Smitha Patvardhan

 

My first exposure to Yoga was at the age of 10. As most members of my family have been doing yoga at some point or the other, I too continued practising yoga, albeit intermittently, with various teachers in the neighborhood.

In the past five years however, I have reconnected and recommitted to yoga in a qualitatively different way.  Here I owe gratitude to Dr. S N Omkar, one of the leading Iyengar Yoga teachers—whose classes I attended for over two years. Dr. Omkar’s scientific understanding of the physiology of yoga, his emphasis on the philosophical roots of yoga and associated texts, and his humorous, gentle, and inclusive approach to teaching yoga, changed my understanding of yoga. I now began to see yoga as a potential tool for transforming, and bringing greater integrity into one’s life. During this period, I also benefited enormously by learning yoga from the rigorous and deeply dedicated teachers at the Rashtrotthana Yoga Kendra and at SVYASA, Bangalore, from where I hold an Instructor Certificate in yoga.

My association with Mysore Ashtanga yoga began rather serendipitously when I was visiting family in the US.  In the first week of my month-long visit, a Mysore Ashtanga Yoga class caught my attention. With little idea or exposure to it back home, I signed up with great curiosity. With each passing day, I was drawn to the unique design of this class—self-practice under a teacher’s guidance. The idea of flow, from one yoga posture into another, and the rhythm it creates, perhaps also appealed to the musician in me. Back in India, I was enormously lucky to find a Mysore Ashtanga Yoga class in Gowrisha’s Samyama Academy—not too far from home. Gowrisha’s studio has helped me deepen my practice of yoga in a very deep and essential way. For one, he has guided me (and goaded me!) into postures that I had never imagined I would be ever able to do. That has been liberating. His unambiguous emphasis on yoga as a spiritual practice resonates deeply with my orientation to yoga.

Above all, I have learned much about the art of teaching yoga, and perhaps the art of teaching in general, from his liberal, compassionate, and considerate approach to students.

My approach to yoga has also been strongly influenced by a longtime meditation practice. I have been learning and practising meditation in the vipassana style for over a couple of decades now. In recent years, beyond going on a long-term retreat atleast once a year, I have maintained a daily practice— a discipline that I largely attribute to my daily yoga practice.

My approach to yoga has also informed my arts practice.  I am a classical vocalist in the carnatic tradition. I have Vidwat proficiency in music and an MA (Music) from the University of Madras. Over the years, I have learned from prominent teachers including the late Smt. Jahnavi Jayaprakash, Smt. Rohini Manjunathaiah, and more recently from Dr. Sukanya Prabhakar. While I love the traditional classical repertoire, in recent years, I have found creative expression in putting together thematic concerts— centered around specific composers (e.g., Swati Tirunal, Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar), concepts (e.g., Nava Vidha Bhakti), and mythological and historical icons (e.g., Rama, Krishna, Mira). Most recently, I was able to integrate my interest in music and yoga with a thematic concert on Ashtanga Yoga—where I strung together a series of songs from various composers to highlight the essence of the eight limbs of yoga. With a passion for teaching music, I have been training select students for over a decade now.

I am a qualified Chartered Accountant, and have over a decade’s experience in the banking industry. In the past few years, this track of my life has fallen off my priority list.