Hemalayaa Behl is a dancer and yogi who teaches these two art forms around the world and onscreen in her DVD series that includes Bollywood Burn, Beautiful Belly, the Bollywood Dance Workout, and her latest, Bollywood Booty. Hemalayaa recently shook her booty with Ellen DeGeneres, teaching her some Bollywood-style dance moves for Ellen’s opening sequence. And on Friday, November 21, Hema was invited onstage during NBC’s Today Show to teach Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb how to love their bodies with some bodacious bhangra moves. Hemalayaa took some time out of her busy touring, taping and dancing schedule to talk to Find Bliss about her own dance moves of Bliss.
FB: How do you define Bliss? And how do you know when you’re in a state of Bliss?
HB: In my experience, Bliss is when I can connect to myself and others in an unconditional state of love. I can look into others’ eyes without any fears of not being enough, or any other lack feelings I have about myself. There is no judgment about them or myself. I am just being myself, and I feel a deep connection.
FB: Can you describe the physical feeling and experience you have when you are in that state? What can you say to help others know what they are looking for in terms of attaining a state of Bliss?
HB: I feel the state of Bliss when I feel completely connected to myself and in my body. I can feel my fingers, toes, breath and heart all simultaneously without conflict or chaos. I feel at ease, joyful and in alignment with life. When I am in love with my divine self, and feel out of my mind and in my heart, that’s my experience of Bliss.
FB: Can you describe some of the steps you take to get yourself to this state of Bliss, or at least moving in that direction?
I shake my body.
I stomp my feet.
I punch and scream into pillows.
I breathe into the feelings so they can come out, and I express them – no matter how ugly they are.
I allow myself to go into the chaos in my body & feelings.
I go out of my mind. This way, I am in my purest state, like when I was a baby.
I dance like nobody’s watching.
I breathe into my heart (not my head).
I listen to the peace in my heart.
I forgive myself. I forgive others.
FB: It sounds like Bliss comes from being in your body and moving, so it would be a natural to teach. How did you decide to start teaching dance and yoga?
HB: I was practicing yoga on my own for a few years before I tried out a class at a studio. After I attended a few times, the teachers kept asking me when I was going to start teaching. At the time, I had no interest in teaching, and yet I was thrilled from the experience of this practice and what it was doing for me, that I taught all my friends, family and whoever else came into my life. I found that teaching and guiding others helped me to deepen my own practice.
My dance practice was a playful expression in the privacy of my own home (and Indian parties, of course). It wasn’t until a few years into teaching yoga that I started adding dance in my classes. I got the wacky idea to add a little bhangra as a five-minute break in the yoga class one afternoon. They loved it, and so did I. Then I started really exploring the movements together, and felt the union or the compatible marriage that they proposed.
FB: How does music play a part in your practice and teaching?
HB: Music is the inspiration to awaken dormant emotions and expressions in the body that may not be tempted to come out with silence. I believe the focus on the breath is very important, and there’s something magical when your mind gets out of the way and your body is gently guided to remove any nonverbal blocks. I believe these blocks hold us back from being in our highest selves (love). So when removed, without having to get into the story of what caused us to hold them in our bodies, we find freedom.
FB: What message are you trying to get across or what are you trying to give to students of your DVDs?
HB: The message is that exercise doesn’t have to be a chore. It can be and is really fun and my intention is to take it to another level of consciousness. We can use the movements to let go of things in our body, mind and spirit that may be blocking us from feeling pure joy. The DVDs encourage us to remove these energetic blocks and the suffering attached to them (sometimes we don’t even know they are there, and don’t need to). We get to let go of these things that are hanging out in our body and then we infuse ourselves with the childlike joy and the adult-like sensuality that we are. We get to be the LOVE that we are. In my experience I feel completely present, happy and loving towards others and myself from doing these routines. And as my Yogi Tea this morning says “Happiness is every human’s birthright.”