By iana velez


Susanna, Tejal, Sunaina…these are just a few of the people who inspire us on and off the mat. For our INSPIRATION themed premier issue, we asked them to share with us who inspires them. Here’s what they had to share.

Susanna Barkataki
photo: Caroline White Photography

Who inspires you?
Arundhati Roy: Indian author, actress and political activist who was best known for the Booker award-winning novel, The God of Small Things and for her involvement in environmental and human rights causes. She is involved with advocating and protecting the causes of the poor in India. Roy has campaigned along with activist Medha Patkar against the Narmada dam project. Roy donated her Booker prize money, as well as royalties from her books on the project, to the Narmada Bachao Andolan, an Indian social movement. She is a spokesperson of the anti-globalization or alternate globalization movement. 

Books that inspire you:
I am deeply inspired by the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali — I love Swami Satchidananda’s translation. I also love to read poetry from Rabindranath Tagore, Rumi, Valarie Kaur and Rupi Kaur. Finally, I love Adrienne Maree Brown’s Emergent Strategy because it guides me again and again with regards to making social change.

Where do you go to get inspired:
I spend time in nature to be inspired. Nature is like the divine church. All over India, you’ll find altars to the divine — they may be elaborate. Or they may be simple, made with a stick and some mud. They invite in devotion, energy, intention. Nature helps me create sacred space by making a place for the divine — something greater than myself. It helps me open to love and service. Try it — go out in nature and pay attention — enliven the senses! See what you notice and create!


Tejal Patel
photo: Rob Alcantar

Learn more:

Who inspires you?
Chunilal Ranchhodbhai Patel (he/him)

My grandfather, Chunilal Ranchhodbhai Patel, is such an inspiration to me and many in my family. He was a hard-working, dedicated husband, father of five and freedom fighter. He was alive during a tumultuous time for India and the surrounding regions, as the struggle to gain independence from the British escalated during and post World War II. Around 1944 or 1945, my Grandfather submitted his resignation letter to his boss in order to join India’s Independence movement alongside Gandhiji. His boss ripped up the letter and said, “Take as much time away as you need!” Independence from the British was announced on August 15, 1947, with the partition of India and Pakistan.

My grandfather lived with us until he passed away when I was six years old, but I always remember his strong, steady presence during my childhood. I will remember how he continued to advocate for justice in his life. He spun cotton into thread in the spirit of Indian self-reliance from the British, even after moving to the USA in the 1970s. I credit him for instilling in me the fight for justice for all beings.

Mira Nair (she/her)

I admire activist and filmmaker Mira Nair for her powerful storytelling of everyday life. She showcases nuanced aspects of culture and the immigrant experience in such moving, artistic and dynamic ways. She turned Jhumpa Lahiri’s book The Namesake into a film that continues to speak directly to me as a first-generation, Indian American daughter and sibling.

She tackles topics and artfully directs films in an unapologetic manner uplifting, vital, necessary, and often messy narratives like the Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love (banned in India), Mississippi Masala (about the taboo of Black and Brown love), Monsoon Wedding (a chaotic family wedding with all the expected and unexpected drama).

Mira’s activism extends beyond her films into her family as well. Her son is Zohran Mamdani, an assemblyman in Queens, NY. He once completed a 15-day hunger strike to advocate for the rights of NY taxi drivers. Mira is such an inspiration to me, and someone I hope to meet one day!

Books that inspire you:
These books are always on my mind and in my heart: Becoming by Michelle Obama, You Are Here by Thich Nhat Hanh, The Perfection of Yoga by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

Where do you go to get inspired:
Pretty much any coffee shop. I find the whole space and setup of a coffee shop to be a reminder of care and attention to detail. I really vibe on the open, welcoming atmosphere and am often productive, creative and at home in coffee shops!

Nature trails. Being outside in any setting is so refreshing for me. Being outside, surrounded by trees or open air, navigating the land underfoot tends to be where I unwind. I breathe deeply and am reminded of the circle of birth and death, all things sacred and how life goes on with or without me.

