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In new book, local yoga instructor teaches that spirituality is universal

by | Dec 6, 2021 | Featured, Featured: Features

Hopkinton yoga instructor Ritu Kapur

Hopkinton yoga instructor Ritu Kapur self-published a book to share information about the background and positive experiences of yoga.

Ritu Kapur wanted to bring eastern wisdom to western yoga practice.

“Spirituality is not that different,” Kapur said about her approach to yoga in her first book, “Teach Yoga Touch Hearts.” “We are all striving or trying to find the same things in our lives.”

Kapur, who has lived in Hopkinton for nearly 18 years, owned Sohum Yoga and Meditation Studio in Westborough and still teaches yoga virtually. She self-published her book in October and said her aim was to teach that yoga is about more than opening your body. It’s about opening your mind.

“I would say yoga is the state of mind where you can bring your body, breath and spirit together,” said Kapur, borrowing from the word’s etymology. To “yog,” Kapur explained, means to join together.

That’s where her first chapter begins, and from there she guides readers through the eight limbs of the Yoga Sutra. Kapur takes her audience from moral and ethical values, to physical practice, to concentration.

“I try to make it such that people can pick it up, at any time of the day, late at night, read one page, feel good about the way things are and then go to bed,” she said. “It’s not like a textbook.”

Teach Yoga Touch Hearts book coverKapur said she tried to lean away from the dense texts that she has found on yoga, but that doesn’t mean she leaves anything out. After explaining the eight limbs, the writer goes on to address koshas, the layers of the body, and chakras, focal points in your body.

But it’s her final two chapters that lit up Kapur’s face as she described her work.

“I find them wonderful,” said Kapur. “One is poems from around the world. And the last one is prayers from around the world.”

Kapur, who will appear with her book at the Hopkinton Center for the Arts on Dec. 14, grew up in India, where she learned yoga in school and knew yogis to be spiritual, “saint-like” people. In America, she says, yogis are depicted as nearly anyone who regularly practices yoga.

“I don’t even call myself a yogi because it has a deeper meaning,” she said.

She’s seeing a shift, though, in western yoga practice. Many yoga instructors are delving deeper into the origins and traditions of yoga practice, but Kapur said she worries the learning isn’t being shared with their students.

Kapur ties the Gita, an ancient Hindu scripture, into her book.

“I wanted to share that with my readers, how deep this philosophy of yoga is in the whole Indian Hindu culture,” she said.

Once at a yoga retreat, Kapur went searching through a table of books, looking for one that offered this same background, but in a language digestible for beginners.

“I kind of blurted out to myself, ‘Gee, I’m trying to find this book, and it’s not here,’ ” she recalled. Kapur said a stranger standing next to her offered words that would sit with her for four years.

“She was like, ‘Well, because you are going to write it.’ ”

It was only during the pandemic, when her yoga classes became Zoom classes, and she found more time to be at home with herself, that she endeavored to create a book that joined together universal spirituality with western yoga practice. That’s why the final two chapters share poems and prayers from around the world.

“These poems, or prayers, are very universal in their nature and their theme,” said Kapur. Lines from the Gita share pages with the poems of John O’Donohue, an Irish poet and priest who passed in 2008.

“It’s spanning the cultures and the times, so that more readers can identify with spirituality,” said Kapur.

While she spends the better part of “Teach Yoga Touch Hearts” honing in on the origins of yoga, her point is that the spirituality found in the practice is universal.

“Whether it was a poet thousands of years ago or a poet right now,” Kapur said, “they’re all talking about finding inspiration in nature and in animals and finding joy in day-to-day life.”

She hopes that by including writers from different cultures, more readers can connect to the spirituality intrinsic to yoga.

“These writers, who may be coming from their culture, are saying the same thing that was said thousands of years ago in India,” she said.