Interview: Amaresh Srikanthan on the Benefits of Yoga

Written by Brittany Simington, Staff Writer

Between classes, outlining, exams, job hunting, and living in the heart of one of the busiest cities in the world, law school can be pretty demanding. It can be easy to give into the stress of being in such a hectic environment. So, I spoke with resident yoga teacher Amaresh Srikanthan to get the scoop on how to manage stress.

Brittany Simington (BS): When did you start practicing yoga?

Amaresh Srikanthan (AS): I started practicing around 2011 when I was living in Washington DC. I was feeling burned out by my job at a litigation firm and my regular boxing workout wasn’t cutting it anymore. I wanted something to give me a sense of mental clarity and mindfulness. A few of my roommates recommended yoga.  I went for one class and I was hooked. I started going every day and got my teaching certification a year later.

BS: What are the potential benefits of doing yoga while in law school?

AS: One of the goals of yoga is the stilling of our mind’s fluctuations. At the beginning of my classes, I ask students to sit cross-legged, close their eyes, and place their hands gently on their laps. I then ask them to focus on and lengthen their breath, noticing the quality of their inhales and exhales. Focusing on the breath allows us to draw our attention inwards, and observe what’s going through our minds while remaining in a passive mental state towards the external world. By going through a physical practice while maintaining focus on our breath and our visual gaze, yoga teaches us how to be mindful while placing our bodies through some measure of physical stress. After practicing for some time, a yogi will begin to notice that they are more observant over their own minds. Yoga cultivates mindfulness and teaches us how to maintain a sense of peace in a stressful, busy environment.

BS: Given how busy law students can be, how long is the shortest amount of time someone can do yoga in a day and still experience benefits?

AS: I would recommend setting aside ten minutes in the morning when you wake up.  Once you wake up, before you check your phone or your computer, sit in a comfortable cross-legged position on the floor, close your eyes, and breathe. At first, there will be a highway of thoughts running through your head, but just remain focused on your breath.  Observe your thoughts and let them pass. Lengthen your inhales and your exhales, and quieten the mind. Keep consistent with this practice, and you’ll notice a new sense of mental calmness as you go about your day.

BS: What are the top three studios in the city?

AS: I don’t really think I could list the top three since it’s usually a matter of opinion, but I have been going to a studio called The Shala for the last two and a half years. They have a location at Union Square and one at Fort Greene in Brooklyn. They teach Ashtanga classes and Vinyasa classes that are based on the Ashtanga tradition. As an Ashtanga (a systematic sequence of predetermined flowing postures linked together through breathing techniques) yogi, I really enjoy the depth of their practice and the quality of teaching I get there. My girlfriend has also been taking me to a studio in Bed-Stuy called Sacred Brooklyn. It’s a really interesting studio – a lot of the teachers come from dance backgrounds and incorporate that experience into their [routines].

BS: Do you know any websites or blogs people could check out for the yogis who want to practice at home?

AS: I don’t really use online yoga classes, but I have heard good things about Do Yoga With Me and YogaGlo. These sites offer good classes for a yogi who wants to practice at home.  However, I’d really recommend that new yogis go to at least a few classes before starting these videos.  There’s really no substitute for a knowledgeable teacher who can give you hands-on adjustments and tips as your body begins to figure out the asana practice.  It can really help you get the most out of practice and also help you avoid injury.

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