This week's feature is Sonia, one of our gentlest teachers in school. In this Q&A we asked Sonia to share with us her thoughts on yoga as a way of life and what yoga means to her. It is also her birthday today! Happy birthday Sonia x
Hello Sonia! Share with us what yoga is to you.
Instead of a textbook answer on yoga definitions, I'll share how I got into yoga and hope the answer emerges naturally. I started meditating in my early 20s, but was never able to keep up a regular practice for long. A few years later, I started following yoga videos in my bedroom as a way of clearing my mind, and found that yoga brought me the same feelings meditation used to. After each practice, I'd lie in shavasana in darkness on my floor, feeling peace and calm. These nights of practice soon became a routine as I found myself seeking this state of being where I could simply exist in stillness in my mind. It’s been a few years since, and yoga still provides for me this space where I can retreat into.
Do you see yoga as a way of life?
During my teacher training, we learnt about yamas and niyamas (two of the 'eight limbs of yoga' in the yoga sutras), which include ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truthfulness), and santosha (contentment), to name a few. We spoke of topics ranging from consciousness to politics to love to gender inequality, and I realised that yoga is everywhere. It is in everything we do. It can be a practice, a philosophy, a way of life. Take ahimsa for instance. We can think about non-violence in the form of not hurting others, of not eating animals, of thinking gentle thoughts. We can think about non-violence as we observe our physical limits while performing asanas, as we practice self-love, as we stay true to who and what we are deep inside.
What advice would you give to a beginner practitioner?
Show up with an open heart and observe what happens. People enter yoga for different reasons. Whatever yours is, trust that what you want will come in time, with patience and practice. There is no need to rush or to push too hard. Learn to laugh if you fall out of a pose or struggle to get into one. (I find myself in giggles each time I try to bring my foot to my head in compass pose - it is nowhere near!) Be kind to yourself if you’re not in the mood for practice, or if you can’t sit and meditate for more than a minute. It is okay. Listen to your body, listen to your mind, trust yourself and the journey.
Share with us your teaching style and what we can expect from your classes at Nithya Priyan School of Yoga.
My teaching style is an extension of who I am, so I would describe it as calm, open, and intuitive. In NPSOY, my Basic and Core classes are slow-paced and focus on alignment and the breath. My Stretch classes follow a yin style, where I encourage passivity and letting go in each pose, which is held for 3 to 5 minutes. Here, we use the breath to help find stillness in moments of discomfort. My hope is that when we experience discomfort, stress, and challenges outside our mats, we remember how to return to the breath to find calmness once again. In all classes, my intention is the same: to create a space where people feel free to explore how they exist in their bodies and how they feel in their minds. I see myself more as a guide than a teacher, and like to remind everyone that they know themselves best. Mindfulness of being and acceptance of self is very much encouraged!
Do you think yoga is important for the time that we are living in?
Definitely. Yoga is a great tool that allows us to slow down, to be still, and to reconnect in a world that feels increasingly disconnected and fast-paced. I believe that yoga allows us to return to the roots of who we really are. And it is when we have found ourselves that we can truly begin to connect to others with authenticity. It is when we have fully accepted ourselves that we can truly accept the people around us with compassion and non-judgment.
Thank you Sonia!