Bending Over Backwards

By Kaisera Kanwar

Renouncer or householder? Ancient yogic traditions and tensions travel into the COVID19 induced domestic bubbles of many bored, well to do Indians.

Alamy stock photo; lady in a yoga pose multitasking

As the Coronavirus crisis threatens abstinence from physical traversal for an undetermined period of time and a complete collapse of the ‘family-package’ travel economy, Reena and Rohit of Fair Woods Apartment Complex find their domestic bubble becoming increasingly uneventful and restrictive. The body and mind after lockdown day 6 or 13 itches for stimulus that does not necessarily originate from a pixelated screen or a heated family discussion over government policies (Rohit’s father insists on advocating for PM Modi like he was paid a salary for it).

When Reena renounced a certain working and land traversing portion of her daily life due to dire circumstances such as these, she never expected to dive so deeply into the role of the householder. The physical space of the house gained prime importance over Janta curfew night and all efforts were redirected towards the creation of comfort within its four walls.

Reena and Rohit has always been responsible for their household but for the first time after marriage they found themselves demanding more than – “Please get the groceries on your way back home” or “The maid needs to be paid”. The household was now not their groceries, their maid or the beds being made, but rather two individuals creating a comfortable routine around each other. Truly, holding the house together.

They may or may not have known how to independently function their complicated washing machine, make rice or even put together a neat little shopping list, but now the responsibility of the house and its upkeep lies on their shoulders. The usual suspects– the maid, the mother, the part time help are no longer around to bear the burden. Lo behold, they now hold a broom or a ladle in their hand. Their involvement was maybe not voluntary but it soon became necessary.

The first few days of lockdown excited Rohit, so many choices and possibilities! To shave or not to shave, to sweep in the morning or in the evening, to watch Netflix in bed or on the couch, to drink tea on their balcony or in bed, makhani dal or dum aloo for dinner? These choices provided stimulus that lasted (quite sadly) for only a week or so.

Reena on the other hand felt stifled from day one. How could a travel loving creature like her find solace within a two bedroom apartment. How many more times could she sweep and sanitise the house as the death count rose, before anxiety and panic would overwhelm her fragile, in-door emotions? Boredom was also slowly getting to her.

Also, how do the average Rohit or Reena of India mould their domestic routines? First, they respond to external stimulus (here the formidably contagious COVID19) and second, they learn from their respective families. Be it over a phone call, video meeting or in person, a human often reaches out to relatives and moulds their routines in accordance to past family practices. We mimic (or aspire to reinvent) certain disciplined practices that have travelled over generations into our own personal domestic routines. The time we wake up, what we use as make up or how we plate up!; man bending backwards

Another strain of sociology that makes appearances during such distressful times is the tendency to renounce. Reena had always found comfort in her close knit family, where several crucial roles like the nurturer, the bread earner etc. were normatively assigned to particular members due to their gender or age. This social structuring allowed Reena to renounce certain household responsibilities and invest time and effort into other matters that interested her, like work and travel. But would a situation like this alter Reena’s renouncer tendencies?

Having given up physical travel, Reena could now opt to travel either within the confines of the house (hello, monotony!), through digital space (the incessant scrolling, clicking and tapping) or through time.

Photo albums were dusted and fondly perused, old recipes rediscovered, forgotten playlists of music looped, old friends reached out to and most interestingly, old traditions or physical knowledge was dug out from either the recesses of Reena and Rohit’s own memories or their close relatives (leisurely calls to cousins, mothers, fathers and others were made). One such physical tradition that found increased mention and eventual embodiment within their domestic COVID19 bubble was yoga! Popularly propagated as an ancient practice that emphasises meditation, exercise and inner peace, Rohit found that several of his colleagues, relatives and friends were now initiating conversations about the practice of yoga. He wondered why?

The answer lies in the human need for gratifying sensory stimulus and physical movement. Sensations that one often experiences during a trip to a foreign land can closely be mimicked at home by simply stretching out both muscles and memory, and here lies the affinity towards yoga especially for adults like Reena and Rohit trapped within their homes.

The ancient yogic traditions once preached not only meditation, flexibility and inner peace, but also, alchemy, miracles and painful practices. But when yoga entered the postmodern period it found itself increasingly interpreted as a ‘physical culture’ with added elements of gymnastics and calisthenics. The asanas became less extreme, the purpose more docile and the practice increasingly westernised. But, “an asana after an asana after an asana is power”, regardless of which time period we are in.

