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Moving through Dance to Yoga

By Aanika

My journey to yoga started with dance.

When I was young, I used to say, “I am a dancer.” With ghungroos (ankle bells) on my feet, I would wake up the whole house on the weekends. My brother would scream, but the little ballerina in me would not stop. I loved dancing and watching myself dance. My mother, who played the classical sitar, encouraged me to study classical Indian dance. Eventually, my studies would also take me to folk, contemporary, and the ever so popular Bollywood styles of Indian dances.

I danced, never missing a dance class, until one fine morning at the age of 15, when I awoke with a stiff neck. None of the massages, oil rubs, or medication helped. My mother, not knowing what to do, took me to quacks who tried to remedy the situation by using treatments that left me in more pain and unable to move my neck. I was taken to hospital where I was treated for cervical spondylosis for four years. Guess what? As it happens, specialists later told me that I never had cervical spondylosis; my neck had had a fracture.

Because my broken neck wasn’t treated or operated on when needed, my skull bone fused with my top vertebras and resulted in limited movement. I was no longer the girl who could move with grace and speed. Still, despite the restrictions of my body and doctors’ advice, I continued with my passion in movement.

After finishing my Prabhakar (a six-year course) and undergoing folk dance training in Delhi, I performed extensively with the best of artists and represented India in the opening ceremony of the Asian games in 1982. I carried on with my dance work when I came to the United Kingdom. Residencies, performances, festivals, workshops—I enjoyed them all and was also commissioned by Granada TV to choreograph two dance pieces.

Life’s ups and downs took me on a detour, and the woman in me faced a challenge. Standing alone at a crossroads, I had to make a living for myself. Call it a need to prove to myself how strong I was or call it madness, I joined the police force. I served the Met for two years, going from ghungroos to handcuffs (which I could never get right). Eventually, I resigned.  

A sudden bolt came, when my father was diagnosed with grade 4 cancer. I flew back to India, and it was at my parent’s house where I met a learned naturopath and a yogi who invited me to join him in a Shuddhi Dhyan (dynamic meditation) which his guru was conducting. I was excited at the concept and went along with him. I met my Sad guru there, and my life was once again changed.

Shuddhi Dhyan (dynamic meditation) was perhaps the most powerful and intense experience I have ever had. My inner world rocked; my body shook; I could feel my energy centers, the circular movement in the center of my heart; I cried and cried. When it all stopped, I was told that my Kundalini had awakened.

It was then that I decided that my next line of progression would be yoga. I trained at the Sivananda Vedanta Institute of Yoga in Kerala, India, and took further training from Yoga India through Yoga Alliance in Mysore, India.

Now, I teach yoga and practice ayurveda as well. My classes in hatha relax and hatha power are dynamic yet meditative. I cannot teach yoga as a physical culture. Breath and soul leads any asana, from simple to the complicated.

As a natural progression of my experience in yoga, I produced a yoga DVD in Mumbai called “The Flow Within.” During the making of the DVD, the creative and entrepreneur yogi in me was stirred and I came up with Yogamasti, my brand of yoga wear, which I launched in London in 2009.

So, who am I? A dancer? A cop? A yogini? An ayurvedic masseuse? Or none of these? I surely am much more than all of these.

I hope that by sharing my journey it will encourage students with disabilities not to give up on their bodies and on yoga. My broken neck never stopped me from my practice in both yoga and dance.

About the author:

Aanika has been practicing and teaching yoga as a way of life for the past seven years in the UK. She is founder of the Yogamasti line of yoga wear.

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