Fifteen years ago, lifelong yoga practitioner Neem Dewji arrived from Tanzania by way of London and created a small but peaceful yoga studio in the heart of Riverdale. Since then, it has grown to provide a variety of yoga and wellness classes for the neighborhood’s young and not-so-young, fit and not-so-fit.
Ms. Dewji shared her thoughts on general health and wellness, the improvements she has seen the in health and happiness of Riverdale residents who have incorporated yoga into their lifestyle, and her hopes for the future.
How long have you been practicing yoga?
When I was 17, I was living in London and feeling a little lost. One day, I passed a yoga center and could hear chanting. I was curious, so I went inside. It was a community of people who were spiritually and health oriented. I loved it and started taking classes. I used to feel so wonderful after class. I’d literally be walking on clouds.
What brought you to Riverdale?
I met my husband in India, but he lived here, so in 2001, I moved here, too. I loved it here, but I found there was little if any focus on mind-body wellness at the time. I had been teaching yoga in London, so I started teaching one class a week here. But people kept asking for more classes, two, three, four… I had to start hiring teachers and this led me to set up Yoga for Bliss with classes at the Society for Ethical Culture and Wave Hill.
We began to offer different classes that cater to people of different ages and abilities, from Hatha, Iyengar, Vinyasa and Restorative to chair yoga, which is yoga for people who’d rather work off the floor.
What have participants gained from the classes?
The practice of yoga fosters a supple and healthy body, an open heart and a calm steady mind. It’s the master of stress relief because you’re using your body, mind and heart — every part of yourself has to engage. We have a core group, so I can see how those students changed from the day they first walked in the door. They have better balance and improved their general level of fitness. A lot of students told me it’s improved their outlook and given them a positive perspective on life.