Roundtable on Yoga

The Center for Soft Power hosted Valentina Ranzi from Italy and Catherine Emmerling-Garet from France, on 26/02/19 as part of a roundtable on Yoga at its office. The roundtable explored both their journeys from being first introduced to Yoga to now, when they have fully immersed themselves into the study and teaching of Yoga.

  1. How were you first introduced to Yoga?

Valentina recalled how she was first introduced to Yoga in 1980 through mediation. As a child she had looked towards art to find a deeper purpose and was able to come into contact with first meditation and then yoga. And in doing so she found that Yoga helped her understand herself better than anything else she had experienced in the west. She spoke of how she learnt Ayurveda and Yoga from an Indian family in Italy.

Catherine spoke of how she was first introduced to Yoga by her mother, who was a practitioner herself.? Her first introduction was when her mother took her to see BKS Iyengar when he was visiting Paris. However, it was only when she moved to New Zealand that she took her first course on Yoga.

  1. What aspects of Yoga drew you towards learning it? Was it merely the physical or was there any spiritual aspects which resonated with them?

Valentina noted that initially she was more immersed in the concept of Bhakti through her meditation. And it was through this meditation that she then discovered the physical aspect of Yoga. And recently with her trip to India and her increased study of Yoga, she has come to understand the spiritual aspects of Yoga.

Catherine described how she her first major exposure to India was studying about India at university, which then led her to studying Hinduism. And now since she has come to India, her spiritual path with respect to Yoga has taken on a completely new shape. She now devotes her time to studying the Vedas and other Indian texts.

  1. How is Yoga perceived in your home country? What are some of your experiences in teaching foreign students?

Valentina said that while Yoga is nowadays quite popular in Italy, it has historically been seen as ?strange?.? However despite its popularity, much of Yoga in Italy is still focused specifically on the physical aspects, and ignores the other elements such as the spiritual and philosophical elements of Yoga. That being said, she noted that Pranayama is starting to gain more acceptance in the mainstream.

Catherine spoke of how in her experience it was those expats who came to study Yoga in India that were more open to exploring the depths of yoga, as opposed to foreign audiences abroad.

  1. In your experience do students eventually begin to delve into the spiritual aspects of Yoga after being initially introduced to only the physical aspects of it?

Valentina noted that in her experience not many students transcended into the learning of Yoga?s spiritual side, when compared to those who immerse themselves into the physical side of it. However, this is not to say that no students do not make the cross, such students exist but the number is small.

Catherine echoed similar sentiments, saying that Yoga forces one to look inward and in doing so people will be able to better understand themselves. However this does not often translate into students exploring the philosophical and spiritual elements of Yoga.

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