London-based Pawan Malik founded Shreyas Yoga Retreat near Bengaluru in 2004 and continues to drive its wellness programmes from thousands of miles away. He discusses the evolving perception of yoga and Ayurveda in the country and where he finds peace most easily. By Bayar Jain
T+L India: Yoga and India are seen as synonymous with each other, especially in pop culture. What’s your take on this relationship?
Pawan Malik: Yoga is a set of principles and processes that purifies the mind and body, and renders them fit for receiving self- knowledge. Over the years, many westerners have travelled to India, learned and practised with masters, and endeavoured to take these lessons back home. The teachings are available to all, irrespective of language, faith, or [place of] birth. Although the romantic notion remains that India is the place for yoga, this is not true. That said, many traditional schools of yoga continue to flourish in India and remain the destination of choice for committed seekers.
T+L India: How different are the perception and demand of yoga and related wellness offerings in India when compared to other parts of the world?
Pawan Malik: In the late 1990s, when I turned towards practising yoga, it was predominantly a physical set of processes called asanas, along with some chanting and pranayama. Since then, students have become interested in the spiritual philosophy underlying these processes. The seeker’s challenge remains balancing the desire for peace with material prosperity. There has also been an explosion in the demand for wellness retreats that draw on Ayurveda and other naturopathic sciences to augment modern allopathic treatments for longevity and overall well-being.
T+L India: What are the yoga hotspots in the country? Any place that you think has untapped potential?
Pawan Malik: Traditionally, the hills at the base of the Himalayas in North India, and Mysuru in South India were associated with yoga. Over time, we have discovered that yoga offerings are available throughout the country. Similarly, Ayurveda, which was considered a speciality in Kerala, is thriving throughout India.
T+L India: Do you have a memorable wellness experience from the country?
Pawan Malik: Apart from Shreyas, which is my spiritual headquarters, I have found most peace in India’s jungles.
T+L India: How would you define India in a sentence?
Pawan Malik: Vibrant, colourful, and deeply spiritual.
T+L India: Any places in India that you haven’t visited but would like to in the future?
Pawan Malik: Arunachal Pradesh.