ASHTANGA YOGA AUSTIN
Priya, what was your background before yoga?
Well, if we’re speaking about yoga in its truest sense, I think that state of higher consciousness is present within us before we even come into our physical bodies, as we choose our soul’s purpose for this incarnation while still in another realm. Once we “arrive” into this form, it’s all about remembering and seeking; a lifelong pursuit to once again know and fulfill that truth, and reconnect with the divine, universal consciousness. We come from and return to, the source. If yoga is indeed this union, it has been a part of my path from the very beginning of this life, and perhaps many lifetimes before. Who knows when the journey began. My belief is that we are born into certain families for a reason, based on our past karma, and this provides us with the opportunities needed to pursue and advance our goals, spiritual or otherwise. It is up to us to embrace these relationships and allow them to teach us the lessons that we need to learn to move forward, as we work through the karmas that we have accumulated.
So, to try to answer your question, I’ll start with a little bit about my familial background. My parents immigrated to the United States from India in 1970. My dad, a chemical engineer, wanted to attend MIT for his graduate studies. Like many others, he and my mom left their families and the comforts of home to seek out greater opportunities. My sister and I were born in the United States. Being first generation Indian Americans, our parents pushed us pretty hard in academics. As children, my sister and I would wake up at 7 am on weekends to learn advanced math and science with my dad. We would sit on the floor of the living room with notebooks in our laps for hours at a time (I recall my dad would be seated in padmasana or half padmasana), working out complex problems that my dad would assign us. No bathroom breaks. No food breaks. He was pretty militant when it came to studies. I guess this was one of my earliest experiences of tapas.
I grew up in an environment of svadhyaya and Ishvara pranidhana. Raised in a Hindu household, my mom had me learning the Bhagavad Gita, Mahabharata, Ramayana and other scriptures from an early age. We went to the Hindu temples regularly on weekends, and my mom did daily puja at home in the morning and evening, along with daily japa and reading of shastras. I learned a lot about bhakti from her. This was my first impression of yoga, as a path of devotion to God.