Hemalayaa, where are you from?
I understand that your parents are Indian… can you tell us a little about your childhood (and the influence of Indian culture while you were growing up)?
Yes, both my parents are from Punjab India. They were brought up very traditional Sikh’s. It was a challenging transition to move to North America, from the values they were brought up with to us here in the west. They tried to keep us strict in our traditions, but we were exposed to how much more freedom our friends were given. We would rebel and try to pioneer our way to a new way of thinking and being. That made our parents even more fearful of losing us to the western world.
The weekend parties when we danced, is when all our cares and worries went away. Indians dance like no one is watching, and let all their problems go away and celebrate with movement and great music. This was the best part of growing up in this culture.
Do you recall how your interest in dance & yoga originated?
Dad did yoga when I was young, and taught me some meditation and to chant Aum before an exam, to calm my mind..
Dance, I was doing my whole life. Every weekend we’d get together with other family’s and when the dinner & socializing portion of the evenings was over, we’d dance our buns off.
I started studying yoga in my early 20’s. It was a way to heal the stress of leaving my family a the age of 19 (a very un-traditional thing to do). I moved across the country to Vancouver to explore life and i didn’t know it at the time, but was drawn to find my spiritual connection. Rather than drink and party every night, which is the way I explored for the first part of my trip, I found yoga was a better way to deal with learning about myself.
Through your experience, how do you think Indian culture & yoga has influenced & been received by Western societies?
Although yoga is not all about a physical practice, I think it is an open-minded change from the type of exercise we have been doing for the past few decades (aerobics and weight lifting). With yoga, we are finding health in all areas – mind, body & spirit.
The Indian culture has become more popular and intriguing to many westerners. If you’ve seen Indian movies, you know there is a real sense of fantasy, mellow drama and play. It’s fun to see how life could be if we let ourselves get over our selves. We could let our stress and worry go by dancing in the middle of the street. Wouldn’t that be refreshing?!
India’s culture is so rich and has so much to offer in terms of spirituality & health that it’s about time the Western world add spice to their life. It appears that it is being received and honored well.
Do you think that India is still perceived as “exotic” by the West?
I think it is perceived as exotic still, but it’s different than it was. There is more of an acceptance of it being a part of the norm here, because of the multiculturalism.
What inspired you to do your first video? How did you get started making your videos?
My first yoga DVD was made in Vancouver, BC. It was a community project that was intended for bringing yoga to homes, to women that wouldn’t normally get out to a class. I was teaching classes and wanted to create something for my existing students as well as for others that I knew wanted to practice in their own home, as I did for the first few years of my practice.
My First dance DVD was inspired by dancing in my living room as I did often. I was free, playful and silly. I wanted others to experience the joy and freedom I was feeling in those moments. I pitched the idea to Acacia, and they took a risk and we made “Bollywood Dance Workout” and “The Dance of the KamaSutra” in April 2006. Now I have 8 DVD’s on the market, and 3 more coming out in the next couple of years.
Do you travel frequently to India? What is your favorite Indian destination?
I haven’t gone back in a couple of years. When I was there last, I went to the South. Kerala and Bombay were my favorites for that trip. I, of course love Punjab, where most of my family is. I plan on going again in 2010.
I’ve gotta ask: what’s your favorite Bollywood movie? Who is your favorite Bollywood actor/actress?
Umarao Jaan. Rekha.
What’s your favorite food? Favorite Indian dish?
My favorite food is kale. I sauté or steam the kale, add more veggies, avocado, etc and dress it with olive oil, lemon, salt and love. Totally bland compared to Indian food…But I love my veggies with lot’s of oil and lemon!
My favorite Indian dish is Bindhi Masala (okra) and homemade Keer (rice pudding)
What’s the latest song/album you added to your iPod?
Narfat Ali Khan & Gauiri.
Do you have a favorite style of Indian dance?
Is there a message in your videos/classes that you want your audience to grasp?
Love yourself enough to spend time playing and having fun whether through dance, yoga and doing things that make you smile. On top of dance, yoga and hikes, I love going to the Garden shop and seeing all the happy plants and playing with the wind chimes.
When you allow yourself to have fun, even for a moment every week, you’ll have an abundance to share with others.
What are your current projects? Tell us your latest news…
- I’m writing a couple of books. Really fun process.
- I’m working on a teacher training to teach others to teach dance and yoga together. Co-leading it with Jennyoga.com
- I’m collaborating with some very cool women teachers on a couple of workshops. SF & LA. Jenni Saur-Klien in SF and Maya Fiennes in LA
- Every month I write a blog called “Yoga and the City” on my e-newsletter (Hemalayaa e-diary). You can sign up on my website hemalayaa.com
These two last are personal projects:
- I am striving to accept myself fully and completely with all my perfect imperfections. On-going process.
- I am working on accepting my mother and our differences and having a peaceful relationship with her.
Do you have any advice for beginners who are trying to get fit?
Take baby steps and stay consistent even when you feel like skipping out on your practice. Do DVD’s at home at first until you gain confidence in yoga and/or dance. Go for it and have fun!
Do you have anything else you’d like to share?