An Interview with a Spiritual Teacher
Priyanka Shanbag, is an authentic, gentle and humorous healing yoga teacher in West Palm Beach, Florida. She is one of the few Yoga teachers I have met that can truly detox not only your body, but your mind and soul as well. Born in Bombay, India, Priyanka gives simple, clear directions like; "It doesn't matter if you can assume a position perfectly. This is a breathing class", as well as affirmations like "When you fall into deep waters, it's not to drown, it's to be refreshed." With over 150 people per session showing up to her donation only yoga class at the library, Priyanka creates an energy and community feeling that is like no other!
I met Priyanka after her yoga class at the library on Saturday morning. It was a beautiful day and we sat outside and I started with the first question, “What relationship do you believe there is between success and spirituality?” She began to show me different quotes she had on her phone, one in which read “There is no greater wealth in this world than peace of mind.” She then showed me another one of her favorites, “Life is a balance of holding on and letting go.” (I was not able to capture the source of these quotes, as I didn’t want to interrupt her flow.)
I then broke down the question a bit more and asked her, “What is success?” She answered by telling me about her role model, Mother Theresa, and spoke about the fact that she would love to live a life of serving the hungry and homeless. She then went on to say that when you boil success down, it is all about peace of mind. I asked her about spirituality and what that meant to her. She boldly and quickly answered with one word, "Kindness." She spoke about leaving a legacy of kindness, empathy, and generosity in spirit.
"Priyanka, you create such a warm and authentic energy in your classes, what are the signs or sensations that you notice that allow you to completely enter this flow and offer it to others?” She said that when she is in that flow it is almost like something is moving through her, like a divine intervention. She spoke about the “we” in the creation, not the “I” in creation. She said, “I am just an instrument.” As I asked her about the sensations in her body when she is in that flow, she explained she feels calm, authentic, and provides a safe space for others. She went on to say that when one is true to who they are, and not attached to thinking about others liking them, they are free! She spoke about non-attachment as a way to live a peaceful life. How not attaching to the highs of life, nor the lows of life, but finding the equilibrium and maintaining a balance, creates a peaceful life. She then humbly shared how serving others with non-attachment is her biggest joy!
The third question then arose, “How has embodying spirituality helped you grow as a teacher?” With no hesitation she stated, “Practice what you preach. I don’t just teach kindness, I am kind. I don’t just teach forgiveness, I forgive. I don’t just teach letting go, I let go.” She then went on to say that she holds a couple rules close to her heart including, “This too shall pass, don’t discuss others behind their back, what you feed will grow, and listen with humility- not ego.”
As we approached the final question, I asked, “How do you share your true spiritual embodiment with the world? She clearly looked me in the eyes and said, “Sophie, be the example. You are not always going to make the right decision, but you can always make it right."
Through the stories, discussion of Hinduism, and little narratives, I left this interview feeling alive and centered. Priyanka’s presence is so rich and her words are so wise. I felt blessed to do this interview.