Yoga Ashram in JLT, Dubai

Rashi Datt explains the Art of Living Happiness Programme


As Yoga Ashram gets ready to hold its first monthly Art of Living Happiness Programme, Penelope Walsh meets the JLT studio’s co-founder, Rashi Datt, to learn more about the organisation – and the practise of Sudarshan Kriya

Wednesday May 13 is the birthday of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the humanitarian leader who founded the now global Art of Living organisation 35 years ago. Later this week, from Sunday May 17 to Thursday 21, Yoga Ashram will host its first-ever Happiness Programme, an Art of Living course on how to live stress-free that takes place worldwide. Yoga Ashram aims to make it a monthly event at the studio.

‘The Art of Living organisation started with our founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar,’ begins Rashi Datt, co-founder of Yoga Ashram in JLT. ‘He went into silence for ten days, and during this time, the Sudarshan Kriya came to him. This is a breathing exercise, which is the main backbone of the Happiness Programme. He started teaching this breathing exercise and spreading this knowledge to others. It spread around the world and now Art of Living is present in 153 countries. The organisation’s main purpose is to create a stress-free, violence-free society and to spread happiness.’

‘I was going through depression for four to five years,’ Datt continues. ‘I did not know what to do with myself. My husband found the Happiness Programme and told me to try it. I had already tried so many things and I did not want to do it. I was so tired of trying these things. So my husband tried it first and gave me positive feedback. Through the course, I realised I had everything within me to handle my depression. Why was I dependent on medication to help me? This was ten years ago and I have never needed the medication again. I never thought I would be able to do the things I have done since then, such as teach this programme, start my own business and be a part of Yoga Ashram. I decided I wanted to be instrumental in spreading this knowledge. When you love something, and you gain something, then you feel you want to give.’

At Yoga Ashram this week, the Happiness Programme will unfold over five evening sessions where participants will be taught the Sudarshan Kriya as well as other yogic breathing exercises, with meditation, yoga and interactive group sessions also included. Teachers who choose to work on this course do so on a voluntary basis, donating their time to students. Each teacher is then given the option to keep or re-donate their fees. ‘This experience will drive them to share it and do more for society,’ Datt says. ‘The Happiness Programme’, she adds, operates like “a lifetime membership”. Participants pay the course fees once and they can return to it any time, as many times as they wish, at Art of Living centres anywhere in the world. Yoga Ashram will also be offering complimentary, weekly follow-up classes.

‘Scientists acknowledge that the Sudarshan Kriya benefits the body as well as the mind. Stress, depression and so on makes our bodies become disharmonised. Through this breathing technique we can become harmonised. Challenges in life come when people don’t know how to overcome them. People want to exercise and we become stressed even about how to fit exercise into our daily lives. Too little time, too much to do. This is equal to stress. It is like a formula. In the programme, we teach people how to go beyond their minds to experience a stress-free state.’

Datt says that the experience is not ‘hypothetical’. It’s about experiencing happiness that is not related to material things. Instead, she says that happiness is something within us. ‘When participants leave after five days, they will be clear on what to do,’ she says.

Dhs1,000 (first time participants), Dhs950 (Yoga Ashram members), free for returning participants. May 17-21. Sun, Tue, Thu 7.30pm-10.30pm, Mon and Wed 8pm-10.30pm. Yoga Ashram, Jumeirah Bay X3, Cluster X, JLT, (04 360 9028).

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