Interview: Niya Bajaj
An Interview with Niya Bajaj
Tell me about your yoga background.
My dad signed me up for my first yoga class a few months after we moved to Canada. It was a lovely expression of care and great way for me to find my literal and figurative feet in my new home. He joked that after taking a couple of classes I could teach him how to practice.
About 15 years later I signed up for teacher training at Iam Yoga, primarily as form of self care – to carve out time for learning, to deepen my practice and ensure it would be physically sustainable for the rest of my life. As part of the mentorship competent I opted to really challenge myself and try teaching. I realized that it sated a fundamental desire to care for my community in a sustainable way – plus I can and do teach my dad now!
What are you working on right now in your practice and/or in your life?
My focus for the year is the niyama tapas or discipline, since changes in my life and my work have made staying committed to my practice more challenging. Part of that discipline is being gentle with myself and attentive to what my mind and body need. It has resulted in a more inclusive, feminist practice both on and off the mat. More broadly in my life, I’m exploring mental health policy and community wellness advocacy, and am spearheading the Live Well Festival in the city of Vaughan this September.
Are there any specific experiences that changed your direction or focus in life?
Joining the UofT Sexual Education Centre on my second day of university really developed my interest in community wellness, and raising people’s ability to make informed choices about their health and wellness. It also honed my ability and comfort in having inclusive, accessible, tactful, diplomatic conversations about sensitive subjects while connecting people with resources to support their overall wellness. That work informs almost everything I do today, including my teaching, and I’m so grateful for it.
Who is your biggest role model or teacher? What is the biggest thing you’ve learned from them?
Margaret Hancock, the first female warden of Hart House, remains my role model. The primary lesson she continues to teach me is that creating and maintaining truly inclusive, equitable spaces is the work of a lifetime, and that it requires care, resilience, and a connected community of support to use new ways of thinking, and practicing to get there.\
If you could sing one song on American Idol, what would it be?
Kt Tunstall’s “Suddenly I See”
What one word would you use to describe yourself?
- impossible to subdue or defeat.
“a woman of indomitable spirit”
synonyms: invincible, unconquerable, unbeatable, unassailable, invulnerable, unshakable, unsinkable;