Yoga Mat-ters: Travel the Spiritual Path
For the second in our NamaStay at Home series, Yoga Matters, we invited Sam and Preetika Bhatnagar, co-founders of Bodsphere, Delhi's top yoga and wellness studio.
This is an edited version of the Q & A that preceded a wonderful yoga session focused on boosting immunity and calming the spirit.
Sam’s teaching goes beyond alignment to an introspective, holistic experience. He presents the complexities of ancient wisdom in a practical, life-affirming manner and distills them with humor and grace. For him, Yoga is a path to explore our inner selves, elevate our consciousness and create a counter-balance to the stresses of modern life.
Preetika is a wellness guide, a lifestyle trainer, and an expert in holistic health through mindfulness and Ayurveda. She’s also been an Indian National Level Gymnast with over 100 awards and medals. Her yoga teaching is both intuitive and traditional, pulling from multiple yogic disciplines.
You could call their marriage bashert (destiny in Yiddish), to use one of those good Hindi words. They are they both from Delhi, and were classmates until Fifth Standard (age 8, until he left the school. They liked each other even then! But they didn’t meet again until 12 years later. By then Preetika had her bachelor's and master's degrees in physical education and had left the gymnastics she had been practicing rigorously for the India team. Sam studied Portuguese and management; became a banker; lived in Europe and, on the side, offered yoga and other fitness classes. He had been interested in health and wellness since childhood; by age 18 he was already certified in several areas and continued his training in Europe.
Welcome and Namaste!
Q: What IS Yoga exactly? Is it exercise? A philosophy?
A: Yoga is a union of body, mind and spirit, a body of knowledge and philosophy that was compiled between the third and fifth century BCE, so it existed even before then. An asana is a body movement, a posture, that comes from your mind. Every posture can have a different effect on your body, like opening up the muscles or opening the fascia. We are doing asanas not just for the physical aspect but also for the internal benefit that happens automatically.
In India everybody does yoga. There are different paths. The path of action, for example. If you’re listening to each other, this is an action. The path of knowledge. If you learn and analyze something you are gleaning knowledge. The other two are the paths of devotion and the kingly path. These different paths teach you how to handle everyday situations; how to overcome your own mind and make decisions; how to handle obstacles; how to tame the monkey mind; how to lead a stress-free, trauma-free, disease-free life.
You can choose your own path because the different yoga styles arrive at the same destinations. In one style you might have to do sequences in a specific order that can’t be changed; in another, you might have to hold the poses for a couple of minutes.
Yoga takes you back to the source, which is love and happiness. The paths give solutions but it’s up to the individual to implement the knowledge at the right time, the right place, with the right person. It’s about the practice and the implementation. It’s about awareness.
Q: What are some differences between yoga in India and the West?
A: In Western culture practitioners try to go from the body to the mind. Teachers experiment with different styles of yoga to attract more practitioners. It’s very important to maintain the authenticity of yoga, which can be a profound experience. It’s really more about the philosophy, more about the mind than about exercise. In yoga there are 195 teachings and only three teachings talk about the asanas, the postures. It’s not about posing upside down. Then it becomes a sport. But western culture has the beautiful element of body movement, with a focus on flexibility, stamina and mobility, which we also support as teachers. We try to integrate the body movements with the asanas.
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Rahel Musleah was born in Calcutta, India, the seventh generation of a Calcutta Jewish family that traces its roots to 17th-century Baghdad.