June '08 Interview

An "Authorized" Interview with Taran Bhattal
By Michael Peter Carter

I connected with Taran Bhattal recently and asked her to share a little about her life with us. Taran wrote to us from Norway where she has been teaching for the past five months. She went there after spending some time with Ken Harakuma in Japan last fall. Her next stop is Mysore and after that…
LM:  So Taran, tell us a little about yourself:

TB:  I was born in Punjab, India but I lived in Liberia, West Africa with my family for a few years when I was a child. We had to leave Liberia when the civil war broke out. I spent literally my whole childhood from age 5 to 15 in boarding schools up in the Himalayas, India. It was an amazing experience!
I would describe myself as a free spirited and highly independent person... I love listening to reggae music! For movies I enjoy watching true stories, but once in a while I like to see a romantic story with a thin plotline. I love spicy food, which is not satvic I know, but I love it! Especially Thai, it’s my favourite!

LM:  Wow! Sounds like you had an adventurous life from the beginning! Where did your life cross the path of Yoga?

TB:  My mother has been practicing Yoga for over twenty years. When I was sixteen she took me to my first Hatha Yoga class. I fell in love and told her I wanted to leave school to study Yoga. She was not impressed! She supported me in my studies of Yoga, but made it clear I would have to continue my formal education.

I started my studies in Pune, in the Iyengar style, but did not really get into it. I then landed in Kerala at the Sivananda ashram, and did their teacher training. I liked many things about it, but I felt the need for something more energized.

LM:  Sounds like it was time for Ashtanga!
TB:  Yes! I did some research and came across Ashtanga Yoga. Even though I’m Indian, I honestly had no idea where Mysore was! Anyways, I was 17 at the time, and I packed my bags and headed to Mysore. When I arrived, I went straight to the office at the shala where I met Sharath. He registered me, and five years later, he’s still my teacher. I feel like he was actually my first teacher, even though I had studied other styles before finding Ashtanga. I’ve only practiced with Sharath since then, except for a few teachers I have checked out in the last year. I have a deep admiration and respect for Rolf. I practiced with him in Goa and it’s difficult to explain in words how amazing he is, I just have so much respect for him!
LM:  What was it like when you met Guruji for the first time?

TB:  The first time I met Guruji was like any other student's first time. He asked me where I was from and when I said Punjab he said ‘very good.’ I don’t think he's use to many Indians walking in to register!!! I have no expectations for him really. I’m sure he doesn’t remember my name, but he remembers my face and even that he sometimes forgets, but how can I expect him to remember with so many students through the years? I just bring his presence to my practice, and soak up darshan, and focus on being happy to receive that.

LM:  So you were born in raised in the North of India, what was it like to be in the South?
TB:  My first time to Mysore came as quite a shock to me! The Northern part of India where I am from is far more liberal and open minded. Our daily rituals, customs, and traditions vary, and I can’t even remotely understand the language! I found the South to be way more traditional and orthodox, and felt like a foreigner in my own country!

LM:  Tell us about receiving authorization:

TB:  I received my authorization in August 2007. Being the first Indian (apart from Guruji's family) and the youngest student (so I hear) to receive authorization makes me feel happy but I know this is only the beginning of my journey, and I have so much more to experience!

LM:  So what happened next?

TB:  Right after my authorization I went to Japan to assist Ken Harakuma, another one of my favourites in the Ashtanga world, I have a lot of respect for him also. The Ashtanga scene in Japan was an eye opener for me on many different levels. I am deeply grateful to Ken for giving me the oppurtunity to work under him, thanks Ken!

After Japan I went to Norway and I've been here for 5 months now. I’ve been working with a great group of dedicated practitioners and I feel really blessed for this experience. I’m on my way now to Mysore and from there we will see where the wind takes me!!!!!

LM:  So where do you hope the wind takes you?

TB:  As of now I would like to travel more around the world teaching at different studios, getting more experience and exposure! Eventually I would like to stay put in one place. I don’t know where yet but I’m sure I’ll figure it out along the way. I know I would like my own shala someday, with a spa offering various massages and other healing modalities.

Taran teaches at Puro Yoga, Norway. Puro Yoga AS was established in December 2005 by Astrid Riddervold, Stine Krogh and Pernille Bønkan Kvam. Alexander Medina is a partner in the company, and a mentor to the team.

Michael Peter Carter is the co-founder of Livingmysore.com and practices with Paul and Rachelle Gold in Toronto, Canada.

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