>>Sherry Minnard

Sherry Minnard | Director and teacher of yoga programmes

‘I’m a yoga warrior’

Sherry Minnard left the chaos of New York behind her to teach yoga in Rajasthan, in the ‘ashram’ headed by Surajnath Siddh. They both teach how to attain mental and physical calm.

Text: Guadalupe Rodríguez and Patricia Gardeu | Photos: Kreativa Visual | Video: Kreativa Visual

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hen Sherry was small, her mother used to tell her that, ‘trees will make you intelligent if you spend enough time in the forest’. These words echoed in her head when she realised that her life revolved around the hustle and bustle of New York, a stressful job, and her three children. So much so that one morning, when she couldn’t even recognise her own reflection, she made her mind up to start again from scratch. ‘I wasn’t happy with my life or my work and I decided to head for India’, Minnard recalls. Although she wasn’t aware of it, the trip would become her way of finding happiness. She reached an ‘ashram’ –a place that teaches yoga and meditation in accordance with Hindu tradition– located in Rajasthan, the cradle of the ancient Indian civilisation, the land of ‘saints, siddhas (masters) and sadhus (monks)’.  
There are documents in India that date back over 4,000 years and the discipline is so highly valued that in 2014 the country established a ministry responsible for safeguarding traditional medicine and practices. As a result, it only took Minnard, who had been doing yoga for 25 years, a few days to realise that she had come to the right place. A short time later, she was invited to work as a writer, designer and yoga teacher at the Shri Jasnath Asan ‘ashram’, a mediaeval fort located in the region of Marwar. Minnard accepted the offer, she adopted the spiritual name of Shreejan Sita and began her new life. ‘I’ve been here four years, I like my work, I love my philosophy of life and the place here in India, so far from the city, where I’ve set up my new home’.
At first she felt asphyxiated by the lack of space. India has a huge population, twice as many people as in the United States live in a space half the size, and a lifestyle based on sharing everything –from beds to food and cupboards– clashed with the individualistic style of the west. ‘I thought it was invasive until I understood that it formed part of my training’, she remembers. However, this state of anxiety didn’t last long. ‘The most important lesson I learnt is that we really don’t need anything. I can survive and be happy with nothing, and for this reason when I look back at my life in New York, I realise how much is wasted’. .  
‘I learnt that we don’t need anything’
Sherry Minnard doing yoga
The yogi says that changing her name is similar to ‘assuming a new spiritual identity’.
The region of Marwar is one of the oldest in India. Minnard claims that her adoptive home is ‘beautiful, but untouchable, uncolonisable’. ‘Colonialism didn’t reach the north, near the Pakistan border, so there’s not much influence from the west’, she explains, though she goes on to say that, ‘It’s on its way’. The yogi points out that despite the increase of western influence –‘We have a lot of English Catholic schools, the influence of western dress, the need to speak English…’, the atmosphere they live in is still ‘traditional, similar to the 15th century as regards women’s dresses, work… They go to the market every day; they live in shacks…’.
Minnard continues, ‘It is a natural way of being in contact with the land, which keeps us healthy whilst we appreciate a simple way of life without owning many material possessions’. You also learn that people ‘can give up a bad habit in just three days’, whereas you need ‘about 21 days’ to adopt new ones. These periods can be adapted to the length of time travellers usually spend in India when they are interested in finding out about spiritual tourism –usually trips of between 14 and 21 days– which includes retreats that are focused on learning yoga, meditation and caring for the mind and body.
Sherry Minnard with a sculpture
She began to do yoga classes when her son was born, 25 years ago.
  ‘UNESCO protects yoga as India’s tradition and heritage, and promotes the arrival of tourists with this purpose’, explains Minnard, who notes that yoga is not only ideal for people who suffer an existential crisis; it is also recommended for those who seek to be happier, ‘by acquiring a yoga lifestyle’, even if they aren’t in India, but in their own homes. As a result, she recommends starting by ‘going to the source’ –‘With luck you’ll find a good guru who will help you fit into modern life’–, she is aware that ‘in India, nobody needs to give up their life for an ‘ashram’ to become a yogi’. ‘To be one you only need some training, a suitable guru and proper teaching’.  
‘What’s happening in India now could change the world’
‘We can reach people; what is happening in India now could change the world’, says the teacher who believe that the future will bring the West –‘with its system, technology and advertising’– and the East increasingly closer together. “We have yoga, great masters and we want to teach’, she adds. ‘We don’t invent anything, we use ancient practices. We’re only messengers, people with skills and a passion for helping others’, says the yogi, who encourages using spirituality as a weapon. ‘I am a yoga warrior’, she stresses, and ends by saying that anyone who is capable of searching for this happiness and ‘helping the world to be healthy’ can also be a ‘yoga warrior’.
Surajnath Siddh is the director of the centre
Surajnath Siddh holds a Master’s Degree in Yoga Psychology.

Surajnath Siddh | Monk and director of the Shri Jasnath Asan yoga retreat

‘Yoga is the science of life’

To achieve peace, Surajnath Siddh, director of the Shri Jasnath Asan retreat, recommends yoga, a discipline he defines as ‘scientific’.

Text: Guadalupe Rodríguez and Patricia Gardeu | Photos: Kreativa Visual | Video: Kreativa Visual

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urajnath Siddh, a monk and director of this retreat located in the village of Panchla Siddha, in Rajasthan, explains that services offered at Shri Jasnath Asan, one of the oldest ‘ashram’ in the region of Marwar, include ‘spiritual knowledge and the knowledge of life, healing, counselling, and spiritual and psychological support’.

A retreat and meditation centre with over 500 years of history, it offers yoga and meditation classes and also provides a service to the community, by way of free food programmes and grants for children.

‘If visitors are willing to help themselves, we welcome them’

‘Ashrams’ are spiritual centres and to continue with this energy we need to keep calm and avoid too much noise’, explains Surajnath Siddh when he is asked about combining spiritual peace with tourism. ‘When visitors arrive we ask them why they have come, what they want to achieve, what they want to learn, and we find a balance. If they are willing to help themselves, we welcome them’.

The retreat mainly focuses on yoga, a discipline that the director defines as ‘scientific, systematic, with its techniques and methods’, and where practitioners’ lifestyles are also important. ‘What they eat, what they drink, how they behave’. ‘It is the science of life, a good tool for ensuring a person is physically and mentally healthy and in peace’.

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