Reena, a renouncer by nature first engaged with yoga when she felt unenthusiastic and uninterested about her days in lockdown. She remembered twisting and bending a little during school yoga sessions, but never after. Here she was now during the COVID19 lockdown seeking an escape in the physical practice of yoga, but what she found was the ability to not only bend backwards but also back in time.

Thus, I propose that yoga is a form of travel, namely a journey that not only physically transports the individual to bend, twist and stretch on a mat, but also to trace the recreation of the mystic, often painful yogic traditions associated with spies, ascetics, sages and warriors to a contained postmodern ‘physical culture’ which emphasises fitness and calmness.

When Reena chose yoga amidst the COVID19 tensions and anxiety, she chose to engage with a practice that transported her back several centuries and introduced the complex yogic tussle between renouncer and householder into her domestic bubble. So when today, the average Reena or Rohit of this country turn to their respective mats to bend backwards, they are effectively travelling into the spiritual and physical universe of the yogis. The ‘decline of the supernatural yogic powers in favour of theism’ may have muted certain aspects of the tradition but yoga still incorporates elements of spiritual travel in one’s stationary lifestyle. The Nath yogi may have gained enlightenment and yogic perception from their wild, vagabond-ish ways and travels (yogic traditions are often linked to ‘cultural outsiders/travellers recognized by their matted hair, ashes, rags and iron implements’), but the very stripped down physical culture also reinvents the possibility of (a) travelling through time and (b) moving towards a spiritual goal.

The path charted by a yogi was often scrutinised in order to determine how powerful his practice was. Similarly, today Reena wonders whether an hour long class would benefit her more than the measly 20 minutes she has been practising for the past week. Rohit insists that 20 minutes for yoga are enough as she can then spend more time helping him out with the preparation of breakfast, but Reena is conflicted. Something within her practice of yoga demands more detachment from her than she has been able to provide during this time. She understands that she cannot sit and practice breathing techniques with no end in sight but the need to immerse herself completely in the meditativeness of yoga appeals greatly to her.

Rohit on the other hand has difficulty understanding how Reena is able to completely zone out during such a crisis. He understands that they both need the relaxation and physical exercise, but he sees her drifting away from her household responsibilities. “Has the yoga gotten to her?”, he wonders.

As Reena or even you, sit cross legged and attempt to practice breathing technique, there are two goals in mind – physical exercise and stilling the mind. In doing so, one wonders whether you are renouncing certain worldly responsibilities or helping yourself become a better, more calm and efficient householder?

Several Hindu texts narrate stories of the miracle-working, unpredictable Nath yogis who would often swing between the roles of the worldly renouncer who detaches himself to immerse completely into the yogi’s practice or finds himself anchored to a household where ‘real word demands’ force him to settle into the normative societal routine.

This struggle to pinpoint the ideal path or philosophy behind yogic traditions holds relevant even today. As a young working professional juggling between household chores, sanitising, valuable ‘me time’ and work from home through digital mediums, one wonders whether those moments you choose to practice yoga are means of momentary renunciation of your daily troubles or a mere distraction. Can the shravasana for example, momentarily detach you from the troubles of not finding groceries, empty bottles of dettol, frequent hand-washing, anxiety surrounding COVID19 deaths etc. and allow a moment of escape. Is the practice of yoga closer to physical travel in terms of exposure and stimulation than we ever imagined? Is it possible that the sensory stimulus and cognitive gains that one receives practicing yoga is now, during the COVID19, the most accessible form of ‘travel’?

It has been argued through Nath yogic legends and tales, that ‘there is greater value in the renunciate’s path than in the householder’s family life’, but one could argue that fulfilment is imagined and felt differently by different individuals. Therefore, both the Reena and Rohit may choose to travel from within their COVID19 bubble, but their means of travel may differ. Rohit may choose to traverse virtual journeys that challenge notions about the physical feel of a distant land while consistently playing the role of the dedicated householder, while Reena could renounce certain responsibilities and engage with a physical tradition that allows for travel across centuries and spiritual movement. Both these COVID19 reinterpretations of ‘travel’ deconstruct certain preconceived notions about physical movements and their joys.

Rohit has now by lockdown day 22 come to terms with Reena’s fondness for yoga. He understands that the tug of war between the renouncer and the householder will persist during this lockdown period, but in remaining constrained inside the four (very well sanitised) walls of their home they may choose to ‘travel’ on paths that don’t necessarily put them at risk.

So for now, Reena is bending back to the future of sensory and spiritual travel, and hopes that even after the COVID19 crisis subsides she will have gained new skills of movement and travel that don’t require a plane ticket, physical destination or backpack. And Rohit is puzzling over whether to make potato curry, potato fry or potato dry (you see, the vegetables have run out!).


