Priya Patel & The Intention Table
Dallas Yoga Magazine’s Interview with Priya Patel
We are so honored and excited to have Priya as a speaker at the Cosmic Yogi Festival. She will be sharing on “Eating Meditation & The Experience”…something most have not even thought about so we are really looking forward to it! Sometimes, when we meet people we have no idea the obstacles they have had to face in life. When you look at Priya you see a gorgeous, happy woman…and she is, but what you don’t see is the hard work she has put into getting to know herself, letting go of her past and the path she had to follow to find her way to inner peace. Priya is one of those people whose stories are inspirational, and she is gifted with an in-depth knowledge of yoga and meditation. She has so much to offer her students and she does so with her programs called the Intention Table. We are looking forward to you getting to know Priya.
DYM: How long have you lived in the DFW area?
Priya: I grew up in Los Angeles, California and made a move to Dallas in 2008
DYM: Tell us about yourself!
Priya: I taught special education for 14 years to severe to moderately disabled children. I mainly worked with children who were non-verbal teaching them functional communication skills as well as sensory regulation. Volunteering has been something I have been drawn to and continue to dedicate 10 hours a week to different organizations. I am recently divorced and am re-learning to navigate the world of being on my own. It has been interesting getting reacquainted with myself for what feels like the first time. I spend a few hours a week writing a variety of different things. I have a blog called Priya in Process, my journey to self-realization and am also working on a book with OnFire Books about my personal journey to healing from years of suppressed trauma. I live in a 450 square foot studio and love every part of it. If people come over it is BYOC, Bring your own cutlery! (Laughing) I have no pets nor any children! In my spare time, I love to go to Cedar Ridge Preserve and walk the trails or volunteer as a butterfly house docent at the Texas Discovery Garden.
DYM: What was your first yoga/meditation experience like?
Priya: I believe I have been meditating since I was about 6 or 7 years old. I have the distinct memory sitting on the bathroom counter with my feet planted into the sink. I would just sit there and just sit. As I look back now, I believe I was meditating. It was something that I did with ease and looked forward to doing.
DYM: When did you decide to become a yoga instructor?
Priya: Since I started yoga in my 20’s, it was something I had wanted to pursue. I came close to doing a certification in Bikram Yoga in Los Angeles before moving to Dallas but didn’t do it. I decided to dive into becoming an instructor only last year in 2017 after falling in love with Vinyasa Flow. I had practiced Bikram Yoga for 7 years and found Vinyasa to resonate with where I currently was in my life.
DYM: What kind of training have you had?
Priya: I did my 200 and 300-hour training with Gaia Flow Yoga here in Dallas. The focus on a love-based training was something that resonated with me. I take my personal practice at this studio, and so I didn’t think twice about learning from anyone else. Also, I am finishing up a 300-hour training facilitator certification in Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga with the Trauma Center at the Justice Resource Institute. Lastly, I did a 200-hour certification program with the Ananda Center as a certified meditation instructor.
DYM: WOW! That’s a lot of training. We love the Ananda Center and I’m sure the meditation training is wonderful! Do you have a favorite style(s) of yoga/meditation?
Priya: I love yoga practices that are slow and intentional where you can feel yourself in your own body as well as find stillness with your breath. As far as meditation goes, I see it as two parts. One part being the getting their process and the second, the being their process. The getting their process for me typically looks the same. I always chant mantras because I love chanting and the way the Sanskrit sounds vibrate through my throat and body. As I chant, I feel the power of the words come through me. I chant because I enjoy it and the way it makes me feel. After chanting, I find myself in seated meditation and sit for as long as my day and heart permits, which is the being their process.
DYM: Will you tell us about your program called the The Intention Table? Love the name!
Priya: The Intention Table was born out of my healing journey from years of suppressed trauma and dissociation. The programs under The Intention Table are “Eat, Write, Meditate, and Move with Intention.” Each program puts an individual in charge of their own experience and invites them to be very aware and conscious of themselves when participating in them.
