By Dhruv Ramnath, MA Social Anthropology
The thought of twisting one’s torso to the ‘extreme’ right or at an angle one is not familiar with at all suddenly conjures up emotions and thoughts lurking at the back of the mind. Yoga offers a momentary release as well as an uncomfortable and then later, comfortable, pull and push which seeks to maintain permanence through its insistence that bodily postures aid in health and well-being but are not the ultimates to which we seek. The mind is more important here, for it is in the mind that real exercise takes place; but this does not mean that yoga rejects the temporality of the body as an effective marker for self-realisation—indeed, the so-called fashion of yoga is that the body must be taken care of if the mind is to be worked upon.
Sitting in the yoga classes of all the non-self-realised instructors whom I have had the pleasure of interacting with as a student has turned my body into a vessel for love. Each of them has started the class with a magnificent positivity that has released me from the burden of being a lost soul in a big fishbowl. I silently acknowledge the professionalism with which they have poured their guidance (of the body) to the customers in the classes, for it is through their unbroken concentration on one and all, and with that gentle nudge and reminder here and there, that constantly transforms the environment in which practice operates. Their singalong voices add a measure of quietude, and the repetition of instructions is strict and alarmist at the same time: Better focus or else, fail.
Yet the teachers are not disciplinarians with rods to break their students’ bones. Their methods vary according to each student, and with such enthusiasm and energy they magically unearth a world of devotion that, though grounded in the body and nothing but the body, relaxes the mind. In the process, the words which they use to whip our minds from monkeying around in class achieve a level of compatibility with that very mind that has to be still along with the body. Is that not sticking to yoga’s bountiful promises?
When I had gone wrong with my postures during the Ashtanga class, I was neither reprimanded nor questioned but told, in a sweet whisper, to recall what the teacher had said the day before; and having corrected it soon, I felt that the cause was my own mood that morning—I was too sleepy! I had to wake myself up after the instructor pushed me further to expand the boundaries of my head and heart. The wee hours of a yogic morning at triyoga are as special as yoga itself, and at night, you will not be listening to the conversations of owls outside Studio 1 who occasionally “hoot hoot”—you will be posing like them, like the pigeons, the eagles, the dogs, the snakes, the peacocks, and the entire animal kingdom who wiggle their bums and then stretch their backs like beautiful moths who spread their wings under a full moon to the sounds of a deep ‘Aum’.
Triyoga’s studios of different practitioners, different teachers, and different styles of yoga coalesce to form a big celebration of the art of flexibility, breathing, balance, rejuvenation, and meditation originating in its ‘classical’ sense from that old, what Vivekananda had called, “ethnographic museum” called India. The fact that the gurus of triyoga have not merged into Brahman makes the project of being with them very exciting: the focus is on exercise, with a dose of spirituality dolloped into the heated rooms, and it is known that for such a consumption of the yogic enterprise to be productive there is only exercise, more, more, and more of it.
The result is worship. No matter what the cost—the money is totally worth it. And who speaks of charity these days? Relegated to the fringes of love, friendship, and a strong work impulse that balances out the intense karmic accounts of all those who step into the many studios of triyoga, charity is in the freedom to choose which class to attend rather than the freedom from choosing which class to bunk. It has been such a delight to hop, skip, and jump to eat a vegan meal—no, no, not at the food court downstairs but at the studio’s very own cafe. Breathe in… and delight in Soho’s very own authentic shala.