Updated: Jun 2
Tradition dictates that all great stories have a beginning, a middle and an end but to a well-travelled yogi with places to go and people to meet, the book is never closed. For our next ONEOFTHE8 episode, we sit down with curious and conscious yoga teacher, Erika Khanna to talk Montreal, morning routines, hatha vinyasa and navigating the quest for purpose and meaning.
'All of a sudden I felt like a stranger in a city that I feel the most at home in'
So, how do we come to be chatting to a yoga teacher in Montreal about all things spiritual and subconscious? Well, because from a pretty young age, Erika had an insatiable desire to move to the UK and after visiting London in her final year of high school, found herself “fascinated with the pace” of the city.
She recounts - in her commanding Canadian accent - how she “felt like a lion at the gate ready to break free” and went about unshackling herself by applying for jobs (in film and advertising) in companies with bases across the pond.
Erika spent some time in San Francisco but her affinity with the UK eventually led her to an ad agency in central Manchester where she worked closely with ONEOFTHE8 founder, John Whalley. It was a ‘now or never’ attitude and a supportive network of friends and family back home which gave her the power to put dreams into action.
'I’m going to face challenge but I’m going to be okay'
She explains: “there were aspects of my life I hadn’t explored yet and things about myself I hadn’t discovered yet” and now, retrospectively, champions how the decision: “taught me so much I wouldn’t have learnt if I’d stayed back home”.
As the saying goes though, time waits for no man (or woman) and travelling away from home can do weird and wonderful things when it comes to mental wellbeing - something Erika could definitely relate to.
Speaking two fluent languages (English and French) and enough Spanish, Italian and Dutch to be able to sustain a coffee fix, you’d expect somebody with such a cultured tongue to be invincible to vulnerability. However, watching your motherland evolve into something entirely different from afar can quickly suddenly make you feel very alien.
Erika celebrates the transformation of Montreal over the course of her 30 years and the incredible changes it has undergone between her departure and return. But on the flipside of the coin recalls how, after a period of time away from her hometown: “all of a sudden I felt like a stranger in a city that I feel the most at home in”.
“If you feel at home within yourself, you can be literally anywhere and call it home”
Yoga is something which has nurtured Erika through some of her most challenging times along life’s way. Hatha Vinyasa yoga - to be precise - has enabled her to be able to manifest a sense of ‘home’ without this needing to be underpinned by any four walls, street, city, country or continent in particular. “If you feel at home within yourself, you can be literally anywhere and call it home”, she explains.
Erika waxes lyrical about how the practice of Hatha Vinyasa combines the masculinity of strength with more femininie lunar qualities - a juxtaposition of tough and tender which she seems to embody so effortlessly.
More than just a physical boon, practicing yoga has allowed Erika to find freedom in physical movement, peace, alignment and support in the “emotional resistance of finding [her] path”. It has also enabled her to: “dive into my own subconscious to become a more self-aware person to understand and discover what my impact is on others”.
We were actually talking to Erika just weeks after a 9 month residency to achieve her very first yoga instructor certification at the School of Ritual, and mere hours after she had completed a six-hour CPR for yoga course. As we laughed about the oddity of giving mouth-to-mouth for six hours straight, it’s hard not to make the correlation between breathing physical breath back into a lifeless body and breathing life back into people in a more spiritual sense through meditation and yoga.
'No matter where I am in the world or what’s happening in my life, yoga has always been part of it'
Yoga is something she saw her grandad practice at 4am every morning from a super young age - perhaps this is what she meant when she said it also helps her feel more connected to people who have passed. Her own morning routine is now a conscious decision put in place to “live with actual intention” and positively influence the direction her life takes and the purpose she finds for herself.
Of course, it’s a very gradual thing but here’s how it goes according to our guru: “you start to change your habits and then you start to change your behaviours and then you start to change your patterns and then you start to change your life”.
'You start to change your patterns and then you start to change your life'
As we do with all our ONEOFTHE8 subjects, we asked Erika to give us an insight into what inspires her most. The answer - “people I meet that have overcome a sense of adversity or experienced life events that they’ve made lemonade out of”. To her, making lemonade is all about living in choice, living with intention and staying “playful and kind with yourself in the process”. Life has a lot of lemons to give out so it’s always a good idea to have a great lemonade recipe to hand.
Find out more about Erika’s story, her travels and her yoga by listening to her episode on the ONEOFTHE8 podcast. Visit Padma Practice to find out more about Erika's new yoga venture. Stay up to date with the latest real life stories from real world people by following us on Instagram @weareoneofthe8