We are pretty sure that Mumbai yoga artiste Natasha Noel has surprised passerbys each time she does a few impromptu poses across public spaces in the city. A professional dancer for five years, she began practising yoga about a year ago. “I had been self-training with Iyengar yoga books and Youtube videos for three months, post which I did a teacher’s training course. I used to dance but had an injury, so I couldn’t take up any physical activity for a year and half. After my recovery, I took to yoga,” says 23-year-old Noel. “I took up various yoga challenges on Instagram, where the host gives you a posture and you replicate it. I followed many yogis on Instagram and realised that international artistes performed yoga at gorgeous locations. Yoga originated India, so I wondered why artistes here were not doing the same,” she adds.
Hanumanasana or Monkey pose (Split).
Benefits: Increasing flexibility, alignment and balance, improves digestion, blood circulation, releases toxins and relieves stress. Location: The balcony of a villa in Goa
Six months ago, inspired by international posts on the photo sharing platform, Noel shot her first outdoor yoga photo on an empty railway track in Goa. “I choose a spot randomly. I think of the kind of things people are unlikely to pick. I have friends who support my madness. One of them took the picture. After that, I have shot at various public spaces including local markets, departmental stores, on an escalator, beaches and forts,” says Noel. When we ask if there have been any restrictions while taking photos at these locations, Noel tells us that though people have refused permission a few times, she has usually been lucky. “I am quick to get into a pose and get out of it. My friends click the photographs in a jiffy. So, even if there are retakes, I’m done in a few seconds,” Noel confesses.
Supported headstand or Salamba Sirsasana.
Benefits: Stimulates pituitary and pineal glands, which aid growth and production of sex hormones.
Location: Godrej Nature’s Basket, Juhu.
Born in Kerala and raised in Mumbai, Noel presently teaches yoga and conducts yoga-dance workshops, combining two of her favourite forms. She tries to upload a new photo as often as she goes out to a café or finds an outdoor space she likes.
Hanumanasana or monkey pose on the pole.
Benefits: Increases flexibility, alignment and balance.
Location: On the metro to DN Nagar station, Andheri.
Pics/ Meghna Bhalla
“I wanted to do a pose outside Prithvi Theatre but the watchman refused. When I posed on an escalator, the watchman at the mall said he was glad that yoga is becoming popular and that more women should do it. I have had mixed reactions. In a departmental store, the watchman told me not to do the pose, after I had already taken the photo and didn’t insist on my deleting it. As long as you don’t interfere in someone else’s space, I think it is fine,” she believes.
Urdhva-Mukha Paschimottanasana or Upward Facing Intense West Stretch
Benefits: Lengthens leg muscles, relieves backaches, and prevents hernia.
Location: Flight from Goa to Mumbai
Stretch my limits
Like on most social media platforms, Noel has faced both negative (read: creepy) and positive reactions to her posts. “It’s a great position to have sex in, someone commented on one of the photographs. It’s just the way some people think and you can’t change it. I do what I enjoy doing,” asserts Noel. “Even when I am posing a picture, people stare in shock, out of curiosity and sometimes, pass comments. My parents have been supportive of my choices; in fact, my mom has clicked some of the photos that I have posted. She told me not to be worried about the men around, as she was with me. While striking a pose, I don’t care. I see people’s expressions when I look at the photos,” she laughs off before she heads off in search of a new Insta-yoga spot.