Gold, Daniel, and Ann Grodzins Gold. “The Fate of the Householder Nath.” History of Religions, vol. 24, no. 2, 1984, pp. 113–132. JSTOR, Accessed 21 Apr. 2020.

Reviewed Work: Sinister Yogis by David Gordon White; Review by: June McDaniel

Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 79, No. 2 (JUNE 2011), pp. 538-540 (3 pages). Published by: Oxford University Press

Gold, Ann Grodzins. “The Once and Future Yogi: Sentiments and Signs in the Tale of a Renouncer-King.” The Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 48, no. 4, 1989, pp. 770–786. JSTOR, Accessed 21 Apr. 2020.

Gerbarg, Patricia & Brown, R.P.. (2005). Yoga: A breath of relief for Hurricane Katrina refugees. Current Psychiatry. 4. 55-67.


Crown of wild, unruly curls
Heart of fickle fire
Soul with the wilful wings of want
She was no angel nor devil
But oh , oh why would she ever be just a human?
She was so much more ….
Life in evermore !
She was the beyond, the belief, the beauty
And so much more ….
Life in evermore !

~ By Kaisera Kanwar

Childhood’s Takeoff

By Ishaan Garg

When I walk down the lane,
I often sense the pain,
That I tried a lot to save,
But all in vain.

When I walk down the lane,
A thought hits my brain,
Those bats of twenty-two yards,
Are no more in the game.

When I walk down the lane,
I see the lake, its the same
Where the painting made of dove,
Turned into the feeling of love.

When I walk down the lane,
I feel the emotions turning plain,
When the tears roll when I cry,
She fondles my face with love,
And waits for the tears to dry.

When I walk down the lane,
I see the memories drain,
With the time sadly passing by,
I just wait for the lady to call,
We are ready to fly.

I won’t walk down this time,
Because it’s time for me to fly high,
Bidding my gracious childhood,
A final goodbye!


Fool’s Paradise {A Tiny Tale}

By Sara Sharma

We were one in body and soul.

We stood together never breaking apart.

fter they tried to drown us you forgot how to breathe.

Your thorns pierce my heart.

I search for another sun in my solar system.

Fall seven times. Get up. Eight.

The wounds heal but the scars remain.

The MoonMan {A Tiny Tale}

By Kaisera Kanwar

The 1st day

Sirens awakened the Moonman from his boozy slumber.

The 2nd day

His hangover left him soon after the rigid limbs were caressed by the mortician.

The 3rd day

A flutter of paper, stuttering sex workers and clicks of a pen droned for hours at end.

The 4th day

The Moonman was desperate. He fought. He argued. He hit, again. He killed, again.

The 5th day

She wasn’t found, she wasn’t as important. But the gun was.

The 6th day

The solemn, smoking sergeant knew enough to guess, but still too less.

The 7th day

The Moonman ; a crescent inked onto his neck and a face just as cratered with scars and pockmarks. Repeat offender. Madman. Drunkard. Lost soul. 6ft 3 inches.

The 8th day

He chose bottles of booze to escape rather than boats. He could have, he just didn’t.

The 9th day

The sergeant was ready to tighten the noose. Evidence in place, bullets in case.

The 10th day

The moonman heard whispers around the brothel and bar. They were coming for him.

The 11th day

He sat next to the sea. Fight or flight, all his life.  

The 12th day

They found him. He found her. She found eternal silence.


After all he was hunting for a star to shine with him in the pitch dark. (Misery loves company)
She was corrupted as was he and in that lay their destiny…..


Meet Me At The OM! #yogadiaries

21st June 2019
Entry I

As we celebrate the ancient practice of yoga on this day and as I complete my fourth yoga class at the Sivananda Yoga Centre (, I have decided to document the journey of discovering yoga and the many muscles of my feet !

Yoga often knocked on my door in the form of school mandated lessons and Yoga Day celebrations. I enjoyed it but never regularly practised asanas. About two months back I found myself with more time than I could hope to while away on my bed and hence decided to try my hand at a trial yoga class. The experience was great ! I felt stretched physically and relaxed mentally. The Om chanting reminded me of the powerful Omkar meditation I had tried my hand at 3 years back at Isha Foundation in Tamil Nadu (which I had thoroughly enjoyed and practised thereafter). All in all, I could have easily joined then and there, but due to some academic classes (and sheer laziness) I chose not to.

