While savouring the most grounding Sattvic food, a buckwheat kichiri, Pooja and I sat on the floor of her apartment, rooting ourselves deep into the earth. The Goan rain had ceased for a moment but the humidity of the monsoon season was inescapable. Pooja’s humble home smelled of camphor and on a table, amongst books and offerings, stood a portrait of Sadhguru. The Creatress had just recently moved to Goa to teach the Vedic practice of Hatha Yoga. When I came to her practice my body covered itself in goosebumps. Pooja works from a place of compassion and benevolence. The divine energy that moves through her during her Yoga classes provides holistic healing of the soul, the mind and the body. The unblocking happens on a cellular level, making you more receptive, opening your heart and connecting you not only to your inner being but also to your environment.
Pooja did not always live a simple life of devotion and selfless service. Born and brought up in Delhi, for years the magical woman took part in the rat-race of the corperate world of metropolitan cities. The glamour and the parties were not entirely satisfying and Pooja often found herself alienated in the world of wealth and superficiality. In 2009 her life took a transformative turn once she joined the Isha Foundation course called Inner Engineering.
“While working in big cities like Delhi, I witnessed the ugly, greedy parts of humanity. It was so hard for me to connect to people from that world. Inner Engineering made me realise that there is something more beyond the materialistic conquest. Money is essential to survive in this world indeed, but it is not all. Straight after Inner Engineering, I joined the advanced programs of Isha Foundation and decided to make something more beautiful out of my life. At home I got pressured not to leave my job and focus on getting married and starting a family but grace had touched me and I could not resist the callings of my joy.”
Pooja speaks with honesty and honour. Having experienced the two opposite worlds of East and West, of consumerism and spirituality, her experiences led her to a more soulful and authentic existence. Refusing to metamorphose into Sita and live by the social role of pati vrata (a wife in service of her husband), Pooja found it more fruitful to focus on her own spiritual growth. After all, how can one jump into marriage and share oneself with another being before understanding the most profound inner workings of one’s own self? One of Pooja’s closest family members thought that her idea of leaving a high paying job was utter madness, but aren’t we all mad in our own pursuits? Isn’t the best calling usually the mad calling? In the end everything fell into place and after long days of volunteering and working on herself, she joined Isha Foundation in Delhi and got back to work, but this time at a job that suited her slightly better.
“I picked a job of my taste. Isha Foundation completely resonated with me and in no time, after saving up some money, I was ready to move to Coimbatore, a city in the state of Tamil Nadu where the ashram Isha Yoga Center is situated. I came there with the intention of spending the rest of my life at the ashram. I volunteered and contributed to different projects, there were so many opportunities! I slowly started to breathe into the energy of the place. The ashram in Coimbatore became my home. The Sattvic food, the people and the selfless work were so enriching.”
For 3 years the Creatress lived and worked at the Isha Yoga Centre ashram, where a typical day consists of vigorous spiritual practices. The ashram wakes up at 4 a.m. and various personal practices and meditations are to be performed for about four hours before proceeding to brunch at the Bhiksha Hall. Brunch is a whole sadhana in itself, a true devotional practice of offering and of taking in the food. Volunteers engage in Annadanam, the offering of the most nutritious, Sattvic food. “We chant and then we eat in silence. It is very important to remain silent, because when you are eating, you’re making the food a part of yourself. You need to dedicate an enormous amount of attention to what you’re putting into your consciousness and into your body.”
After experiencing the ashram myself, I cannot help but agree that the place, surrounded by the awe-inspiring Vellinagiri mountains, is dominated by an indescribable energy. Something overwhelmingly mystical starts to occur inside of you after a few days at the ashram. One starts to actually live the yoga.
“After some time at the ashram, your consciousness sheds false beliefs and attachment ceases. All the conditioned ideas that I had about myself and my family started to crumble down and a very mysterious process of transformation took place. Many qualities that were hidden inside of me started to come to the surface. I spent 7 months in silent meditation with the guidance of the living master Sadhguru. This fast-tracked my spiritual journey. I became empowered by the longing to merge with the unbounded nature of this universe. The challenge, or rather the real work, begins once you start applying all that you have learned to the outer world. It’s interesting how everyone at Isha Yoga Centre is going through a different, deeply personalised inner journey and one should never compare one’s own transformative journey to that of the others’.”
Pooja’s self-discovery was so expansive that eventually, she dropped the idea of becoming a nun. Instead, she was eager to see the rest of her country and hear of other spiritual practices. In 2015 she started her pilgrimage around India all by herself. She started off in the city of Vrindavan, which is believed to be the birth place of God Krishna. Her trail led her to Rishikesh and eventually to the Himalayas.
“I found myself ready to discover all the different spiritual lives and practices of India. I wanted to meet all the sages and swamis. At one point I got into scripture reading and experimented with a variety of spiritual practices that helped me explore all the different realms of human consciousness.”
