International globe-trotting yogi, Blissmaster, and green health advocate Insiya Rasiwala-Finn, just recently settled roots in Vancouver, B.C., with her husband Eoin Finn and son Ananda. Her vision is to create a home base, space and community for both Blissology and Yogue.ca, the companies she and Finn co-founded.
There is a real gleeful frenzy around Rasiwala-Finn’s work and she has been featured in the pages of Yoga Journal, Peppermint Magazine and has contributed as a travel wellness writer to Conde Nast Traveler, Asia Spa and The Globe and Mail.
ClearLife caught up with Rasiwala-Finn at Wanderlust to get a glimpse into the global euphoria around her practice.
Charlotte Carson: What is your reason behind coming to Wanderlust?
Insiya Rasiwala-Finn: My way into Wanderlust has been as a really passionate teacher of yoga and Ayurveda for a long time. I like to think that I offer insights that are approachable and accessible to people in a way that resonates. I grew up with a lot of this stuff, but I don’t want to portray myself as a guru or teacher from India, because that is not really who I feel I am. I feel that I am a woman who happened to grow up in India, and was fortunate enough to have these insights in my life, but I have lived most of my adult life in the west and other parts of the world. I have found these practices to be tremendously useful in my life. In my 20s and my 30s and now I am just entering y 40s, in all these different stages, as mother, as teacher, as someone who worked a corporate job once upon a time.
CC: What prompted you to go from corporate to a quite bohemian lifestyle. You have travelled the world. It’s been really off the grid, your life. What prompted you to do that?
IRF: I think that a lot shifted after my first job after college. I have always been a very type A person, where I always had a plan. I grew up in Bombay but I knew that I was going to go to university in the United States or somewhere else, not in India. I wanted more freedom in my university education. I didn’t know what I was going to do after high school. In India the education system is quite rigid. You either go into sciences or you went into the arts, and then you couldn’t go back and forth. I knew I wanted to go a liberal arts college in the States. I worked really hard, and I got a scholarship to go to university in the States, and then went through four years of amazing education, which taught me how to think.
CC: What did you study?
IRF: I studied International Relations and French. But also came out of that thinking well I could do this or this or this. My love has always been communications and writing actually. But I ended up taking a job in advertising so I could live on in the States, as I had an Indian passport at the time. I worked for a big corporate ad agency in Chicago. It was an incredible education, because I learned so much about managing people and budgets. But I also knew right away that I didn’t want to work on products that I didn’t believe in. I also understood the psychology of advertising and marketing. This was my first real job where I saw how media can change the way people think. How ads can change the way people think and can create desire. The job was very deadline oriented, I was working a lot. This is when I started doing yoga again, Ashtanga yoga, the traditional Vinyasa yoga from India. I found a little studio in Chicago and that was really when I started to re-look at life again. The yoga was familiar but I had never done Vinyasa yoga before. Growing up in India, I had done Hatha yoga, which is doing these postures more slowly, focussing on the pranayama, the breathing, and all of these other things. And then here, I found this athletic practice that fulfilled me in that way. It was energizing. I got to release energy out of the body and I felt that I got a workout in and I felt calm afterwards. It became an antidote to the work in a corporate setting. My second year there, I worked on Philip Morris. That didn’t work for me. When decisions don’t sit right, you feel it in your body. I started to get sick a lot. I started to get colds. It was lodged in my body. The reasons the company gave for taking on the work was that this was our biggest client and I would proceed up the ladder, and I’d do great. My dad always said stick something out for a year, so I did. At the end of the year, I quit. I packed all my stuff up. I was looking for other jobs but also re-assessing life. And then Sept 11th happened, and I decided to go back to India for a year.
CC: Was it an intuitive thing for you? As soon as you started to feel the illness in relation to your work and your lifestyle. Was that the start of your journey to the lifestyle you have now?
IRF: Things were not adding up. The things I believed in and what I was doing in my life were two completely different things. I had always believed in health. I was running. I did yoga. I ate really healthy. It was a psychological connection. Here at work, i was working on promotional events for Philip Morris. I told myself I wasn’t selling cigarettes but for a year I was helping the company market their product.
CC: This is something you brought up in your class. About how energy gets lodged. Psychological energy. This seems to be the point of what you are talking about. To align your body and lifestyle.
IRF: I believe your body holds truths. Unfortunately, the way we are conditioned in our life, we create these layers of shoulds. The things we think we should do. I thought I should follow this path, get the perfect job, then go to grad school, and then find the perfect husband.