Fast forward to now, with a highly motivated partner (in form of a cousin sister who has just flown down from Bombay) I am enrolled for a month at the centre. I highly recommend having a partner, it helps with waking up on time and you can also share ‘muscle discovery’ notes!

The next post will dive deeper into what the first few classes were like, so stay tuned ! (This series will be limited to 10 posts or less)

Lastly, do drop a comment if you have / are currently practising / plan to practise yoga ! What has your experience been like ?

~ Kaisera Kanwar
Founder YWC

Saloni Sharma

Saloni Sharma lives in New Delhi and likes reading mystery novels. She is also interested in art. She uses poetry to express her thoughts and emotions.

The Silent Voice

By Saloni Sharma

I try to speak
But I can’t find my voice
I try to talk
But I can’t find my words.

Why am I so silent ?
I don’t know
In the maze of this world
Where am I supposed to go?

I have no voice
But I want to be heard
I can’t talk
But I want to sing like a bird.

I hear , I see
But I can’t rejoice
Because there has to be someone out there
Who can hear my silent voice.

Aayush Gugnani

Aayush Gugnani is an amateur writer based out of New Delhi. He uses free style word play to express his political opinions and occasionally dabbles in poetry. He uses the world as his canvas and believes in expressing his thoughts and feelings openly.

Such Is Life

By Aayush Gugnani

In the breezy summer 
With the golden sun, 
Shimmering at the horizon 
I stood there in oblivion. 

Standing at the worlds end 
Waiting for you to come back,
I clinged on to my memories with you
Cherishing our moments as a pack. 

What once was a dream for me, 
Became a reality. 
Once I was an ill fitted piece
Soon we became family. 

We held each other in times of despair 
And had each other’s back here & there. 
Never had the world, 
Seen such a ravishing pair. 

We were unbreakable,
Like a covalent bond. 
At least that’s what people said, 
To which we replied it was a miracle of the gods’ wand. 

Alas ! Now you’ve gone too far 
Away from the gusty winds 
Away from being what you were 
Or who you are.  

I’m not complaining for the woes 
Happy you finally got what’s yours. 
I’ll be there if and when you return 
To fill your saddened pores. 

Life without you in the beginning was tough,
Nights were endless and rough. 

Though I learned to cope with them,
Yet, I wonder how can I pacify my sinking soul. 
O how do I break myself from these shackled chains?
To go back to being what I really was. 

Don’t ever think I’m not with you.
I’m an undercurrent,
You might not be able to see me 
But in all your times of both happiness and despair,
I will be omnipresent. 

Life’s a chaos without a pattern 
One moment we’re here,
The other we’re not. 

Yet, I try to maintain positivity in life. 
Try to look up and find the northern light, 
Look down to see the sea shimmering bright. 

The haze maybe temporary,
But the maze is permanent. 
Our laugh maybe fading, 
But our love for each other, 
Our love is effervescent.

Shiuli Sural

Shiuli Sural is a young Indian writer based out of New Delhi. She mostly writes fiction, underlining a social message in her stories. Besides being an avid reader and writing, her hobbies include drawing, listening to music and cooking. 

The Last War

By Shiuli Sural

Ahoy there! The land approaches
The soldiers rejoice, the prisoner reproaches
They’ve come back from another battle
Destroyed houses, people and cattle

So the kingdom is now safe again
From enemies, treachery and disdain
The brave-hearts fought with all their might 
To win each and every fight

Those who had been martyred 
On both sides, winners and losers
Shed tears for their families from above
They had been husbands, sons and fathers.

A war can never decide
Who is wrong and who is right
What is big and what is small
Who will rise and who will fall

What war does,
Is that it divides the world
Into more pieces and erects more walls
How can a broken heart ever rejoice 
With restless nights and a dying voice

My world , my people, my near and dear
Let’s live in peace with love and care
Holding hands we all will say
That we renounce war from today

There are more pressing matters to be dealt with
Changing climate, rising poverty and filth
This beautiful blue mother Earth 
Needs us to acknowledge her worth.

When Life Gives A Chance

By Shiuli Sural

It was not long ago
When the world looked dark to me
It made me question myself
My life, my choice, my ability 

I turned around, looking
For help to forget my strain
Instead I found, a white substance
An answer to my pain

I felt so high
Like I could almost fly
This was ecstasy 
No more did I cry

My very own world 
No one to be seen 
None to be heard
Here, I was the queen

A day arrived 
Though not all of a sudden
When this world of mine 
Was ruled by Satan

What I’d created in a frenzy 
Had now turned it’s back on me
It clenched my throat
How I choked and choked
In the ocean of despair 
Was my life’s sinking boat

Then a change that was long due
Came in little by little
And I started to realise
Why my life was so brittle 

I reached out for help, 
Support, hope and empathy
I found oceans of all this and more
In someone who saved me

My therapist proved to be
An angel in disguise
Light and love she made me see
And freed me from my ties

I see the world with hues of hope
And the earth bejewelled with light
My mind and soul dream and smile
I find joy in every sight.

