A professional architect, a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, and an urban dweller of Mumbai- so many roles in one person, the last one taking its highest toll. Upama Borkar, born and raised in Guwahati, now settled in Mumbai, is a graduate from Sir J.J. College of architecture and a YOGA addict.
“I was always inclined towards anything and everything creative so it was quite natural for me working as an architect ever since graduation. I like designing spaces, turning them into living breathing homes, and growing offices. That’s the professional side of me. Besides that, I am an avid traveler who gets inspiration to paint from all the adventures. I love to do oil paintings, mostly landscapes. I also enjoy doing sculptures. My travel stories also include trying out different cuisines. I think the best way to get to try local food(with the authentic flavor)is when you try out street food of that place. My trips are always off the mainstream tourist spots, I enjoy the beaten tracks as I love walking (don’t you think a new place is best explored by foot then be driven around ?)
I am a firm believer in being fit, both physically and mentally. I started inculcating fitness as a routine in my daily life after I graduated. I never thought Yoga would help me fill up those gaps in my routine which I otherwise thought were complete to keep me going. Yoga helped to complete my self-development process.”
The Essence of Yoga
BTS: Hi Upama, thanks for taking the time to do this interview. Could you give our readers a bit of information about you, where you’re from, and tell us a bit about the kind of yoga that you do?
Upama: Thank you, BTS for giving me this opportunity to bring Yoga to this platform.
I live in Bombay now but I was born and raised in Guwahati, Assam. I am an architect by profession and I firmly believe that I am a Yogini at heart. I was always a disciplined person but I never really thought Yoga was something I would venture into. Like most people, I too believed yoga is all about spreading the mat, stretching, and meditating. I never thought Yoga was for me as I was always a very active person. It was by chance I entered The Yoga Institute, and that changed my life forever. Yoga has been my way of living ever since. I am a certified yoga teacher now from The Yoga Institute. I was extremely fortunate to get trained under Dr.Jayadev Yogendra and Smt.Hansaji Yogendra (President of the international board of yoga and vice-president of Indian yoga association).
The Yoga we practice in The Yoga Institute is Ashtanga Yoga or the yoga of eight limbs. It is the classical yoga of Patanjali.
The yoga sutras by Patanjali were written around 2000 BC or even earlier. These sutras are built on a Samkhaya philosophy and Bhagwad Gita.
Yoga practice and philosophy go hand in hand. If you can steady your mind, you can steady your balance.
BTS: How long have you been practicing yoga? What have you learned from yoga?
Upama: I have been practicing Yoga for several years now. When I started practicing Yoga years back I thought it was only about asana(like most people do in the world). Those days I used asana only for stretching after a workout or meditate to cool and quiet my mind. I never took it as a subject to be studied at every level of human personality.
Yoga can be understood only through practice. This practice will take you further into yoga. Yoga is the teacher if you have faith in it. Follow it wholeheartedly, experience it, and achieve a resulting change of consciousness. That is the whole story of Yoga.
BTS: Do you stay active in other ways besides yoga?
Upama: I have always been a disciplined child but like any true Axomiya, our love for good food is always overruling all other conversations in any gathering. I got into fitness after graduation. It started as a long walk along the coastline after work to clear up my thoughts. Gradually it turned into a run and soon I started to get mindful about my regime. I started to look forward to my daily run at the end of each day. One thing added to another soon I started practicing Yoga. I kept trying a little every day. The advantage is once you follow anything sincerely, it gives results and that strengthens you to go further.
BEYOND THE RESTRAINTS OF A LOCATION
BTS: Your current Instagram tagline reads “peripatetic”. How do you think yoga can be carried out in vivid locations?
Upama: I believe if we have feet we are meant to travel, otherwise we would have had roots, isn’t it?
The Vedic form of Yoga talks about a sedentary lifestyle. The modern world will never let us know what it was like to be seated under a tree for years.
The best part about yoga is that you need nothing more than yourself to practice it all the while you can be traveling around the world.
Different people like to wear different outfits for yoga but the consensus seems to be that they all choose comfortable clothing. So you can just choose to wear whatever you feel comfortable in to practice it anywhere. The secret is, yoga can be practiced in nude too! You forgot your yoga mat no worries, you can do yoga on the grass or the warm sand .. barrier not necessary. Any hotel room will provide you with towels, pillows, books that all can be used a prop for asana practice. If you can’t practice without a class then there are a plethora of podcasts outlining classes. You can even download a ton of episodes before departure and refresh while on local wifi. You can even substitute yoga straps for scarves, socks(knee length), and books for blocks. After all, if you still need to connect with other yogis to practice just speak up! The beauty of travel is that you can always find a yoga class to practice it anywhere in the world, be it in your hotel or nearby…as to meditate we just need our own self seated in any corner of the world and activate our life energy(Prana).