CC: And you’ve still done that, but on a different route than what you thought it would be. Do you feel that through the meditation, through the silences, that is how you found your own truth? Is that the driving force behind your work?
IRF: I think the yoga practice is a meditation as well. I think that, in the west, in this modern life, we are so inclined to put things into these boxes and categories. We have put yoga into this box of physical practice, and meditation is this calming seated practice. And really, yoga is a moving meditation. What I am trying to do in my work, whenever I talk about yoga, meditation, Ayurveda, any of them, is to get people to understand that if you don’t move and feel in the body, you can’t access any blockages in the mind. It’s so simple. The point of the yoga is to create space. I love the Ayurvedic definition of space. You work so much with the elements, and space is stillness and quietness. When you reflect, and you make space to reflect on things, through pausing, you allow insights to happen and come in. But you can’t allow this when you are just going through life. I was re-looking at this book that was one of the older texts I read on meditation. Its by Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese monk. In there, he talks about this story from Zen Buddhism. There is a rider on the horse and a monk notices this rider, riding the horse really fast, down the streets of the town. They look like they are headed on some grand escapade. He stops the rider and asks, “Where are you going, what are you doing?” The rider says, “I don’t know, ask the horse.”. That metaphor is that most often in life we are on the horse. We don’t have the ability to press that pause button. To me, the ability to have space is that pause button and just, that space in the yoga, the space in the physical yoga practice. We are trying to create space in the body, we are trying to create space in the spine, between the bones of the spine. When you create space in the body, you create mental space as well.
CC: That makes complete sense. What’s on your bucket list?
IRF: Going to Morocco, thats a big one.
CC: Why Morocco?
IRF: It has been a dream destination for a long time before it became Instagrammable. The beauty, the deserts, the surfing.
CC: You are a surfer?
IRF: Both Eoin, husband, and I are big surfers.
CC: Anything else? You are kind of living the bucket list of many peoples lives.
IRF: Also on my bucket list? Simplicity. More simple things. Being able to grow food. Grow some plants. Have a garden. We haven’t done that in a long time. Also, is it a bucket list if it’s for your child? I want my son to ski. We haven’t been in winter, ever.
CC: What is your fave healthy breakfast?
IRF: My go to is savoury breakfast, more than sweet. A go do is really simple. Warm cooked grains, maybe quinoa and brown rice, steamed greens, tofu or perhaps some egg.
CC: What makes a yogi laugh?
IRF: Life, really. And family. Family, because family triggers you like nothing else. They get you. Yogis are so serious. I try to take it lightly. This is life. It is messy and silly and funny, and not perfect. I am really lucky to have a son who is very wise and can see right through me. This morning he said, “Mom you just need to trust me more”. And Eoin. He makes me laugh.
CC: If you could have a super power, what would you pick?
IRF: I wish I could see into the future, but really how would that help? I would love to be able to turn off peoples devices. Zap zap zap, so they just have to talk to each other.
CC: You talked about sustainability. That’s a big thing for us. Our whole business revolves around sustainability and ethical living. So, what does that mean to you?
IRF: It’s everything. Its living in alignment with your truth. We are here, on this planet, with one choice. Either we live in harmony or in disharmony. Thats that idea of living with your truth or not. SInce I was a kid I was interested – food is a big part of it for me. For me that means eating local as much as possible, supporting local farmers, supporting seasonal eating and teaching my child about that. Living as simply as possible, with less stuff. Again, as a parent, you realize how much stuff people foist on you when you have a child. In our family, we call it the Want Monster. When the Want Monster takes over. There used to be a point where I cringed taking Ananda to a store, because he would say, “I want this, I want that”. So my question was always, “do you want it or do you think we need it?”. And not being the parent who deprives him of things, but being the parent that creates awareness around those choices. Having lived and grown up in India, I lived in a small apartment when I was growing up. I never understood how much stuff people here needed, until I was 16 and I was an exchange student in a small town in iowa, and I stayed with a family in which they had four kids, and each child had their own CD player, their own TVs. Everyone had their own stuff. It was all about the stuff. I remember going back home to India, and seeing we had only one CD player in our house, and it was ok. I actually kind of liked it because it brought us together. A life of sustainability is one where we life in harmony with our planet, and realizing that your choices impact everything and everyone around you. I’ve been using eco friendly stuff. I wasn’t one of those moms who had to change everything once I had a kid. That was already how we lived.
CC: Thank you for sharing.
IRF: Thank you.