Something about this interview with Smita makes me breathe a little deeper, sit a little taller, relax a little more and smile. For me, it speaks of the essence of yoga.
Smita is an author, Yoga Teacher, Coach, Speaker and TV Presenter. We crossed paths on a Shiva Rea teacher training seven years ago, she has since published her trilogy Karma & Diamonds. I loved her first book, Moon Child, I devoured it in a couple of days, it is so good and will resonate with fellow seekers. I’m excited to dive into her second book in the trilogy.
Smita gives a feel for her books in her writing below, so let’s dive in!
- Tell us a little about yourself
I was born in Mahatma Gandhi’s hometown, a port in the North West of India called Porbandar. I came to London when I was 10 and wear my British-Indian badge with great pride. That said, I’m truly a global citizen and find a sense of belonging wherever I go – I travel often and widely across the globe and consider this to be one of my many blessings.
I’m the author of a trilogy called Karma & Diamonds – a journey of Self discovery across continents and lifetimes.
Prior to authoring the Karma & Diamonds trilogy, I worked internationally with global leaders of industry, winning multi-million dollar contracts in a career that spanned 25 years. I worked with Technology giants as well as start-ups. I was among the first in bringing India’s Information Technology services into the heart of British and European companies. For my YouTube channel and as a freelance TV presenter, I have interviewed leading politicians, entrepreneurs and gurus. I’m a speaker, transformational coach, and a certified yoga teacher.
- Everyone who has ended up on a yoga mat raising their arms in their first sun salutation has a story of what led them there. What’s yours?
I grew up watching my dad stand regularly on his head in Sirsasana. I would watch mesmerised, wondering what he was doing. But I knew I had to be quiet and could not speak while he was doing that, in case it made him fall so I just stood stock-still and watched and watched for as long as I could. When I was old enough to understand, I learnt that he was performing something called “yoga”. That said, I never saw my dad do any other postures, only Sirsasana. He sat in meditation for long periods too.
Later, when I was about 12 or so, I found myself sitting in strange postures and manoeuvring myself into all kinds of shapes and forms. As a child, I read ravenously and my Saturday mornings were spent going to the local library to return the books I’d completed reading and finding new ones. One of those books happened to be a book of yoga postures, with stunning photographs of a woman performing all kinds of yoga asanas. It was then that I realised that the crazy ways in which I was sitting while watching TV at home or rolling on my spine, chucking my legs over my head was in fact, the beginning of my yoga practice.
- What keeps you returning to your yoga mat?
Yoga gives me access to discovering layers of myself that I may not even have known that I have. It’s a complete framework for life as a human being – body, mind, spirit and soul. It’s perhaps the only system that incorporates teaching for accessing the vast mysteries and depths of each of these layers that make us spiritual beings in material bodies. When practiced with daily discipline and studied continuously, yoga is a framework for transformation.
- How has your yoga practice filtered through to your everyday life?
India has given us the invaluable legacy of yoga. Yogic principles and teachings are rooted in India’s daily culture, with which I was brought up. For example, discipline was a key value that I was taught growing up. Once in the morning and again in the evening, I would sit at our home shrine and offer my prayers and practice mantra japa at least for one round of the 108-bead japa mala. I would offer some flowers and a sacred offering of something delicious, prashad, by way of gratitude for all the divine blessings we enjoyed. Through this discipline, I developed and am always honing my own relationship and connection to the inner realms. My first and ultimate relationship has become the one with my Inner Diamond, the shakti, the powerful inner Self that resides at our core and that, in each and every moment, connects us to Consciousness, higher intelligence that is forever beckoning us to tune in to its wisdom.
- What is your favorite yoga pose, breathing practice or mantra?
My favourite posture so far is Sirsasana. There’s something humbling about turning your world upside down for a few minutes in Sirsasana. Doing this makes you let go of whatever you’re thinking about and focus. It is refreshing to let go of your stream of consciousness and put yourself in a position in which you can only be in the present.