She walked along the Himalayas. Pooja once again took a controversial path. Being a female solo traveller is not always acceptable by the Indian society. Her travels, however, gave her the opportunity to grow and do some deeper work. She even lived with the sadhus, which is very unusual because the sadhus (holy men) are to restrain from all contact and interaction with women.
“I don’t think that without Sadghuru’s grace and protective blessing I would have ever gone on that journey. He was always by my side wherever I went. It gave me courage and constant drive to go on.”
Her pilgrimage in North India taught her that in the end it does not matter what God you worship, as long as you are connected to your own inner consciousness. Soon after her travels, the Creatress followed her calling of becoming a certified Hatha Yoga teacher. I was curious why she chose specifically Hatha Yoga.
“I breathe Hatha Yoga day and night. This is what I’ve been practicing for the last 10 years, it has become established within my system. I never practiced any other kind of yoga.”
Nowadays, Yoga studios are mushrooming around big cities. Men and women in the West have swapped their famous post-work drinks for yoga practices. The business lies in Yoga pants and all sorts of unnecessary yoga essentials. Sadly, the deeply spiritual practice has been molested by Western countries and transformed into a glamorous, and, obviously, highly selective workout. I was interested in hearing Pooja’s view on Yoga.
“Well first of all, what I teach is my offering to any human. It is a blessing to be a Yoga teacher. I teach Christians, Hindus and Muslims! Yoga is non-secterian. It is not to be categorised as part of any religion. It is an ancient, Vedic tradition which had no relation to any religion and people need to know that.”
I, myself, have practiced different types of Yoga for 7 years in over 3 different countries. I must admit that in Europe, Yoga is primarily seen as a physical activity, a gateway to weight-loss and relaxation. The majority of Yoga practitioners completely neglect the philosophy and spirituality behind it.
“Yoga is a traditional science that combines body, mind and spirit. What I see in the West and even in India nowadays, is a very distorted version of the practice. There seems to be no depth. The practice remains so limited to the body, while you could do so much more. It’s not all about the nice figure that you get once you start doing yoga, it’s not an aerobic practice! Yoga means union in Sanskrit. Some people don’t seem to know this. They just transform this ancient, holy practice into a money-making job.”
When practiced correctly and consciously, Yoga gets established within your system and then it takes you all the way to a new dimension where many dissolutions happen. You open yourself up to universal consciousness and reprogram your entire being.
During my travels in India I loved to talk about gender and learn about the different perspectives on gender. But most importantly, I was interested in the topic of womanhood. Every woman I met had a different story and a different opinion on both Western and the ever-growing Indian feminism. I was curious about where Indian women stand nowadays. Pooja herself is a free bird. After living through an abusive marriage, she found her strength to walk away and to choose herself instead of toxicity.
“Fortunately the abusive marriage I found myself in only lasted for about 5 months. Many women in India spend their lives with abusive men and I wish more women would dare to walk out gracefully from their violent husbands and follow their hearts. Divorces are more common nowadays, especially in big cities. In the past, no one ever spoke of divorces, it was never an option. I was lucky enough not to feel fear when I walked away from daily abuse, instead, I felt sheer faith that there is a higher force which is guiding me. Joy and love are the only paths I am taking from now on.”
My first impression of women in the north of India was a very interesting one. I found myself being intimidated by the colourful Goddesses. They walked in packs or with their husbands in Varanasi, they looked at me with curiosity and yet seemed completely unapproachable. In traditional places like Varanasi, one rarely sees a woman unmarried and walking the streets by herself. This once again underlines the discrepancy between different parts of India. It is so vast and diverse that all the different cultures, beliefs and traditions seem to be contradictory and paradoxical to an outsider.
“Unfortunately, domestic violence is still extremely common in India, it is almost inevitable. But you can’t spend your life in misery with a man who beats you. Personally, I love life so much that I would never sacrifice myself for this sort of toxicity. I want to be with someone who respects me and who is willing to evolve and grow with me.”
While women empowerment movements are growing in India, safety is still a big issue. A lot of atrocities towards women are not being properly addressed by the government. It is heartbreaking to hear that most women are either blamed for the crimes committed against them or their stories are simply being swept under the carpet.
“Women are changing and evolving. We are working on ourselves and I wish men would start changing too. Indian men need to work on themselves even harder and only then the change will be tremendous within our society. Both genders should be able to evolve together, instead of women becoming LIKE men. This is not the way it is supposed to go. All genders have a feminine and masculine energy in them, we just need to accept it. Nowadays our society is only based on the masculine energy. But how bland would the world be without the feminine, the colours and the flowers, the nurturing energy that each and every woman provides? The world would be dead!”
Pooja offers individual as well as group Yoga sessions at the Art Chamber in Castelo Vermelho in Calangute, Goa. Let yourself be taken on an unforgettable journey of self-discovery, of compassion and union with all that is. By living her dream, she is unlocking the unlimited potentials of her being in order to fully thrive in this lifetime.