1. Tell us how Yoga Sutra Shala came about. What inspired you and motivated you?
I worked in NHS in the UK for several years. I have a clinical degree from Kings College and one from Queen's University Belfast. My work in the health service was all about treating acute diseases. What my heart was really into, however, was promoting health and preventing disease before it manifests. I made several trips to my home country of India, learning yoga and meditation from different teachers. I wanted to learn about how yoga was taught in other parts of the world too so I also studied with teachers in the UK, Germany and the Americas. Now armed with a deeper insight into the art of yoga and realising the benefits I could provide to people by teaching them to relax and live more stress free, I also started to think about nutrition and about what I had been taught at King's College London and also during my work with the NHS. I thought a lot about the Mediterranean diet which is considered to be the healthiest diet in the world and I thought about the best way to give people a big change in their lives, I decided to find the most beautiful Andalucian village I could. I decided that having a retreat centre there would be the best way to teach and promote what I believe is health for the mind and health for the body. My beliefs are that real health brings real happiness and I truly believe that our retreat centre gives this to our yoga students who come here.
2. Tell us more about your own yoga practice and how important have this been in setting up Yoga Sutra Shala.
My own yoga practice has been influenced a lot by my practice in India. Where my family come from, yoga is predominantly a philosophy, a philosophy that talks a lot about perspectives and one that teaches you that by looking at everyone's different perspectives we can develop humility. I decided when I started learning yoga deeply, to learn from many teachers - Indian, western, Buddhist and so forth in order to gain insights and to see different perspectives. I wanted to take aspects of many different systems of yoga, to keep from them what is scientifically sound and to use it in my teaching system. As a result I use aspects of ashtanga yoga, yin yoga, hatha yoga, and vinyasa yoga. I also take a lot from different schools of meditation, philosophy and pranayama.
3. What is your vision for Yoga Sutra Shala?
My vision is that Yoga Sutra Shala is going to be and is now a place that exists to help people towards finding inner peace and natural health - to help them go deeper into their yoga and meditation practice. It exists so that the students that come here are able to learn lessons and have deep experiences in their practice so that they can apply what they learn to their daily lives when they go back home.
4. What can visitors expect when they go on a yoga journey at Yoga Sutra Shala?
The students that come here can expect to learn a way to change and improve their lives for the better. This is the main thing that Yoga Sutra Shala offers them. Of course there is always Andalucian sunshine, the mountain air, the lovely views, the Mediterranean diet - the food is all local, organic and very healthy. They can expect to learn about nutrition. They can expect to have a deep experience of meditation with the backdrop of the Sierra Tejada mountain range as well as a peaceful and healthy experience of yoga and philosophy. The sense of peace and connection to nature that they can expect to experience is one of true tranquility in the heart of the Andalucian countryside.
5. What has been your greatest challenge and sweetest experience throughout your journey with Yoga Sutra Shala?
Our greatest challenge has been to create something that allows our students to have a permanent change in their lives - not just for them to have a few days of relaxation, sunshine and healthy food - but something much more definite - a new view of the world that gives them a very positive mind. I have never wanted to teach people something that lasts just for the duration of the retreat - but I have always wanted to make the changes permanent - so that that students coming here can really apply what they have learnt when they go back. I want them to learn how to be peaceful not just for the duration of the retreat whilst they are feeling the peace of the mountains and nature. What I want is for them to learn to apply what they have learnt in order to help them create a mindset and feelings that will help them live a more peaceful life regardless of what the outside world holds.
Our greatest experience is always when the yoga students get home, tell us how great they feel, that they are practising yoga and meditation regularly, enjoying it more and that they have changed their diet and their mindset for the better. Each time a student returns home and tells us that they have changed something for the better I feel thrilled.
6. Where do you see yourself and Yoga Sutra Shala 5 years down the road?
I see Yoga Sutra Shala growing as a place for people to find genuine peace within themselves. I genuinely believe that by applying different methods from the ancient and modern world we can create retreats that can help people find peace in themselves and health in their lives. I believe that we will keep developing and that in 5 years time our retreats will provide a very powerful tool for people to learn to bring a lot of peace and happiness into their lives.