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Meet A Yogi Who Spins Fire



Meet A Yogi Who Spins Fire

In conversation with Yoga Practitioner Sonali Shah

For six days of the week, Sonali is usually busy with asanas. She’s a Bombay-based young lady you wouldn’t quite expect to be a yoga teacher, of all things. She’s got a cheerful vibe, likes travelling solo and knows those awesome Maori fire spinning tricks that can leave an audience mesmerised. She makes it a point to undertake a trek of moderate or more difficulty once a year in the Himalayas, and can also teach you hula hooping on a humid Bombay weekend.

It’s becoming norm now, to quit a full-time job and do something of your own. But Sonali’s journey has almost a hippie quality to it, something very old school about her inspiring alternative lifestyle. Read on to know how she went from an editorial desk to a yoga mat.

IB: You were working with a magazine, what made you switch?

After four continuous years in the industry it became a tad monotonous for me, and not exciting enough. But more importantly, I could afford to switch careers at that time, so I did.

IB: What was it like living in Goa?

Extremely different from Bombay as I was living by myself for the first time. When you’re living in a place like Goa, it’s easy to get completely sucked into the party circuit, but you have to remember that you’re not on a total vacation there. Especially for me, as my freelance writing work depended a lot on my ability to stick to deadlines.  Unless you have some self-discipline, a place like Goa won’t be easy. Also, having to prepare three proper meals a day killed me!

IB: How did hula hooping come about?

A Mexican fire-dancer friend was teaching me how to spin poi (in Goa) when I spotted her hoops and gave it a try. We discovered that hooping came pretty naturally to me, and I learnt some more moves upon returning to Bombay, from my friend Leona Rodrigues. I can now hoop with fire.

IB: Tell us how your journey with yoga began.

My consistent yoga sadhana (practice) began in 2014 in Goa, with an old Englishman named Ian. He taught us so beautifully that upon getting back to Bombay I wanted to learn more, but from a good teacher. Luckily, I found an organisation close to home that did the job and I completed my year-long DYEd (Diploma in Yoga Education) in 2016. Surprisingly, asanas was a small part of the course – we learnt a good deal of ancient scriptures heavily peppered with Sanskrit, physiology and anatomy.

IB: You went travelling to EU and Canada, were they solo trips? What was your favourite experience/learning from the journeys?

My major travelling has been solo. Now and then, for weekends, friends who lived around would join, but other than that, thank god for Couchsurfing! My best learning is to travel as much as you can while you’re young, because that’s when you’re less fussy and stronger physically. However, I would add that you can only afford to do so if you’re sorted money-wise! You must always have enough in the bank to be able to buy a flight back to home at a moment’s notice.

IB: You’ve also undertaken some difficult Himalayan treks, does the yoga practice help you scale mountains easier?

Definitely! Pranayam, especially, is a lifesaver in high altitudes. I found no need for any sort of acclimatisation meds – we trekked to 15,500 ft to Roopkund – thanks to my regular pranayam practice.

IB: What are your plans for the future? Do they feature yoga prominently?

Yes they do. I decided to pursue yoga teaching as a profession to ensure that I improve my own practice.

IB: Any wise words for millennials?

Don’t waste weekends drinking – America did that and look at them now! Work hard for your passion. Spend wisely in your home city so you don’t have to exchange a kidney for those Euros!

You can follow Sonali on FB or Instagram.

Image Credit: Ekta Mohta (left), Sujata Melekar (right)




Mineli Goswami is a 24-year-old Assamese-East Indian, which usually translates into pretty good weekend feasts. When she’s not at her desk struggling with poetry – more often than she’d like – she’s seen wasting time on an assortment of things such as lugging an antique SLR, breaking nails climbing boulders, and chasing turtles. She’s graduated in history and has an unofficial PhD in Bandra-style jiving.

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