Sena Yoga Co. Founder Varun Raj is taking Britons back to yoga's indigenous roots with free online classes throughout the coronavirus lockdown, mixing hatha and vinyasa flow with breathwork and meditation.
His no-nonsense approach to yoga was cultivated by his parents and mentors throughout childhood, frequent visits to India and then later his qualification with the Traditional Yoga Association.
Varun says: "Life was moving at such a frenetic pace before lockdown. People needed to slow down. There was such a spike in anxiety and stress. Heart disease was and is at the highest it had ever been.
?When we talk about the mind, body and spirit, we tend to only focus on the body; and more recently the mind. We don't really understand where the spirit resides or where it has the strongest connection. To me, it's always the heart. The heart has the largest electromagnetic field of all of our organs. Even the brain.
The yogi explains the detrimental effects of the current world we live in on our heart is 'severely underestimated?.
If we could take steps towards a heart-friendly? way of living, our overall health, relationships and quality of living would increase exponentially.
Despite having been exposed to yoga from a young age, Varun recalls that it was only two years ago he had a gear shift into a deeper practice.
He recalls: "That moment for me happened in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) class. Up until that point, I was quite headstrong, stubborn and not really adapting to what was going around me. There's a specific submission chokehold strangle in Jiu Jitsu called Rear Naked Choke.
It's when someone takes your back, puts their arm around your neck and puts you in a sleeper hold. At that point, there's no way you can fight out of it; you have to submit and tap. The first few sessions, I refused to tap, I just wouldn't. I'd get to a point where my vision would go blotchy and I'd start to see stars.
?One time, I was in that position and the guy who was rolling with me said Look man, just tap, just let go? and as soon as he said that, I felt such a wave of emotion from my gut, which came all the way up, all the way out, and I started tearing up and I tapped. That was the first time that had happened. I knew something had shifted internally.
In 2017, Varun returned to studying yoga after years of "taking it for granted". While many practitioners consider Brazilian Jiu Jitsu a way of life?, Varun reflects on the similarities of philosophy with yoga.
"Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners regularly carry out indigenous practises such as Nadi Shodhan Pranayama, Bhastrika and meditation. There's a spiritual connection which is symbiotic with these two mediums. BJJ is not based on strength; it's based on timing, technique and patience.
It fascinates me that something away from yoga led me back to it. It goes to show that you don t find yoga, it finds you. I was catapulted into this journey, and it led me very quickly to finding one of my most important teachers at the Traditional Yoga Association.
Every Sunday throughout lockdown, Varun is hosting traditional hatha, kriya and breathwork sessions over Zoom for free.
"In this Western world, we're constantly under attack from external stresses. This world that we have created is not a human friendly world. There are so many pitfalls. If our bodies and minds are not in a position of stillness, strength and symbiosis, there's no way that we can honestly and successfully navigate the turbulence of the external world."
At the request of attendees, Varun has recently extended his offering to Wednesday evenings, specifically for people working from home to de-stress.