The true purpose of yoga cannot be other than a spiritual one. When I say that I mean yoga is about integrating certain daily functions and habits into our routines. Yoga needs discipline.
The philosophy of being a Yogini
BTS: What has yoga done for you as a person?
Upama: “I am all that my mind is- all that occupies my mind at that particular moment”
Yoga has changed me by changing my way of thinking and looking at things. We miss out on most elementary things in our daily life. We do not take even a moment in the day to sit quietly and reflect. Our minds are constantly working on something or the other. We never listen to our consciousness due to all these noises in our heads. Just sit in peace and tranquility, quiet your mind (that sounds easy but the hardest task in the world). Practice it daily, you will get it sometime. Yoga practice and philosophy go hand in hand. If you can steady your mind, you can steady your balance. For me, Yoga has bought that tranquility in my mind that I can be at peace in any adverse situation. In the chaotic world we live in there’s nothing more beautiful then attaining a blissful state of mind. It has shown me the path to my inward journey.
BTS: Is yoga a way of life or a way to exercise and meditate?
Upama: Yoga is a way of life. The true purpose of yoga cannot be other than a spiritual one. When I say that I mean yoga is about integrating certain daily functions and habits into our routines. Yoga needs discipline. Daily activities like eating, sleeping, exercise, recreation, etc everything is monitored against a larger comprehensive outlook. Perseverance in our daily attitude ( removing kleshas like anger, hatred, ego, attachment, fear, etc)has to be a continuous effort and with sincerity. This can be achieved only when you take yoga as a way of life and not just a tool to meditate or exercise to reduce weight.
For example, asanas are never aggressive, fast, repetitive, and mechanical. You are meant to be mindful while practicing each step. When you control your breathing, you can focus your mind and become aware of your muscle movement. Every breath is connected to every movement.
BTS: What do you think of famous people, like Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna, getting into yoga? Is it good for yoga or does it make it a fad?
Upama: Yes, a lot of people all over the world are following Yoga nowadays. Yoga was always meant to be propagated. Yoga is not a fad it is a journey. It is a journey that every young and old person can join in as no prior skill is required.
Yoga is simply what it is. Yoga is more concerned with the psychological aspects of the mind than the purely physical aspects. Reaching the highest level of consciousness is the true essence of yoga. You can practice it anywhere-with a tribe or alone, in your backyard or a studio in fancy legging or in the nude. That is the beauty of Yoga
Of course, there are many fads out there in the name of yoga-like diets, exercise programs, style of clothing, etc. All you need to do yoga is an open mind, commitment, and just enough vulnerability to believe in yourself.
BTS: Do you think practicing yoga and following an aligned diet is important?
Upama: To a yogi preserving and improving one health is the primary duty as health affects one’s personality at all levels. Yoga believes that we behave as the food we eat. Food is related to our mental state like emotions and passions, which in turn have effects upon our health. These emotions if indulged in induces a peculiar form of diseases and these become chronic in time if we don’t heal it at the mental level. It is an ongoing circle. A sattvik diet is necessary for ensuring a positive outlook and which in turn is essential for our overall well-being.
BTS: Do you believe it is an alternative form of healing and medicine?
Upama: Yes, I believe that yoga is an alternative form of healing. Yoga works best at prevention than cure. Total health is a natural byproduct of Yoga. Yoga is not a therapy but practicing yoga creates a balanced nervous and endocrine system that directly influences all other organs of the body. This belief has further strengthened over time, as many people suffering from lifestyle disorders of constitutional nature are cured because of yoga practice.
BTS: Finally, what are you looking forward to over the next year?
Uapama: I am an eternal optimist. I am sure we will be moving ahead from this Virus scare in the future. This lockdown time will heal and reboot nature as well as human beings. We have a wonderful time to reconnect with our inner selves. I hope the human race respects life more, remain grateful to nature, and learn to remain in harmony.
I am waiting patiently to travel again. Some beautiful paths cannot be discovered without getting lost. On a personal level, I need to get a better grip over a few emotional aspects of life. Learn to accept that nothing is permanent. I need to work on Viragya (detachment) and travel a long way to find my Samadhi. Never stop your wanderlust!