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Pragya

Books Yoga

Beyond Asanas – My Book, My Words

August 21, 2019

Thank you @zzeehphotography and @makeupbyhennaanbaree for this amazing shot.

When I was writing ‘Beyond Asanas’ my aim was to write a book which would give readers insight into little known stories about the asanas. This is an aspect of yoga practice which is never emphasized, so most practitioners only understand the asanas superficially.

Little did I know that through the book I would come in direct contact with people near and far, known and unknown. People who would read my words and appreciate them. And then take the time out to give me feedback, and share my work with others. So many of you have reached out to me on social media and through other means to express your thoughts and emotions regarding my work. You have no idea what it means to me. 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻⠀

‘Beyond Asanas’ was published this year on June 21st. The publisher, Penguin Random House felt that would be the apt day to publish a book such as this. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. The beautiful photos have been shot by Joel Koechlin. The insightful foreword has been written by Kalki Koechlin.

Do get your copy now, and please don’t forget to share your feedback. It helps.

Buy on Amazon & Flipkart.

Available on Kindle too!

2019

4th Aug – 11th Aug

August 12, 2019

A snapshot from the first Instagram live session I did showing my own morning practice. Didn’t manage to save the video for this one, but other videos are up on www.youtube.com/PragyaBhatt

This week started with another event, this time for the FLOH Network.  FLOH is a singles network which has an interesting modus operandi.  Unlike other dating sites, FLOH actually plans meetups for their members.  You can then actually meet people face to face, and figure out if you vibe well.  And if you do, then you can explore your options to your heart’s content.  As part of the event, I shared my personal journey with yoga and how yoga has impacted my personal and professional life.

Sometimes I get out of the yoga pants and into some fancy gear.

Check them out on: https://www.floh.in/

It’s been so cold in Bangalore that I spent an afternoon to dig out all my winter clothes.  With the sun disappearing on us for days on end, I designated some time to fish out warm sweatpants and hoodies, sweaters and jackets.  It’s so cold that I actually layer for class!!!  And usually the layers don’t come off until after at least 10 rounds of Surya Namaskars.  What can I say?  I’m cold blooded?  I filmed a small warm-up routine while waiting for students to show up, and here it is.  When it’s cold, I can’t be bothered to take the hoodie off.

 

 

 

I listen to podcasts pretty obsessively and am constantly on the lookout for interesting new ones.  This week I stumbled upon this on and found it fascinating.  I usually end up listening to this stuff while I drive, cook or even during a shower! Do you have any interesting podcasts that you listen to?

 

 

 

Since many people ask me about my personal practice, I decided to start going live on Instagram.  Still a little new to it, I couldn’t save the first live session I filmed, but here’s the second one.  The video is kind of grainy and there’s annoying noise in the sound, but it will get better!  Follow me on Instagram for quick updates on everything I’m doing.

 

Also this week I was sad to hear that Toni Morrison passed away.  I read ‘Song of Solomon’ in high school and fell in love with her writing.  RIP.

 

Also, ‘Beyond Asanas‘ is now stocked in all the major bookstores and is also available internationally.  A friend of mine in Germany and the UK have received their copies.  Also – my high school English teacher also got her copy and uploaded this adorable picture.  Order your copy now!

Can you spot Beyond Asanas?

2019 Books Food Lifestyle Yoga

29th Sept – 4th Aug

August 5, 2019

Three times a week I have a student coming home early morning. For an hour we work with all our props and what follows is a deep, delicious savasana.

The first post of the week was a snapshot of my hand balancing practice.  I’ve been trying to invert for many years now.  Some days it’s good, some days not so much.  But I do a certain amount of inversions daily.  I find using blocks for pincha mayurasana and a bolster for  adhomukha vrkshasana helps to activate, stimulate and access my core muscles.

On Wednesday, the 31st I had an amazing book talk hosted by Carrots Restaurant.  Carrots is my default go-to for such events because their food is amazing and the vibe of the place is just the right amount of holistic health meets real life people.  Geetanjali, a friend of mine since college, also attended and relegated us all with anecdotes of me from college.  She reminded me that I was a huge fan of the Khadi Bhandar even back in college when such stuff wasn’t ‘cool’ like it is now!

All writers dream of when they will be signing their books. It still feels surreal.

Grateful for friends who partake of and enjoy your success.

 

In other new, I spotted my book ‘Beyond Asanas‘ at Higginsbothams on MG Road and was quite kicked about it.  As usual I took a million pictures of it.