With regards to Pranayama, I love so many, such as one-movement-one breath in Ujjayi with my Vinyasa Yoga practice. I find Kapalbhati, Anulom Vilom and Bhastrika extremely powerful for breaking the spell of oncoming illness or stale thinking. But the one that I practice and teach most often is simple yet supremely calming and healing – abdominal breathing. Smooth, deliberate breaths that I draw deeper and deeper into the belly, then extend into the pelvis and hips, then into the thighs and so on, until the breath rhythm becomes so long as to extend all the way onto the tips of the toes. Then I visualise exhaling from the bacse of the spine, and out through the crown of the head. The whole spinal column comes alive, becoming energised, as though it illumines into a column of pure sparkles of dancing light.
The mantra that I find extremely powerful, in that, it clears any manner of negativity, tamasic lethargy – physical or mental – is the Gayatri Mantra. I swear by it.
- What advice do you have for those just starting out on their yoga journey?
It is my view that the Western culture scoffs at the notion of discipline. And yet, no mastery is possible without it. So start by attending a regular class, fall in love with it and then expand your practice slowly and over time. Combine your yoga with other forms of exercise at first, until your body lets you in and allows you to develop more and more stamina and strength. Trust your body and mind to support you. You will know when it is time to take your practice to the ‘next level’, whatever that might mean for you.
- How has your yoga practice evolved over time?
I have been practicing yoga, on and off, since I was 12 but I never had a teacher until seven years ago, when I stumbled into a yoga intensive with amazing Shiva Rea. Chaturanga, a foundational posture in the vinyasa sequence was an anathema to me. It was clear that I lacked stamina and strength. I realised just how much more I could learn and develop. It was then that I threw myself into my yoga practice and now, I am physically leaner and stronger than I was at 21. My yoga practice is work-in-progress and I love that it will never be a done deal.
- What are you loving right now?
I am loving my ever-evolving relationship with my beloved husband into what feels like an art form.
I am loving discovering new aspects of my own physical and mental capacities through developing my yoga practice.
I am loving finding new ways to share my books – Karma & Diamonds trilogy – and getting my message out there with an ever-widening global audience.
I am loving doing more and more scuba diving in tropical waters and honing my diving skills.
I am loving and have always loved the opportunities to travel extensively across the world and expand my inner horizons as a result.
I am loving becoming a clearer and fine-tuned instrument and partner of my “Inner Diamond”, a term I have coined for the Higher Self. It and I are ever becoming one, with less and less interference from my “mind monkeys”, the mental chatter that runs in the background on automatic pilot. You’ll have to read Karma & Diamonds to learn more about both.
I am loving being in awe of life and tuning into my inner sight, vision and intuition that guide me into the flow of astonishing and most fulfilling serendipity.
- How do you nurture yourself?
I practice yoga and love perspiring myself into great health.
I drink fresh, live juices.
I eat less and exercise more.
I create, write and do things that put me in direct touch with my inner Self.
I spend time in the company of those with whom I share mutual love, warmth and respect.
- What wisdom has your yoga practice revealed to you that you’d like to share with us?
I invite you to read Karma & Diamonds to get the answer to this question.
Put in a nutshell, it is this: Who you know yourself to be in your physical and mental form is a minuscule aspect of who you are. Tap into the vastness of Who You Are, your inner Self, that deeper aspect of your being, and you cannot but feel fulfilled and live in delight.
As a child, I grew up watching my father regularly stand on his head, for what seemed to me like hours. He was doing the ShirsasanaÂ yoga posture.
Guided by his guru, the brilliant Sri Aurobindo, my father was an avid yogi who meditated regularly. Though Dad never taught me directly, simply watching him stand stock still on his head and sit statuesque in deep, meditative immersions captivated my imagination as a little girl.
Around the age of twelve, I too started to attempt performing yoga postures. A few years later, I also began to meditate, purely guided by my intuitive inklings. On and off, I did yoga for twenty years but it was only when I stumbled into my first Vinyasa Flow training course did my yoga practice begin in earnest. This was with the extraordinary, internationally renowned yoga teacher, Shiva Rea. Her profound knowledge and approach to integrating the different aspects of yoga touched me deeply and inspired by Shiva, I took up training with her to be able to teach.
Other accomplished yoga masters of the Krishnamacharya lineage with whom I have studied include David Swenson, Richard Freeman, Ana Forrest, Anna Ashby, Hamish Hendry and Stewart Gilchrist. As well as Shiva Reaâs Prana Flow Yoga, I also practice Mysore Style Ashtanga and other forms of dynamic yoga. I teach regularly and am committed to my daily practice.