Featuring Vaisnavi Carana Devi Dasi from South Africa

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

by Justine of Just Yoga

Vaisnavi Carana devi dasi, is the name that Dhanashree Moonsamy of Chatsworth in South Africa, took when she experienced a rebirth. This rebirth resulted from a spiritual path that she had taken to follow a Guru, which is a spiritual teacher, to learn and gain his knowledge. Along this spiritual path, an individual's old personality is said to die along with its ego and all its negative qualities. The end result is a new identity, that follows the principles of Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truth), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmcharya (restraint) and Aparigraha (non-attachment). 
"I had to find balance in my life but could not find the time to focus on “Me”. I was continuously searching for answers and my life’s purpose. Although I had a good job and was earning a salary every month, I was never happy."
Vaisnavi was first introduced to the principles she now follows, when she was given a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, as a teenager. She was so intrigued by the principles and lessons it taught that she was inspired to become a vegetarian. This was the start of her Ahimsa awareness, where she began a more mindful existence, understanding her effect on all beings.

"I started practicing bhakti yoga, which entails mantra meditation. My mind became calmer and I started to understand my purpose in life. I also began accepting everything that was happening in my life." 
In 2013, she was formally accepted as a disciple of His Holiness Bhakti Caitanya Swami and is now a grand disciple of AC Bhakti Vedanta swami Srila Prabhupada, who belongs to an unbroken chain of disciplic succession. According to the Vedas, ancient Indian scriptures, there are four main paths of yoga, namely; Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Rāja Yoga and Jñāna Yoga. Bhakti yoga is a style that is spiritual in nature and is a about creating a link with God through devotion. The yoga practice most westerners are familiar with, is Raja Yoga which is the path of self-discipline and practice that is more familiarly known as Ashtanga Yoga

In her student days, Vaisnavi would use yoga practice to help her cope with the stress of exams and tests. She found that, after regular practice, it helped strengthen her back and alleviate her IBS symptoms. However, once she started working, Vaisnavi gave yoga the back seat and focused on climbing the corporate ladder. This climb eventually lead to more stress till Vaisnavi reached a point where she valued her physical and mental wellbeing above a pay check. She believes that sometimes in life, things happen to push you in another direction, to find your true purpose perhaps. When the company she had been working for started retrenchments, Vaisnavi saw this as her sign, that it was time for her to find her true purpose. 

In 2019, she did her formal 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) at Inner Wellness in Durban, South Africa. Since that certification, she has done courses such as prenatal yoga, chair yoga for seniors and beginners as well as yoga for children. Upon completion of her YTT, she started teaching at a local community centre and school. Since the pandemic, she has moved her classes online via Zoom, teaching individuals as well as groups. Vaisnavi has aspirations to take her yoga teachings to the corporate environment where stress, anxiety and depression is a constant challenge.
"Yoga has helped me let go of things I have no control over. I have learnt to not get affected by what’s happening in the outside but to delve within and to focus on my inner self."


Vaisnavi has learnt to align her mind, body and spirit and create harmony within her whole being  so that that the soul has a peaceful place to live in. She believes that, yoga has undoubtedly had a positive impact on her life, from the calmness of mind to the vitality in her body. Through it, she has also been able to connect with like-mind people from all over the world, enabling her to continually learn and grow in her yoga practice and teaching. 
"Getting onto the mat is my favourite pose. I have felt that the poses that I don’t like to practice are the poses that I really need."
One of her favourite asanas is Savasana (corpse pose) because it gives her a calmness that she believes promotes healing of her mind. Another asana she looks forward to on her mat is, Ardha Kapotasana (half pigeon pose) which helps release tension in the hips and stretches the piriformis muscle. When Vaisnavi struggles to reach a specific posture, she uses props, like blocks and straps, to help her get to the next level of stretching in a controlled and supported manner. Through her use of props, she is also able to manage her and her students' asana practice, even when injuries are present. Vaisnavi is a big proponent of yoga as an alternative to medication for certain ailments. She believes while medication may numb pain in the short term, it does not resolve a problem in the long term. 

"Yoga has kept me sane, healthy, and happy during lockdown. I got to spend time with my real self and find peace within."
Yogi Vaisnavi Carana devi dasi's final message for anyone wanting to try yoga, is to understand that yoga is not a religious practice. It is a beautiful journey of connecting the mind, body and soul. To have that time on the mat is your time; it’s your time to feel emotions; release whatever has no purpose; strengthen the mind and the core and build a healthy mind and body.

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