 

In the run-up to my book launch, RJ Grisha, a lovely lady based in Chicago reached out to me via my Facebook page to see if I would do an interview for her radio should called ‘Life Aaj Kal’.  It was great because I got a chance to analyse myself and introspect a bit.  After all, it’s when we come across major breakthroughs that we think most about the meaning of everything in our lives.  When I listen to the interview now I smile in spite of myself.  I sound excited and nervous, happy and cautious…a young girl on the brink of the greatest event in her life.   You can listen to the interview here on the RadioPaaniPoori site.

Yesterday (4th Aug) I was kicked about doing an event for a company called Floh.  My talk was about how yoga has helped me with my personal and professional life.  I spoke about how our relationship with ourselves pretty much determines our relationship with others.  Therefore, it’s imperative to work on that relationship.  When I became more conscious of how I treat myself, talk to myself and perceive myself, then miraculously, others also became conscious of it.

But the best part of Sunday is my weekly runs at the Ulsoor Lake.  Yesterday I clocked 5 km and followed it up with some stretching and hanging upside down.

Favorite thing on this planet – loads of time to practice, run, stretch and monkey around Ulsoor Lake.

 

2019 Travel

July 22nd – 28th

July 29, 2019

This week started out with me being all writerly.  Many of you don’t know that I have a humongous  collection of saris.  Yet the only thing I wear most frequently are my yoga pants.  So it was refreshing to attend the Guru Purnima celebrations swathed in six yards of elegance.  And since I was presenting my teacher with my book on the same day I thought let me make it a Kodak moment and the result was the first Instagram update for the week.

Give me a beautiful south cotton sari any day. #noyogapants #sarinotsorry.

 

I’m still pinching myself about what a wonderful year this is turning out to be.  Last year if you’d told me that next year by this time I would have conducted a yoga retreat in Italy, I’d dismiss you as senile.  My book was in the pipeline, but I was immersed so deeply in editing that it ever seeing the light of day was almost mythical.  The second update for the week saw me thinking about my unconventional journey and the twists and turns that it’s led me on.  With no roadmap the only thing I’ve relied on to get to this point is my gut instinct and also blind trust on whoever wants to massage my ego!  This picture was taken when my sister Ana, cousin Ishani and I were roaming the streets of Imperia trying to find Susanne and Stephanie (with whom we were going to head to Liguria).

Dancing all over Imperia.

 

The 25th of July is Abhijata’s birthday.  In 2016 I went to Belur to attend an Iyengar yoga workshop for the first time.  Abhijata was there along with Birjoo and Rajvi Mehta.  I was nervous about speaking to Abhijata, but my classmates egged me on.  And I finally did, thinking I’d like to remember myself as courageous enough for a ‘no’ rather than the coward who didn’t even dare.  It was now or never.  Abhijata not only told me to write to the institute keeping her in the loop but also answered a few of my questions.  I did a blog on it and later put together a YouTube video.

 

And I ended the week with updates about my first book event for ‘Beyond Asanas’.  The event is called ‘Feeding Body and Soul – A Book Talk.  It is being hosted by Carrots Restaurant and they even curated a special menu for it!!! The menu included: Melon Mint Gazpacho, Raw Beetroot Ravioli with Herbed Cheese and Cilantro Hummus with Baked Lavash Chips.  Exciting stuff!!!  The first event was on Sunday evening and I spoke about my personal journey, why yoga, how I went about writing the book etc.  It was an open, free-wheeling discussion and I look forward to doing the event again on Wednesday the 31st of July.  Fingers crossed that this is the first of many book events. 🙂

Simply yummers….

Food Travel

Pietrantica – A Treasure Trove of Goodies

July 18, 2019

It doesn’t take much to make travel ‘special’. It is special in its very essence. As the world gets smaller and human beings explore the world only to come home to themselves, it is perhaps a personal touch we crave. After all, we’ve seen the entire world several times over on social media.

When Susanne told me about Pietrantica, a boutique store for typical Ligurian goods, I was sure all my souvenir shopping was going to be from there. It had all the essential elements – niche, local and truly Italian.

With Vittorino, the gregarious owner of Pietrantica.

With Vittorino, the gregarious owner of Pietrantica.

I immediately warmed to the store when Vittorino, the owner, greeted me in typical Italian fashion. A hug and a kiss on both cheeks. Sussane introduced me and told him I was there to teach at the retreat along with her. Vittorino was warm and friendly and invited me to look around his interesting store with an expansive sweep of his arm. I looked at the shelves. There was wine, liqueurs, olive oil, pesto, soaps and other skin care items. There were entire racks of cooking tools made of olive wood. Also sweets, coffee and even mushrooms!

