutes. This lead to me train under another teacher who taught me asanas and Surya Namaskar. This time, I attempted to be regular with my practice.

Yoga Caught Up With Me

And soon, Yoga grabbed me by the neck, climbed over my shoulder, found a place in my heart, slowly captured my mind and gradually became my breath 🙂

This happened when I was in Coimbatore visiting my dad’s friend who is a doctor in Naturopathy and Yoga. Amongst the many things we spoke, Yoga and Yogini Sivakami had really caught my attention. Sivakami aka Sonia Sumar is the founder of Yoga for the Special Child program. She lives in the US and travels around the world teaching Yoga for the Special Child. She also visited Coimbatore to conduct courses and I had decided to enroll for her course.

With just one week left for the course to begin, I had found myself struggling with self-doubt. My mind was full of questions, ‘I am not a Yoga teacher, not a special educator, not a therapist, not a special mother…Why on earth would I do this course?  Would Sivakami accept me? How did they accept my registration..?’ While the monkey mind got busy with analysing and questioning, my heart said GO.

In November 2011 I completed a week long course with Sivakami at Integral Yoga Institute in Coimbatore. This experience steered me towards the path of Yoga. It was an experience of sorts. I was the kind of person who would pay double to have a room all to myself; but during the course, I had to share the room with someone and I just went with the flow. The course was an eye-opener right from the beginning – it was teaching me to accept whatever comes my way, to not judge oneself and others, to understand compassion and patience – much needed skills to work with children with special needs.

“Yoga is not about self improvement, It’s about self acceptance.”  Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa

It was at this point that I had figured out the missing aspect of my practice. Pranayama! Sivakami taught me the role of breath in one’s practice and since then it has been progressive practice! All this while, my focus was on asanas and I wasn’t aware about how to breathe when holding a pose. It is only after Sivakami’s course that I truly learnt to hold a pose…!

A Calling To Work Deeper

I spent the next few months preparing for my teacher training course (TTC) at Sivananda Ashram, Madurai. This was my calling to work deeper on myself. It was indeed a life-changing experience and it came at a time when I was ready to surrender and transform myself. Ishwara, my teacher, taught me how to accept myself and not judge my body or practice.

Being thrown into dormitory life for the first time, my time spent at the ashram from February to March in 2012, was positively turbulent. Living and learning with a multi-cultural group was quite challenging and enriching at the same time. After completing the TTC, it seemed as though destiny had already laid out the plan. In April 2012 I was offered a space to conduct Yoga classes at a Physiotherapy Centre. Few months into teaching, I founded the Drona Yoga School, a Yoga studio in Chennai.

“Respond to every call that excites your spirit.” Rumi

Amidst my busy teaching schedule, I take a break every year to attend a Yoga program. I went ahead a completed an advanced TT course in Sivananda Ashram. Just by being around my teacher Prahlad ji, I had experienced simplicity, receptivity and the essence of surrender to the Gurus.

Yoga has been truly nice to me! It has sent me to the best teachers and Gurus. Sivakami taught me the importance of being grounded on my feet more than mastering the asana to be on my head. Ishwara taught me to accept myself, to not to give up, and to gently push myself deeper into the practice. Prahlada taught by example, to be humble, and Renata taught me to look at myself anew. I am grateful to all the Gurus.

Eventually … You Become The Flow!

While attending programs is one path to knowledge, studying from wandering monks and Yogis is another path. It is there that I learnt about awareness, listening to the body, knowing myself, accepting myself, and understanding that Yoga works inside out…

My journey into Yoga has truly been transformative. What had appeared to me as a physical exercise routine at the age of nine, now seems to be a deep-rooted philosophy of life, a commitment to myself and the world around me . The practice of Yoga teaches me to live, love, accept and go with the flow and eventually become the flow!

“Put your heart, mind, and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.” Swami Sivananda

We all have preconceived notions about everything. Yoga is no exception. Phrases like, ‘Yoga for weight loss’, ‘Yoga for thyroid imbalance’, ‘Yoga for diabetes’, ‘Yoga for flat belly’ and similar jargons are very common. I have students who come to me with similar concerns but before they sign up, I explain to them that I teach Yoga to bring the body, mind and breath together.  I make them understand that Yoga can steer you to live life and help you with your memories and emotions and that in the process, all the physical imbalances and disruptions settle down.

I do not vie to be a Yoga teacher with a sculpted body. I constantly experiment on myself to know more about the body, mind and breath connection, their tendencies, strengths and weaknesses. We should do Yoga with our body, mind and breath. Not to  the body, mind and breath. This stance is practical and works wonders.

We should do Yoga with our body, mind and breath. Not to  the body, mind and breath.

I have learnt to organise the mind by using breath as the password. I have experienced that together, this helps to organise the body to function better. Weaving through the web of consciousness, I have learnt to receive the knowledge and light from all sources. I have experienced that a Yoga Teacher can be a positive influence in the lives of people.

Be it an expectant mother or a typical student or a child with special needs; when I work with them there is love, connect, trust, fearlessness and patience. This impacts them positively. Having tasted this success I want to reach out to more people. Now, I am keen on encouraging more students to become Yoga teachers. In the past year, two of my students have been certified as Yoga teachers. Since then, they have been under my tutelage and currently teaching as well.

Yoga continues to lead the I.

Radha Jagan

Yoga Teacher, Founder – Drona Yoga School, Chennai

Facebook: DronaYogaSchool

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