Santa Feans love their yoga and have an abundance of options, but yogacharya (teacher) Sanjay Soni is, as far as he knows, the only instructor in town who was actually born and raised in India. In the year that he's lived here, he's been teaching yoga lovers that the practice goes well beyond the exercise and stretching and is an entire lifestyle anchored in his culture. Soni dropped by the SFR offices recently to share some of the knowledge he imparts during his classes at the Guadalupe Street location of YogaSource (7:30-8:45 am Tuesday and Thursday. $17. 314 S Guadalupe St., 982-0990) and his website advaityoga.com.
How do you think Santa Fe differs from India?
I think for me, it's like everything is the same. Because when you follow such a spiritual path, then you feel the whole Earth and you live in the Earth. So the culture is different—we are a different culture, a different lifestyle and we eat different; everything is a difference of ideas— but the heart is the same; everybody has the same heart, they love each other. And Santa Fe is a very beautiful town, because most of the spiritual masters from India come here to Santa Fe, and they say this land is very powerful. So you can grow your [daily] spiritual practice, called Sadhana.
On your website you say that you "live and breathe the traditional path of yoga." What does that mean? Is that something you started in your childhood?
The traditional path means the work by yoga comes from the ancient, spiritual masters, not like normal people. In Indian culture if you belong to a particular religion, some of the families teach, indirectly, something. Your parents daily do ritual in the morning because we have a temple at home, but it wasn't all the time they were teaching. So they keep the divine and … they believe everything's coming just because of this energy by the god. They have such a belief and trust in them, and so the children also learn, and I grew in such an environment.
What sets your yoga teachings and practice apart from the others in Santa Fe?
I think that mostly the exercise part [of yoga], everybody is teaching, and I cannot say I'm teaching something special. But the things that are authentic, only I [was] born [in] that culture. I just moved from [India] last year. And what I feel, this is the essence [of yoga], this is like the most important thing. And… we have to teach them the culture because things come from there. You have to first respect that culture.