The story goes that Vittorino lived and worked in an oil mill in Imperia, a small coastal town on the Italian Riviera. When the owner of the mill wanted to shut it down he decided to buy it and run it on his own. Eventually he decided to shut shop and sell olive oil instead. Customers started trickling in and as the trickle slowly increased, so did the requests for more products. Soon they were stocking all manners of products ranging from skincare to amaretto.

“Our pestos are quite famous,” says Chiara, Vittorino’s daughter. “We have unique flavors. Also, we are the second largest wine sellers here.” I eyed the shelves upon shelves of vintage. “We have wine from Italy (specially Ligurian wine) and champagne from France. We stock everything from the most expensive to the cheapest wine.”

Tell me a little more about the varieties of liquor you stock, I prodded. “Well we actually started with selling oil and skin care products. Then came the wine (upon customer requests) and finally the Grappa.” I decided to sample some of their famous grappa and I could feel the 44% alcohol content. But, I have to add, it was delicious. “We’re the most famous retailers for grappa,” Chiara added.

The store stocks a range of liqueurs. Originally lemoncello is from Capri, but it was first produced in Naples. Orancelle is made of oranges.

Chiara pointed out the handmade soaps. Some made locally and some coming in from France. “Piermont is where most of our soaps are made,” she says.

“What about all these chopping boards and ladles,” I asked running my hands over the smooth wood.

“All these are made of olive wood. The olives in this region are called tajasca olives and are endemic to Imperia. Stuff made out of this wood is really strong and lasts for years.”

A little tip from Chiara: rub a little olive oil on your wooden implements and watch the shine come back. In fact, any marks and ridges will also fade.

Over the years Pietrantica’s fame has spread far and wide. What started out as a store catering to the small town of Docedo and the larger province of Imperia now takes part in international food fairs. Their products have gone to the US, Dubai, France and Germany.

“You can’t imagine starting a store like this now,” Chiara tells me. “There are so many rules and regulations now.” However, the family of four works together to provide the best they possibly can. Every single item is tasted before being sold, and must conform to the family’s strict standards. When it comes to the cosmetic products, the first rule they follow is to keep the number of ingredients as low as possible.

Although Chiara started veterinarian studies, she decided not to finish. The call of the family business was too attractive. Much like her father, she is happy to work at Pietrantica. “I love it when people come into the store. I get to talk to so many different people,” says Chiara. “Sometimes you end up building long lasting relationships. Dolcedo has people from different parts of the world.” The store follows periods of manic production and periods of lull. “When you need to fulfill massive customer orders you end up working a lot and that is the most stressful part of our job here.”

Inspired by the fact that the best grappa is sold at Pietrantica, I decided to pick up a bottle of blueberry flavored grappa. Along with that some lavender shower gel and a few soaps to remind me of beautiful Liguria with every fragrant whiff. A weakness for wooden kitchen tools saw me picking up a few olive holders as well.

Always a sucker for interesting kitchen implements – I picked up a few olive holders.

If you are lucky enough to take a little jaunt to this beautiful small town remember that during the winters they are open only for 3-4 hours. Summers they open at sharp 9 am and go all the way up to 8 pm, with no lunch break.

I for my part, look forward to going back as my shower gel is almost over and I find a need for a new chopping board….

Kiara doing what she does best - interacting with customers at the beautiful store.

Chiara doing what she does best – interacting with customers at the beautiful store.

Travel

Dolcedo – How Did I End Up Here?

June 27, 2019

You can see the ancient clock tower of the old church in Liguria behind me. It would chime every half an hour. This is the road connecting Molino Pincion to the rest of the town. Down on my right is a stream which you can hear clearly every time you walk on this path.

Where

A yoga retreat in Liguria.  To be honest, I’d never heard of Liguria.  Genoa is close by, and I’d read references to it in a Shakespeare play, but never thought about visiting.  Little did I know that one day Liguria would hold a special place in my heart.  The location of my first full-fledged international yoga retreat.

We chose a small little getaway called Molino Pincion in the town of Dolcedo to conduct our retreat.  The town is tiny, only 7.6 sq mi!!!  The air is fresh, the streams are clear, the place lovely.  The Pincion is a short walk across the town, through cobble stoned streets, across the church and up a small hill.  The gurgling of the water in the streams is a constant as you walk around the town.

