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Lokvani Talks To Asha Ramesh

Ranjani Saigal

“I am a normal human being trying to make life better by practicing yoga.  I have my own pitfalls and character flaws that make me totally like anyone else.  The only advantage is that I realize these pitfalls and flaws and help strengthen the positives with some yoga. As a teacher I would like to bring that advantage to others” says Asha Ramesh. While Asha has an MBA and works as a business analyst at the IT department of the Massachusetts State Treasury and she is  an adjunct faculty in the Information Systems and Operations Management department at Suffolk University, her real passion is to transform lives by teaching Yoga. She is a certified yoga teacher having studied under Barbara Benagh of YogaStudio at Boston.  She is a registered yoga teacher with the Yoga Alliance.  She teaches yoga at the Lexington Community Education at Lexington. She has been practicing hatha yoga for the past twenty plus years, and believes that yoga is the one and only form of mental and physical exercise that lends itself to multiplicity and variations.  She loves to read about alternate medicine specially Ayurveda and natural healing.  She wishes to undergo training to become an Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist sometime in the near future.

She talked to Lokvani about her interest and the concept of adopting the Yoga way of life.

You have an MBA and a successful career as a business analyst. What motivated you to learn yoga?

I stumbled upon yoga rather accidentally. As part of our undergraduate education in Chennai, we were required to do one of three things – join NSS (National Social Service), join an athletic club or learn yoga. At that time the first two options did not appeal to me. I decided to do yoga since I thought it would be least difficult of the three options. That was the beginning.  It was a random decision and I did not go into it with any real interest or motivation. Fortunately for me, I continued the practice even after I graduated.  I think the practice of yoga was changing me even though I was not quite aware of it. Much later, when I came to the United States I became quite passionate about going deeper into it. I decided to take up further training and get my teacher certification and share this knowledge with others.

Since you trained both in India and the US what do you perceive as the difference?
For me the difference was more in my own mindset than anything else. I learnt yoga from a sixty year old master in India. As I mentioned before, I was very young then and in fact had an immature approach to the subject. I sometimes even made fun of it. I was focused on the outside. I did yoga to look good. I continued to practice yoga slowly realizing that I was evolving into a serious yoga student.  By the time I studied yoga in the US, I had become a different person and my focus since then is all inward.

Like the rest of us you have family responsibilities and a very busy career. On a personal level how has practicing yoga influenced your life ?
We all play roles in our lives.  Like everyone else  I nag my son to try and steer him in the right direction, giving common sense advice, and developing socially acceptable behavior or nudging him to explore his academic potential more than he otherwise would, etc... But behind it all, one has to realize that we must play the role till it is necessary, and later relinquish the throne without fanfare and not continue as jaded monarchs.  I think that practice of yoga helps me view things in a detached manner.
Yoga has also helped me tremendously with healing. My father was diagnosed with brain cancer. I was taking care of him and watched him suffer for nearly a year.  The stress of the situation caused special medical problems for me. My doctor prescribed medications. But I used breath work, asanas, and mediation to an extent to heal myself. The medicine was untouched. Similarly at the moment I am working on healing my plantar fasciitis by with some asanas that target that area.
I also understood that I could practice some part of yoga no matter where I was in my life.  I could do seated poses if I had a broken toe or just simple breathing exercise if I was immobile for some reason.

We hear of many different forms of yoga. Could you tell us a little about them? What kind of yoga do you teach?
As you well know yoga means union. Hatha Yoga came from the words "ha" which means "sun" and "tha" which means "moon". It is often translated as the branch of Yoga that brings union of the pairs of opposites referring to the positive (sun) and negative (moon) currents in the system.  Hatha Yogis consider the body as the vehicle for the soul. 
This ancient art has six branches – Hatha Yoga, Karma Yoga, Janana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga, and Tantra Yoga. Hatha yoga is the most popular form of yoga practiced both the United States as well as all over the world.  Within Hatha Yoga lies the different styles that we see today.  Iyengar Yoga, Kripalu Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, Viniyoga, Kundalini Yoga, and Power Yoga to name a few. 
Hatha Yoga is a gentle yoga where the focus is on long stretches and flexibility, with slow, deep breathing. Kundalini yoga works on the premise that the body has eight "chakras," and through use of "breath of fire" (rapid breathing), one can heat up the body from the bottom up, eventually "raising kundalini" to achieve a feeling of high enlightenment. Power yoga, which is also known by the Sanskrit term Vinyasa Yoga.  Ashtanga Yoga involves performing challenging sequence of poses with Ujjayi breathing and vinayasas.  Iyengar Yoga is geared towards detail and precise perfect alignment with the aid of props like blocks and belts.
I teach and practice basic Hatha Yoga.

It seems like there is a variety of poses within Hatha yoga. Since we all have busy schedules, what poses would you pick for a daily 20 – 30 min practice?
Yoga is the one and only form of mental and physical exercise that lends itself to multiplicity and variations. Thus the yoga way of life can be easily adapted to the modern day and age. One does not have to do a standard routine everyday. Hatha yoga needs a balance between the inner and outer self. Thus the poses you should practice depend on your mood. You should let your inner self be your guide.
While setting some time aside for practice is a very good idea, it is not always necessary. Asanas (poses) can be incorporated into daily activities. While shopping, I practice Tadasana (Mountain Pose). While sweeping the floor I do the forward bend. While commuting to work, I practice breathing.  Yoga can become a part of daily life.  It can give you something to do even when you are waiting in congested traffic.

Yoga is often presented as a “Sarva Roga Nivarini” or a cure for many ills. Do you agree with this?
Yoga is not a cure for any disease. But it certainly helps heal. Healing is the mechanism of reducing discomfort and yoga is a powerful healer. I notice that healing is a great motivation for many of my students to learn yoga. Yoga relieves stress and makes the muscles supple. I like to emphasize that with yoga you will be strong yet supple. These are great health benefits for anyone.  One can maximize one’s own potential for good health by practicing Yoga.
Since you believe in the value of  yoga, did you teach yoga to your son?
My son has not been motivated to learn it. He prefers other athletic activities.  Since I am a teacher and not a salesman, I teach yoga to those who come to me with a desire to learn.  If I were a salesman, I would sell yoga to those who may not have the desire to learn as well.  I firmly believe one day, maybe soon, he will understand that yoga will help him perform better in his other mental and physical activities in life. That yoga practice and other athletic activities are not mutually exclusive. 

Do you have any upcoming workshops?
I have a sample class on Saturday 26th February and one on March 12th. It will be 1:00pm to 2:30pm at "GuardUp" on 141 Middlesex Turnpike in Burlington, MA. For further information, people can send me an email at asha@yoganalam.com



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