Mini Thapar Shastri’s Omyogashala

I’m a total sucker for fads and NEW NEW NEW things in all areas of my life except for my movement routines. I have a laundry list as long as my arm of new studios in my city that I keep meaning to go to, or a new class or teacher I really want to squeeze in a session with, but days are busy and when I’m winding down at the end of one I just want to go to places I know, with parking situations I’m familiar with, and do what I know works. This is why I’ve stayed super-loyal to the studio I work out in (it helps that it is right next door to me, has excellent instructors, and also pretty great guys on the valet parking) and my regular yoga studio.

My regular spots usually become regulars thanks to proximity; the place I go to do yoga was super close to where I lived until four years ago (key, I think, in supporting a regular practice), and while it is a little less close to where I currently live, it is now a safe haven for me, a place where I’m super comfortable. New studios take time to settle into. It takes time to gauge the pace of classes, the teacher’s vibe, and the general heartbeat of a place.

Of course, teething troubles aside, it is (usually) worth it. Anyone who is a regular practitioner, or even those who dabble in the practice occasionally, will testify to yoga’s benefits for body and for mind. In case you remain a skeptic, or if you merely need a reminder, go to Mini Thapar Shastri’s Omyogashala studio and observe your teacher: Mini Thapar Shastri is a living, breathing, walking, talking testimonial to the powers of the practice. Slight, soft-spoken, and with a clear, level gaze, Mini has a great, girly laugh that belies the strength you’ll witness in her petite form. She is also, I kid you not, luminous. I mean, incandescent. If she were a My Little Pony she’d be one of the glow-in the-dark ones.

If she were a My Little Pony she’d be one of the glow-in the-dark ones.

Omyogashala is a longer drive than is ideal for me, and for reasons of sheer practicality and also class timings that don’t work for me is unlikely to become a regular, but when you walk in the doors you are transported, and all your thoughts of traffic and meetings you’re running late for drop away. In a way, Mini’s studio and practice is more old-school, in the best possible way; less studio and more sanctum sanctorum, less workout and dance-yoga and more devotional and deeply-studied.

A lot of us do yoga; we’ve worked hard over the years and can slip, now, with ease into postures that would’ve once seemed impossible. But if you’re going to class to perform, or for a fitness regime alone, then perhaps this shala is not for you. Her studio is a Zen den, where, she told me, they’ve been playing chants and mantra for twenty years, and the energy in there feels like it. The walls are adorned with fantastic art, and students speak in hushed, reverential tones lest they disturb the peace, which, in noisy cities like Delhi is a feat in itself. There are yoga classes, of course, but also classes devoted entirely to meditation, and appointments available for Tibetan massage as well as occasional workshops, but through it all there is a presence that is inspiring to see and heartening to feel.

Beyond merely beautiful surroundings (and these certainly are beautiful) at Omyogashala there is a sense that the emphasis is on both community as well as on furthering yogic teachings. Mini's been teaching for nearly two decades, and her practice is influenced by her Masters, mostly from South India, but also from all over the world. She's also a mum of three, and her oldest daughter was the inspiration for her book Yoga for kids, now in its fourth reprint. Mini’s depth of knowledge regarding yoga, its spiritual teachings, and the anatomy is impressive, and her deeply profound perspective is vast and refreshing when contrasted with most yoga classes surface-level spirituality. It’s not for everybody, but I’m finding myself at a place where I’d like to deepen more than the physical aspect of my practice, and so for me it hit home.
Find the shala at D 5/9 Vasant Vihar, New Delhi.
Call (0091)98915-80147 or email for a full schedule, pricing, and to be kept in the loop about upcoming workshops.