Although I’ve conducted numerous yoga retreats in the past, this one still got me out of my comfort zone.

Many of us experienced breakthroughs during this retreat. The headstand using chairs was something that no one had tried before, but as you can see, everyone gave it a go.

Susanne, a certified Iyengar yoga teacher, showed us many easy techniques to practice pranayama, including the usage of the bandage.

Who

It all started with an idea (as it usually does).  The idea possibly germinated in Susanne mind when we went for an outing while at RIMYI in 2017.  When she shared her idea with me. A year later she pinged me again and mentioned the retreat.  Believing in our ability to plan a great retreat, I always responded in the affirmative.  Finally 2 years later we had more detailed Skype discussions.  The idea was evolving and gradually becoming a plan.

On the far right- my cousin Ishani on holiday from college. Center: my sister Ana on her birthday trip.  Pictured here on the flight to Nice.

How

We were lucky to have a great mix of people.  One of my sisters and a cousin even agreed to come with me!!!  We had Lily dropping in from Berlin for the last four days and Paola coming in for a day from Genoa.

Susanne and I planned each day meticulously.  I took the morning sessions, where we worked on building up to an advanced asana.  Susanne took the evening and the pranayama sessions.  It was the ideal mix.  Morning were for a high-energy asana-intensive practice, while the evenings were to wind down and relax.  Many participants also got pointers on how to use props to tackle personal challenges.

Personal

To be honest, I was super nervous as we touched down to Nice.  My attempts to calm myself by writing down sequences also didn’t help.

Yoga teacher tip: writing down sequences can actually help you visualize them and deliver a better class.

It was only after the first two days of class that I felt I found my bearings.  Susanne, on the other hand, was simply amazing.  Clear instructions, confident and sure, firm adjustments.  I knew I would learn a lot from teaching alongside an experienced and certified Iyengar yoga teacher, but I couldn’t have gauged just how deep my learning would be.

I don’t think I was ever relaxed during our seven days in Dolcedo.  I went to sleep thinking about the sequence for the next day, I woke up before everyone else to flesh the sequence out.  Once the class was over my mind automatically veered towards the class plan for the next day.  However, I think that is part of the experience and possibly something that we have to come to terms with as teachers who conduct long retreats.

At the end of the retreat, many participants expressed a desire to come back next year…and Susanne and I will certainly be back next year to give you a bigger and better retreat.  Stay tuned.

To read more about our retreat click here.

I love working with other teachers. There’s so much learning and growth that comes with it. Honored to have done this retreat with Susanne Meyer.

Food Lifestyle Travel

Intermittent Fasting Made Me a Better Yogi

April 25, 2019

…and 4 Other Unexpected Results of the Latest Fitness Fad

I.F. (Intermittent Fasting) seems to be all the rage right now.  Fitness experts are expounding it and every one (and their moms) are trying it. At the risk of sounding trite, I’d say I.F. has changed people’s lives.  It’s helped people shed oodles of weight. It’s reduced the oft present stress around ‘clean eating’, ‘balanced eating’, ‘right eating’ by eliminating eating all together! And in my experience, it’s done a lot that we’re not even talking about.

I’m not one for fitness fads, but I’m also experimental.  I’ll always try something, unless it’s too ‘out there’ for me.  (And, to be honest, few things really are.)

WHAT IS INTERMITTENT FASTING?

Intermittent fasting is a system of eating where there is a specified ‘ eating window’, and ‘fasting window’.  There are many different styles of Intermittent Fasting depending on these windows. The most common is the 16/8 fast, where you fast for sixteen hours and eat for eight.  You can also do a 12/12 fast, where you fast for twelve hours and then have an eating window of 12 hours. You can fast on alternate days, or once in two days…

And to my surprise I found that this system of eating ‘worked’ for me.  Below are 5 things it did for me, and which have me now.

I.F. MADE ME A BETTER YOGI

I kid you not.  I’ve practiced yoga almost daily for the past decade.  In a world where distractions are many and time a rare commodity, the only way I can do this is by waking up at an ungodly hour to get some uninterrupted practice time before the rest of the world awakes.  More often than not, I’m sluggish and slow in the morning, sore from the previous day.

Enter I.F. and my body feels clearer. I am experiencing a kind of energy I’ve never experienced before. The kind where your brain might say ‘no’ but your body will move into the first sun salutation with no complaints.  By reducing the quantity of food I consume, energy that would otherwise be spent on metabolizing and digesting food is available for morning yoga practice. My asanas are sharper, my body seems to move with no resistance and I am fully present for my practice.

