Rajat Thakur is a yoga, meditation and movement practitioner. We are elated to feature this adventurous yogi, who is also a skilled mountaineer and skier, as our Muse for the month. We admire how he debunks the benchmarks of conventional beauty and nudges us to be aware of the mind-body connection. Through his spectacular Instagram handle, which features his jaw-dropping yoga poses against the pristine Himalayan backdrops, he hopes to inspire his followers to a healthier and holistic way of life. You don’t have to start with a headstand. The road to well-being starts with just moving. He says, ‘Move regularly. I say jump, crawl, climb, run, swim, do whatever you can do with the body you have but just move.’
Intrigued by the tej or radiance around his aura, Aparrna Gupta gets into a soul-stirring conversation with Rajat spanning ‘mountain manners’ to Ayurveda…
In Manali (Himachal Pradesh), you have a reputation of being an adventurous mountaineer. How did yoga happen?
Rajat Thakur: Well, Yoga chose me. Isn’t it true that to be a yogi, you need to be adventurous and fearless? After all, it’s a new dimension that you dive in, and to explore this inner world you need to be quite adventurous. I’ve always seen my mother practice yoga. No matter what day, what season, even when it snows, you will see her practising sharp at 5 in the morning. Naturally, ever since I was a small child, yoga fascinated me. To add on to this, the village (Vashisht) I come from is said to be where Sage Vashisht meditated for years and has left behind one of the most important yogic texts called ‘Yoga Vashishta’. I guess if you grow up in this kind of environment, yoga just happens naturally.
What are the principles of living in the mountains which were taught to you as a child which later impacted your worldview?
Rajat Thakur: Nature has been my guardian, my teacher, my playground, my love, and I’ve seen how when we do good to it, it always does good for us. My father was a pioneer in mountaineering and something he often taught me was – Mountain Manners. How to behave in the mountains, respect nature and conduct a grounded lifestyle. One basic lesson of mountain living is to lead a minimalist lifestyle; to possess only what is necessary and not accumulate excessive stuff. For instance, when on an expedition to a mountain, one only carries what is needed, if anything in excess is carried along, going up becomes one hell of a task. The more you have, the more you suffer.
Life in the Himalayas is quite simple but also at times very hard. In a place surrounded by nature, this very nature can sometimes be fatal and put one in hardship. Flood, landslide, avalanche, in so many forms it can be harsh on mankind. It is in this situation that we learn to help out those in need, to cooperate whenever it’s possible and to move towards making the world a better place to live.
A skier, a photographer or a yoga practitioner – with which do you identify the most?
Rajat Thakur: I try not to identify myself with anything these days. Identification is like a lens, once we identify ourselves with something, be it gender, caste, family, designation or qualifications, we start functioning within the boundaries of that identity and never see the unlimited potential of our truest being.
We are mesmerized by your Instagram feed which shows you practising yoga at stunning heights. Tell us about the journey which led you here?
Rajat Thakur: My yoga journey began in 2016 and it’s an ongoing process ever since. I have been travelling around India to Mysore, Kerala, and Rishikesh for the past couple of years to deepen my practice and understanding of different forms of yoga that have evolved in the last few decades.
I think Instagram works as a tool for me to share my journey, a tool to capture all those moments which will never come back again and share them with the world. The pictures are the glamour part of the whole process. I must say that real Sadhana, Sankalp and Tapas are all behind the curtain. However, it’s highly rewarding when people feel fascinated by my posts, and are inspired to slow down and turn to a more holistic way of living. Even if not spiritually, but if someone approaches yoga through these posts from a physical point of view and takes his/her first step towards this knowledge, I am more than just happy.
We often see you doing a lot of handstands. Is it a case of mind-over-body?
Rajat Thakur: Handstands can benefit in many ways, from developing neurological patterns to cultivating mind-body awareness. Handstand, for me, is a way to practice awareness and gain control over my own body. The complexity of human body movements and what the body can do with the right training amazes me. Every step we took in evolving from a fish to what we are today is because of leaving behind the comfort zone of operating in our regular movement patterns.
How do you connect yoga with the teachings of Ayurveda?
Rajat Thakur: Yoga is the science of union with the divine and Ayurveda the science of life. Both are interrelated in many ways and are ancient life disciplines practised in our country for centuries. We all are made with Panchadhatu (five elements) – air, water, earth, space, and fire. These elements manifest in us in three main categories (Tridosha) or Vatta, Pitta and Kapha, our so-called constitutions. Each one of us is dominated by one or two of the doshas which decide our behaviour, physical features and even what ailments we are more exposed to. We put our well-being and health at serious risk when the dosha gets imbalance due to the consumption of such food that does not support it.
There is a similar concept in Yoga Asana and Pranayama. Our ancient system always emphasised on – Desh, Kalpa and Paristhiti. Which means country/place, season/time and situations. Keeping this in mind one must compose a yoga practice in such a way that it does not harm the practitioner.
For instance, there are certain Pranayamas such as Bhastrika and Suriyabhedi that are meant to increase blood pressure and increase body warmth. Similarly, there are some other forms of breathing exercises such as Chandrabhedi and Shitali that are meant to cool down the system. Now I’m sure you don’t want to do the ones that cool you down in the Himalayas as this could turn out to be harmful.
To you, what does beauty mean? And how do you connect beauty with yoga?
Rajat Thakur: Beauty to me is…Everything! There’s no particular definition or parameters to this beauty. To what society calls a crippled child, is the most beautiful thing that its mother will ever see. So, is it the society that’s wrong or the mother? No matter if you are dark-skinned or fair-skinned, too lean or too fat, too tall or too short, the standard that we apply upon ourselves that is supposed to measure our beauty is a big lie. I can assure you that from the tips of your toes to the depths of your soul, you are the most magnificent creature that walks on this planet. Nothing has ever been made like you before and nothing can even be compared with the qualities that you possess. Beauty is everywhere, we just need to have the right approach to look at it that way.
Have you used Just Herbs products or oils?
Rajat Thakur: I’ve been using Just Herbs oils lately. I must share, I’m the guy who oil massages his entire body thrice a week. I recommend the Just Herbs coconut oil.
Your posts and your work inspire us to practice mindfulness. What is living in the moment, and how does it impact our well-being?
Rajat Thakur: The mind is forever wandering and we are entangled in thoughts that are mostly related to either past or future events. To keep this wandering at bay, we must start being more receptive to life and start feeling what the present moment has in it.
To feel, is to be present in the now, and to be present in the now is to go beyond your mind. You can experiment it for yourself. When you have your next meal or brush your teeth, try to do it with the hand you never use. See how aware it makes you feel. You walk to your office every day but today don’t wear shoes and go barefoot. See how aware fully you take each step. This might sound simple but what you feel while doing these simple acts is what living in the moment feels like.
Don’t fill your minds with everything you read and hear, rather experience with experiments and witness things for yourself.
Wellness Bytes from Rajat Thakur
1. What do you do when not practicing yoga?
Everything I do is to cultivate yoga into it.
2. What do you love about living in the mountains?
That it makes me feel how small we are and yet we can do big things.
3. Things to see in Manali
Every place in and around here.
4. Which yoga asana helps us to glow, inside out?
No quick fix here. It’s a mix of a healthy diet and lifestyle along with a regular Asana and Pranayama practice.
5. What’s your favourite fragrance?
The fragrance of nature.
6. How do you unwind?
Mostly through an outdoor bouldering session, a hike or a hard-core workout.