We are pleased to be speaking to Nikita Desai, a South Asian Yoga teacher with her own studio based in London which just celebrated its first year anniversary.
Nikita vision is to make Yoga inclusive and encourage more people to practice yoga in its entirety. Nikita discusses her love and passion for Yoga and explains why Yoga is more than just a form of exercise.
The practice came to me at a time when I most needed it. I had never taken part in the practice of yoga my entire life until six years ago. I organised and participated in a charity skydive which resulted in me fracturing my spine. After several consultations with doctors, I was told that the only way to heal my injury was through surgery where metal screws are placed in the area to bring it back to life. I was also suffering from depression and anxiety which has been a running theme throughout my life and this injury seemed to cause more of it.
I was recommended yoga to help heal my injury and to help with my mental health. Once I began practicing, I felt an enormous shift in my mental health and the symptoms that my injury had caused physically also began to subside. I never looked back from there and after a year I went off to Thailand to qualify to become a yoga teacher as I wanted to help others heal in the same way. I now teach the practice through the studio that I opened over a year ago.
2) What elements of yoga are you excited to teach and why?
I absolutely love teaching the parts of yoga that are rarely spoken about these days; yoga off the mat which includes but isn’t limited to Pranayama, Kriyas and Meditation. I feel like yoga explains all the unanswered questions that we ask ourselves throughout life on a mental and spiritual level and as we delve deeper into the practice we find out more and more about ourselves and others. It’s a huge journey of self discovery, self awareness and consciousness and I love this about the practice.
3) You share valuable information about the roots of yoga, why is it so important for you to discuss decolonising Yoga?
I grew up in a South Asian family with Hinduism at the core of my parents and grandparents lives. You will find that yoga is a running theme throughout Hinduism and I never realised this growing up until I discovered the practice of yoga. So although I wasn’t brought up with the practice, there were certainly a lot of elements of yoga that were passed down to me which became clearer when I came on to this path.
Yoga in the west has been heavily distorted and a lot of these ancient practices have been diluted to suit the needs of western practitioners. As a result, yoga hugely lost its essence and the importance of self discovery and self awareness has also faded into the background. Decolonizing the practice for me, means making yoga inclusive and accessible again so that the practice is open and approachable for all.
I have experienced a lot of exclusion from brands, studios and even teachers and this is the opposite of what the practice teaches. Therefore I think it’s very important to have open and honest discussions on the topic, so that we can raise awareness to just how real this is in the yoga and wellness industry. This is also part of the reason that I decided to open up my own yoga studio; to create an authentic and inclusive space. I also hold monthly workshops on the roots of yoga where we speak about how to appreciate the practice rather than appropriate it to help educate others on the subject.
4) How have you found Yoga to help with your general health and wellness?
Firstly, it has given me a purpose and a place to turn to not only when I’m feeling low, but also on a daily basis. It’s also really helped me to identify with myself and get back in touch with my roots which was so important for me, especially as another part of mental health that I suffered from was low self esteem. I really do feel like the path of yoga has all the answers that we need!
5) What other wellness habits do you also incorporate in your lifestyle?
This always depends on the seasons! In the summer I do park runs three times a week, but I find it difficult to find time when it gets dark in the winter so I usually focus on workouts with weights during this time. I also spend most mornings reading or listening to audio books and have a daily routine where I make a juice and take all my herbal supplements which includes Ashwagandha. Taking this has played a massive role in helping to subside my symptoms of anxiety and depression and after taking it for three years, I wouldn’t go a day without it!
Arya Yoga Studio is an independent studio with a unique small space based at the Crate in Loughton, Nikita runs both group and one to one sessions there.