This month we shine the student spotlight on Manasa Bhat whose bright smile and enthusiasm fills everyone she meets with joy. It has been such a wonderful gift to have her as part of our community, especially as she lives in Dallas, Texas. One of the aspects I always loved about my work with scoliosis was the lovely people I would meet that perhaps otherwise, we might not have crossed paths. I am so pleased Manasa and I crossed paths virtually and it is such a pleasure to share her acquaintance with the rest of our global community.
Tell us a bit about yourself – Hi everyone, my name is Manasa. I am from Mangaluru, India. I worked as a Software Engineer in Bengaluru, India for a few years and I came to the US for my masters education in computer science in January 2020. I graduated this month from the University of Texas at Dallas and I will be working as a Software Engineer in Dallas
What is a little known or surprising fact about you or your work? I like solving escape room games.
What led you to Iyengar yoga? How did you find IYCWM? I took to yoga seriously after I was diagnosed with scoliosis in 2018. I would practice Ashtanga yoga, it helped me to a large extent, yet it left me feeling inadequate in addressing my situation. My husband Amith, who reveres BKS Iyengar and practices/refers to asanas from Light on Yoga introduced me to Iyengar yoga. I started exploring BKS Iyengar’s teachings from the vast collection of videos and interviews online which motivated me to practice yoga daily (I still followed what was taught by my earlier Guru). While continuing my online research on adapting yoga for scoliosis I came across Elise Browning Miller and Susan-Elena Ma’am.
How long have you been practicing yoga? I was acquainted with yoga from childhood since my parents practiced yoga. But my practice was on and off. I have had a daily practice for the past 4 years, and in the last 6 months I have been practicing Iyengar yoga.
What keeps you on the mat? Earlier, I would practice yoga because I wanted a solution, so I was tied to the results of yoga. In contrast, now I enjoy the process of practicing asanas. This shift in my mindset is mainly due to how Susan Ma’am introduced the practice to me. For instance, after my first class, I asked her – ” So, what sequence should I follow? ” , in short she said – “You should experiment and let me know”. This was a paradigm shift for me because earlier I would stick to one sequence for the entirety of my practice with very slight modifications. I feel that this led me to practice without awareness and I was doing the sequence mechanically. Hence this one reply from Susan Ma’am, made me think, “Oh, I should start paying attention to what is happening, how else will I know? “. Being a student with a background in science, experimentation sounded fun. The more attention I paid to the practice, the more interesting it became. Everyday I am experimenting, strengthening and discovering something new about my body, energy, and mind. This has made my practice very enjoyable.
What keeps you off the mat? Mostly coursework and part-time work.
What poses do you love? Supta Padangusthasana series, Ardha Chandra, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Viparita Dandasana, Setubanda, Supported inversions to name a few. Honestly, at present, I am enjoying practicing all the asanas.
What poses do you find challenging? I find lateral bends and twists tricky. Also, the inversions: Pincha Mayurasana, Sirsasana are challenging at present.
What do you like to do when you are not doing yoga? I like computer science and to translate my ideas into software applications. I paint, sing (Indian Carnatic Classical songs) and read books (Stillness Speaks/Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, Agatha Christie novels). I enjoy learning new languages too (learning German). Some of my new hobbies include going on long walks with my spouse, watching anime (loved Demon Slayer and Naruto) and exploring the philosophy of yoga through books, videos etc.
How has practicing yoga impacted your life? In short, practicing Iyengar yoga is showing me the true nature of yoga which will take more than this lifetime to unravel. Earlier my mind would be everywhere else but on the yoga mat. I would be planning what I will do/eat/watch/read once my practice is done. Now with the precise pointers and direction from Susan Ma’am, my mind stays only with my body(most of the time 😛 not always) during the practice. It takes every ounce of my attention to embody the asana as best as I can. In this manner, I feel that the asana practice alone is expanding into the 8 limbs of yoga. My practice is showing me how to be strong, patient, persevering and that consistent effort always pays. In one of the classes, I heard about “rebirthing yourself” and I feel it aptly captures the impact of yoga on me.
How does yoga show up in your everyday life? I find that the lessons I learned in asana practice, that is, how it affects the muscles, bones, energy, mind etc. seep into my day to day activities. My posture has changed dramatically. Also I feel more stable emotionally.
How has the pandemic changed your daily life? Does your yoga practice help you in any way? I left my full time job just before the pandemic and started my masters education. And throughout the pandemic, I was fully occupied with coursework, part-time work, internships, and job hunting. I mostly missed out on the community experience in the university. Not being able to visit family in India has also been difficult. Yoga practice has definitely helped me a lot. It has alleviated pain due to scoliosis and has also kept me calm and joyful in between all the uncertainties.
What has it been like to become part of a virtual yoga community where you do not know some of the other students? I do not see much change. In the online setup, it is nice to listen to the conversations and Q&A at the end of the class.
How does this yoga community contribute to your practice? Seeing everyone doing their practice inspires me to focus more on my practice and improve step by step.
How has the switch to online classes during the pandemic affected your sense of community? How does it help stay connected? How does it fall short? I have only been learning online. I am grateful for online classes, because otherwise I would not have been able to learn from Susan Ma’am since I live in Dallas. I feel she understands the mechanisms of my body, mind in depth and I must say that nothing escapes her keen eyes. I am amazed by how Susan Ma’am is able to even point out a toe that is out of place just by looking at me on the computer screen. So I don’t think I am missing out on anything much.
What do you think about the future of hybrid yoga classes – some people in person, some online? It sounds great. The flexibility really helps those who would not have access to the class otherwise due to geographic constraints.
Any advice for those seeking to connect to a virtual yoga community? Iyengar yoga is well structured, precise and adaptable to your specific physical needs. It not only takes one to the depth of the asana practice but spreads into all the other limbs of yoga seamlessly. I do not find any lack due to online learning. Rather, I feel lucky that I can learn from an experienced Guru who understands the mechanisms of my body, mind etc. without the geographical limitations. So, in short, I would say, don’t worry, do join virtually and unravel the mysteries within.