Lifestyle Travel Yoga

The First Class

September 4, 2019

How many times have you quickly gone up into sarvangasana? Do you remember to pull the shoulders back, open the chest, activate the thighs and lift the tailbone up? Seemingly small modifications can change the entire posture.

Perhaps it was nervous excitement or maybe anticipation, but my first class was amazing.  By the end of the class my blood was singing and my body felt like it was thrumming (to the beat of my blood?).

I am a sucker for simple classes.  I believe if you focus on the simple stuff everything else falls into place.  This class focused on the tailbone and sacrum region.  We started the class with adhomukha virasana.  Rajalakshmi asked us to continue to extend the arms.  “This extension isn’t because you are lengthening your bones!!!” she boomed into the mike.

“The bones never extend!!!  It’s impossible for you to extend any of your bones!!!” she continued.  “Pay close attention to the parts of your body that make the extension possible!” she said.

She encouraged us to pay close attention to the tailbone-sacrum region and observe how it participates in forward bends and twists.

The most interesting part of the class was dissecting the parivritta trikonasana or the revolved triangle posture.  There are three movements that make this asana possible: the extension of the side, the bending forward keeping that extension intact and finally, the opening of the chest.  And once we were in the final posture we were asked to pull the tailbone and sacrum in to the body.

At one point Rajalakshmi caught me looking at my hip.  I realize I do this unconsciously every time I practice this asana.  I use my eyes to ensure that my hip is pushed back, which detracts from the overall experience of the asana.  “Your side is compressing and you’re becoming a ball,” Rajalakshmi explained patiently.  “Extend your chin forward and away from the sacrum.  Open the sacrum and lengthen the side!” she boomed again.

This is the magic of the annual pilgrimage to RIMYI.

Lifestyle Travel Yoga

Registrations at RIMYI

September 3, 2019

Finally getting the hang of this.

I headed to the institute at around 9 am this morning.  In previous years I’ve always registered in the evenings so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I decided to wear my practice shorts just in case.

The person at the front desk smiled and nodded his head in recognition. He suggested I go practice first and come back later to get the registration forms.

Self-practice sessions at RIMYI can be intimidating. Alhtough you have people of all levels you tend to look only at those who are busy defying gravity. Today there were students going from adhomukha svanasana to urdhva dhanurasana and back again.

Watching students who have a better asana practice than you can be intimidating…or extremely inspiring. As a yoga student the one quality that has been of immense help to me has been that the only ‘I’ I take with me to a class is ‘I am a yoga student.’ Besides this I don’t think, ‘I can’t do back bends’ or ‘I have a mean urdhva kukkutasana’. I’m willing to explore what I already know. And willing to wrestle with prejudice, fear and doubt to discover new movements.

Besides the above two things, the other things I should mention for a month in Pune are:

  1. Don’t bring your yoga mat. You have every prop ever created available for use.
  2. Do bring comfortable walking shoes, preferrably ones that can withstand the rains. Pune is known for its sudden showers (it’s pouring as I write this).  Don’t forget a trusted umbrella.
  3. Students generally bring skirts or loose pants to wear over their practice shorts rather than changing at the institute.
  4. Don’t forget your passport photos (along with the other documentation such as visa copies, passport copies etc). It had completely slipped my mind that I needed passport photos, but luckily had some extras in my wallet.
  5. You can pay your fees through cash or card.
  6. A lot of students like to have a coconut post class. I would recommend bringing your own re-usable straws rather than using the disposable plastic ones.

These are the few things that come to mind right now. In case you have specific queries, drop a comment.

Post practice I got my schedule. I have evening classes three times a week, and today happens to be an evening class. Fingers crossed for a good class and an awesome month.

Travel Yoga

An Auspicious Start – Pune Day 0

September 2, 2019

This is my fourth consecutive year coming to study at RIMYI.  In previous years I’ve had the luxury to make lists and plan.  This time I was caught in a whirlwind.  I had to wrap up projects, attend a last minute Vedanta class, plan the quantum of assignments to work on this month, and so on and so forth.  I was, of course, also trying to stuff myself with as many idlis and masala dosas as I could.  Have to survive for a month after all.

I think all the frenzied activity of the last few days caught up with me last night.  While I was finishing my packing I suddenly felt sick and threw up my lunch.  My stomach settled down after that but I was in no position to eat and went to bed.

After a quick and simple breakfast of fresh steaming idlis (surprise!) this morning we drove to the airport.  A short flight later I alighted in Pune.

Ganesh Chaturthi in Maharashtra is special and I’ve been lucky to witness it for the last 3 years.  As I got into the taxi I could hear the processions and feel the excitement in the air.  The festivities will continue for the next few days and it’s great to be here this time of year.  I couldn’t have asked for a more auspicious start to my month.  Here’s to a wonderful month of growth, re-connection, beautiful discoveries and new friendships.

Fourth year in Pune for my trusted pink suitcase too.

Poetry Yoga

The Rigors

August 25, 2019

The rigors of a home yoga practice. ⠀
Messy hair, ⠀
sweat stained clothes. ⠀
A little music, ⠀
an old mat.⠀
Props strewn around. ⠀
A useless mirror.⠀

Books Lifestyle Travel Yoga

Rubbing (Book) Shoulders With My Favs

August 22, 2019

My sister spotted my book at the Delhi International Airport.

Over breakfast with my boyfriend today I mentioned I have my book club meeting tomorrow evening. It got me thinking about reading and those who read. I said to him, “Reading is a bit strange. We all know how to read, but very few actually read.” Those who aren’t bitten by the reading bug as soon as they learn how to read, can never catch the reading disease. For them reading a book will depend on literary awards and bestseller lists. They will never know the pure joy of a juicy historical Walflowers romance followed by the heartbreak of a volume on partition and its consequences. They will never relate to, and therefore never benefit from the existential crisis of a desperate vampire. They won’t know the thrill of hours spent digging through piles of dust motes to unearth treasure in a second-hand bookstore. Their shelves will forever be prey to awards, notable mentions, even popular opinion.

I read ‘God of Small Things’ in high school. The book was one long beautiful breath-taking poem. Last year the magic reappeared in ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’. To have my book next to hers is a little like being close to her energy.

I read a little known book called ‘The Gin Drinkers’ around the time I started college. I was smarting from culture shock, felt like a fish out of water on most days, wondered if things would ever get better and like most young people looked for familiarity that I never really found. (Have I found it now?). As clichèd as it sounds, I recognized a bit of myself in the characters of this book. When Sagarika Ghose spotted her book at the airport, I wonder if she registered the book next to her.

If you spot ‘Beyond Asanas‘ anywhere, do send me a picture!

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.