Unassuming, humble and dedicated – Lakshmi has devoted her past 10 years to the Ashtanga Yoga practice. We have witnessed first hand how she coped with having young active Rishab in Mysore. She opens up in a very rare interview with us on her practice journey and struggles to come to the practice as a devotee, daughter, wife and a loving mother.
1. How did you start practicing Ashtanga Yoga?
As a child, I have always been intrigued watching my father and my maternal grandfather practice yoga asanas. I am grateful to my family for giving me a sense of understanding at a young age that yoga is way beyond asanas. It is a system of practice that my family approached for health and well being; for healing and spirituality; with joy and integrity day after day.
I was sometimes mesmerised watching especially my grandfather expertly weave one asana into another effortlessly for hours to an end. He was a very kind and compassionate man. I was but forced to connect the dots and as I grew up this intrigue stayed with me.
I was on an apprenticeship program in India via NTU during my Masters’ degree for a few months in the year 2006. At the time, one fine day there was a half page article in an Indian newspaper about Ashtanga yoga with a picture of Sharathji right in the middle of it all.
In retrospect, it almost feels as if all of this cosmos arranged for me to read that article and I did. I was in Bangalore at the time and was fortunate to study with Sharmilaji – Sharathji ‘ s sister for a few short months before returning to Singapore.
It was then that I met James at The Yoga Shala and continued my study in Ashtanga Yoga with him until 2007. I was working full time, but practice, as I quickly learnt, was what gave me the tools to face corporate rigour at the time. And I was hooked before I knew it.
2. How has the practice supported / changed your life?
What the practice taught me from the beginning was a sense of purpose in whatever I did. It taught me to understand my strengths and limitations. It has taught me to choose the battles to fight and to not nitpick on small things that appear big enough to warrant attention.
Also practice illuminates the urgent need for compassion and patience. I practice not because practice solves all my problems, but for the clarity that it brings to approach day to day situations which are all unique every single day. Be it as a mother, wife, friend, anyone.
3. What are some of the challenges you faced over the years of practice?
Being born in an Indian family brings with it the rigour of being a self imposed achiever of some sort. Soon after I found the practice a sense of lack of purpose over ‘achievements’ clouded over me. I was starting to look at things more holistically and there were shifts in my perspectives.
It came as a natural family decision to give up the corporate job after the birth of my son. That made my practice transform in a big way. My duties as a wife and mother were in my view an important part in the path of yoga to create a nurturing and nourishing home.
Even though my asana practice was on a mode of pause for several years after that (until 2013), my miniscule yoga experience left lasting impressions in my mind. I couldn’t wait to get back on the mat after all those years again.
4. How do you keep yourself motivated with the practice?
This one can be challenging – but one fine day realization dawned on me that I wouldn’t get along with me if I didn’t practice. What to speak of people around me!
5. Can you share with us tips /ideas on how to sustain the practice?
Having an all or nothing approach to practice, I have realized, makes it almost impossible in modern times in a nuclear family to keep practice alive, where we cook all meals from a scratch, clean, involve ourselves in our childrens’ school work and work on community projects.
During spaces in time when life has an agenda, I have learnt to accept suryanamaskara (Sun Salutation) and finishing as nourishing enough to help me sail through the phase.
We slot in 2 bonus questions as Lakshmi has just been given Level 1 Authorization by Sharath (after making multiple trips to devote her time to the practice.)
6) How do you feel about being Authorised by Sharathji?
In all honesty authorization was never an objective for me. Studying at the source became an integral part of the practice for me; providing me with experiences to deepen the practice. One day as I was leaving the shala Sharathji brought up the topic of authorization. It left me humbled and in deep reverence and gratitude for the practice and my teachers.
7) How has the authorization impact you or your practice in any way?
In my view every student I assist is my teacher too. I learn so much from each of them everyday.
Lakshmi is currently apprenticing at The Yoga Shala with James and looks forward to continue her annual studies with Sharathji at KPJAYI for the years to come. For her the learning never stops. Being authorized is just the beginning of another new chapter to share her knowledge about the practice with other inspiring practitioners out there!