Podcasts, social and more:

UnF*ck Your Brain podcast by Kara Loewentheil
Yoga and Vedanta podcast with Swami Tyagananda

IG Accounts:
For their social justice efforts and very real humanity

For their continuous deconstruction of dominant culture in everyday life

For the craftiness in sewing, knitting and life

@issarae, @mindykaling, @alokvmenon, @amandaseales Humor, trailblazing, fashion and fierceness

The Pitch Meeting channel by Ryan George who is creative, consistent and shares critical views of the movie industry and movies while still clearly enjoying them!


Sunaina Rangnekar 
Learn more: @su9nah
photo: Lake Marquez-Hernandez

Inspiration to me is also courage – specifically, the courage to overcome the obstacles life gives you. The root of “inspiration” is “inspire,” literally to inhale or breathe in. For me, inspiration is breathing into your discomfort and breathing into regulation and groundedness. Inspiration is to embrace and alchemize the change that is ever-pervading.

Who inspires you? 

Rüdrāksh Malheauxtrā (they/them) 

I love Rüdrāksh because they never fail to show up as their whole self, authentically, with so much energy and love for what they do. They are a true force of nature who does the work to acknowledge their teachers, uplift marginalized folks, and speak the truth (even if it’s hard to hear). They stand for what is right and are so deeply rooted in their yoga practice it inspires me to go deeper. Rüdrāksh is always reading 99 books at a time and helped me increase my bookshelf with authors leading the decolonization movement. By existing as they are, they allow me to show up precisely the way I am! I love you and am so proud of how far you’ve come!

Soraya Latiff (she/her) 

Soraya is a good friend and the first Indian (Indo-Caribbean) student I graduated. She inspires me to understand the Indian diaspora more profoundly and honor the beautiful intersection between Indian and Afro-Caribbean culture. Soraya is a true activist and works with students all over the Boulder/Denver area to increase ethnic and cultural awareness in the school systems. She uses her privilege to disrupt harmful systems while creating brave spaces for folks to show up as their authentic selves. The first time I took her yoga class, I received a spiritual message from my ancestors. That experience invited tears of healing and joy to flow through me – an experience that no one else could give me. Thank you, Soraya, for being you and being my teacher in so many different ways.

Sreeja Chakrabarty (she/they) 

Instagram has been an enormous blessing by connecting me to Sreeja. Sreeja is a one-of-a-kind singer, songwriter, music producer, and overall artist! She constantly inspires my poetry practice and is a strong pillar of support for me. I love that Sreeja writes music in their mother tongue (Bengali) to preserve their culture. I’ve learned a lot from Sreeja about building trust and being a work-in-progress. She is a person I want to center, uplift and honor as someone who inspires me. I can’t wait to hear about more of your creations and support you in whatever ways I can!

Books that inspire you:
Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown has allowed me to re-imagine the future in a way I didn’t know was possible. It inspired me to center black, brown, queer, anti-racist, and social justice movements that allow me to unlearn how society has conditioned us.

Yoga Revolution: Building a Practice of Courage and Compassion by Jivana Heyman is a book that has built the foundation of how I actively interrupt harm when I see it. It’s allowed me to work towards unlearning perfectionism.

All About Love by Bell Hooks held me in the truth that love is an action and helped me unlearn my old definitions of what I knew about love.

Where do you go to get inspired:
My home temple is a place I go to be in devotion to The Divine and reaffirm my spiritual practices.

The garden in my backyard to ground my energy, be one with nature, and appreciate the privilege of communing with food.

My comfy bed so I can rest, nap, and wake up feeling more refreshed and inspired to do my work!

Podcasts, social and more:
@rishi_chidananda always gives me knowledge of the Bhagavad Gita in a grounded and digestible way.

@polyamorouswhileasian helps me better understand the intersectionality of my identities in a way that I couldn’t always name.

Yoga is Dead Podcast helped me understand how Yoga has evolved over generations to be what it is today in the West.