Sabah Kaur Mann

Sabah Kaur Mann is a young writer and poet based out of Jalandhar. She practices formal poetry and inspirational prose to accentuate societal problems that people face in their day to day life. She prefers to write under a pen name – ‘Genesis’ which is interpreted as the origin of a new beginning.

The Girl Who Cried

By Sabah Kaur Mann (Genesis)

I’m writing this to the girl who cried,
I’m sorry you felt like you died.
I know this wouldn’t make it fine,
So forgive me if I crossed a line.

I see you waiting after all this time,
With no one sparing you a single time.
I know you went through a terrible life,
Believe me you’ll get through this strife.

I know my words seem like a lie,
But these horrible times will surely die.
You will soon bloom like the Queen-of-the-Night,
And will positively get through this plight.

The girl who cried was once my name,
But sadly no one told me the same.
I died each night, each time, each day,
But I couldn’t ever follow this way.

So save yourself it’s all I ask,
Don’t burden yourself with every task.
Just be yourself and dry your tears,
Scream and let go of all your fears.

Just A Tide

By Sabah Kaur Mann (Genesis)

You can be the wisp,
or you can be the storm.
It might be rough,
yet you needn’t conform.

They might try to thaw,
from ice to ash.
If that flays you raw,
try not to crash.

No need to dry,
those tears you hide.
Whenever you cry,
remember, it’s just a tide.

You are yourself,
no change required.
They can’t put you on a shelf,
you aren’t some ‘thing’ acquired.


By Sabah Kaur Mann (Genesis)

Welcome to the world,
Where terror isn’t a crime.
So many people have hurled,
Somehow, nothing changed over time.

I’m puffed-up and proud,
To call myself an army brat.
I stand out in a crowd,
No matter where I’m at.

See, everyone in our nation,
Can sleep a peaceful sleep.
Because my father at his station,
Makes sure that we do not weep.

Yet, bigoted politicians,
Do not seem to care.
They have made it their missions,
To use words to ensnare.

They negotiate with the enemies,
And always protect their skin.
Feeding on our amenities,
They betray their own kin.

We wished those unfulfilled words of honour,
Become a wisp of hope.
Patriotism lost its valour,
And somehow meant a necklace of rope.


By Sabah Kaur Mann (Genesis)

How many women believe,
That the wrongs happening to them are right?
How many women will grieve,
For the events that happen to them every night?

I’m not telling you to take it,
Nor fake it and say, “It’s alright”.
I’m asking you to not just sit,
And act like it’s not a problem just cause it’s out of sight.

Nobody has the right to tell you what to do,
Nor to tell you what to wear.
They can’t push their opinion on you,
And then snatch away your air.

There is no one else who holds you hostage,
Except your own mind,
Your life is a book, write your own page,
You never know just how much you will find.

I Tried To Be . . .

By Sabah Kaur Mann (Genesis)

I tried to be sugar,
In a world full of spice.
The world threw a dagger,
Cause I tried to be nice.

I tried to be a friend,
In a world filled with hate.
The world asked me to end,
Cause I tried to depend on fate.

I tried to be different,
In a world so mundane.
The world became a parent,
Cause I didn’t try to be the same.

I tried to be the best,
In a world that held me back.
The world pointed out to the rest,
Everything I ever did lack.

I tried to be myself,
In a world as fake as ours.
The world put me on the highest shelf,
And then left me there for hours.

Darkness All Around

By Sabah Kaur Mann (Genesis)

Lost in the fields of my own mind,
I drown in the river of regret.
My essence somehow I cannot find,
Millions cause me to fret.

And in those fields I find no light,
Just darkness all around.
And in those days I lose my might,
And I realise I’m nowhere to be found.

The river rushes by so fast,
My regrets I see flowing by.
And sometimes I drown in at last,
Still asking the question – Why?

My essence lost bit by bit,
A trade with the devil it seems.
And nothing ever seems to fit,
Yet somehow I drown my screams.

I care for some who never care,
I fret and fret for an empty face.
My love I somehow cannot share,
With those who keep changing their pace.

Be it fields or rivers,
My essence or my mind.
In the end I remember,
People cannot always be kind.