I.F. GOT RID OF MY BRAIN FOG

Yoga is not only a physical practice.  However, even the physical practice of yoga (asana practice) is linked to your mind.  If your mind isn’t awake, your body is unlikely to act. After practicing I.F. for almost a month now I’ve noticed that my brain doesn’t take too long to wake up.  Prior to this I would dilly-dally and procrastinate before finally stepping on my mat. Now I’m on my mat faster, more inspired, energetic and creatively abundant.

I.F. MADE ME APPRECIATE COFFEE MORE

But not because I’m guzzling down any more of it than I was before.  In fact, I’m drinking less of it! Part of my dilly-dallying used to include making a cup of strong coffee.  The aroma used to wake up my senses and the caffeine used to wake up my groggy cells. Now I don’t need the coffee.  An era of coffee enjoyment has started in my Life. I have coffee when I want to and not because I need to. I enjoy a single shot of espresso more than I’ve ever enjoyed it before.

I.F. CONTROLLED MY FOOD CRAVINGS

Along with a decrease in my coffee cravings, my snacking has also reduced.  I don’t find the need to constantly munch something. So I’m not putting junk into my system…and that may be contributing to my high energy levels.

I.F. CLEANED ME UP!

I see my waistline more often than not now.  I.F. proponents scream weight loss more than anything else.  In fact, many say that they have lost weight in spite of eating all the junk in the world! Just to be clear, I haven’t lost any weight, but I still see my waistline because of a reduction in inflammation in the gut.  Because I no longer ingest easy snacks, I’ve cut back on bloat-causing preservatives that I was invariably consuming.

HOW I FASTED

Before I end I’d also like to point out that there are numerous different versions of intermittent fasting.  

  • There are dietitians who say it’s OK to have coffee, tea, lemon water etc while you’re fasting.  I have absolutely nothing except water during my fasting window.
  • I stick to the 16/8 style of fasting.  Basically this means having my last meal by 4 and eating again at 8 in the morning.  
  • I break my fast with nuts or a banana.

I’ve jumped on to the I.F. bandwagon, and I think everyone should give it a go. Would you try intermittent fasting? Have you tried it already? Share your thoughts!

On one of the several Root Bridges during our hike in Cherapunjee last month.
Lifestyle

The Unwitting Yogi

April 7, 2019

I was a little late jumping on to the ‘Bohemain Rhapsody’ bandwagon, but when I did I was spellbound. The movie was well done, and the portrayal of the characters was spell binding.

Freddie Mercury was perhaps the greatest rockstar of all time, but he was also an unwitting yogi.  While going through a bunch of his pictures on Pinterest I started to notice that a lot of his moves on stage looked like yogic postures.  The more pictures I saw, the more yogasanas I recognized.  So I put together a bunch of Freddie Mercury’s pictures and the corresponding asana.

Trikonasana/Triangle Pose

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The Trikonasanas – I have a love-hate relationship with this asana, but you’ve got to admit it looks like Freddie is performing it in this iconic pose.

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When you practice an asana your mind, body and spirit are supposed to come together – and in this image it looks like they are.

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Vrkshasana/Tree Pose

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That costume & balancing on the toes!!!

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Always try to push the inner edge of the foot into the ground for better alignment. 

And variations of the Tree pose…

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Chaturanga/Plank Pose

Every yogi knows the agony of getting this one right.

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Those biceps though.

 

Virbhardasana/Warrior Pose

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Marichyasana/Sage Marichi’s Pose

This is a bit of a stretch of the imagination, but you have to admit there’s a twist there.  Also, Freddie’s flat abs, his chiselled body, the energy – is this the real life?

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Backbends

My biggest challenge…but look at him.

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Can I just point out the clean lines and the lifted sternum?

Hope you enjoyed this blog.  Leave me a comment and share if you did!

Poetry Uncategorized

Nature Needs No Filters

March 23, 2019

Every once in a while
wipe the makeup off
slough off the dead skin of
past experiences.
Exhale.
Climb out from 
under the weight of
the shoulds and should-nots
Let the wind
unfurl your hair
a flag wild and free.
Let your skin
flower in the soft sunlight.
The lines around
your mouth
your eyes
Glorious.

Nature needs no filter.

At Rainbow Falls, 2.2 kms from the Double Root Bridge in Cherapunjee