Eat includes three eating meditation experiences: From the Pantry, From the Kitchen, and From the Chef. From the pantry is a mindful eating meditation with grab and go foods from the pantry or fridge, from the kitchen is an eating meditation experience with ingredients from a mindful meal that is eaten after the meditation, and from the chef is an eating meditation from restaurants around Dallas as the chef speaks to the ingredients in each dish and why food dishes were paired together. Each experience ends with a conversation around the table with those who attend.
Write is a journaling curriculum I created based off the yamas and niyamas to help unravel patterns and behaviors. In addition, it allows for you to see habits that are changing.
Meditate is a 10-week course that introduces people to different pathways to meditation as well as holds them accountable for consistent weekly practice. Move is yoga that helps you feel yourself in your own body. It is extremely empowering to become aware of yourself. How can you change patterns, habits, thought processes if you aren’t even aware of them in the first place? Each program allows for a person to become an active participant in their life.
DYM: So, the four parts of the program are titled Eating, Meditation, Writing & Moving. Let’s start with “Eating”…can you explain why this is an important part of the program?
Priya: Eating is one of the most intimate things a person can do as they are putting something inside their body as well as it’s something as humans we need to survive. A lot of people due to automatic habit, a fast-paced work life, or stories they may have told themselves are not even aware of the signals the body sends you regarding your needs. The eating meditation truly elicits self-inquiry and creates natural discovery. Also, we bring awareness to our sensory system which typically goes into automatic when eating. Lastly, often people struggle with staying still or focusing when attempting to meditate. However, the slow-paced nature of the eating meditation creates a one-pointed focus on a single item. That coupled with kinesthetic, tactile, and auditory stimulation allows for one calm the mind, body, and heart which is the heart of meditation.
DYM: The second of the four parts is “Meditation”. Will you please explain what you teach your students in this phase of the program?
Priya: As I said, Meditation is a 10-week course where we target different techniques for kinesthetic, tactile, and auditory learning styles. This is where we learn techniques such as affirmation, visualization, chanting, divine qualities, loving / kindness and more.
This helps a student identify which technique would be best for them based on their specific learning style. An example of this would be a person who identifies that they are not an auditory but in fact, a visual learner perhaps would not be able to calm the mind with chanting but could possibly with a visualization exercise. Each week includes breathwork and meditation practice. During the week students are asked to log their individual home practice and share insights with the group. Meditation is simply about being with yourself. How you get there will vary based on your learning style. This course is really designed to help a person find what their getting their process looks like for them.
DYM: The next part is “Writing”. What is the benefit of writing and why is it a necessity for the program?
Priya: Journaling allows for you to chart your own course as it gives you a window into your own behavior and attitudes. Weekly writing on the ethical principles leads you to natural revelation of insight into the nature of your being and provides a mirror in which to study yourself. This consistent practice helps a person to learn the different dimensions of themselves as they progressively unfold and find self-realization.
DYM: The ending of the program is called “Moving.” Why do you include this in the program? How is this beneficial?
Priya: Being that I was so disconnected from myself and my body it was essential for me to have a component that addressed body awareness. Movements are physical postures that introduce people to interoception, which is the ability to sense, sensation within your own body. All the cues start with invitational language versus a command that empowers a student to take a look at what is going in their body and then decide after that point what is it that they would like to do next
DYM: What is the overall message you want someone to learn from your program?
Priya: I would want someone to learn that they hold power to help themselves and that only they can do the work that needs to be done to live a life that is theirs and theirs alone.
DYM: Great message! I noticed you include breath work in your program. Often breath work is not taught in yoga classes in the United States, why do you think that is?
Priya: The purpose of yoga is to help you get to meditation. Meditation is about stilling the mind and body and we can absolutely do that with breath. I think time restraint on classes results in not enough time with breathwork. I think if it was made a priority then it would be included more. It’s incredible what breathwork can do. In addition to calming the mind and body, there are various practices of breathwork that can cool, heat, energize, and detoxify the mind and body. In each of my meditation classes, we spend 20 minutes doing two specific breaths. A tense and relax breath practice to calm the body and equal count breath to calm the mind.
DYM: So much of what you teach involved living in the moment. What would you say to someone who needs guidance with living in the NOW?
Priya: One of the things I would say is “Do Less” and be intentional. When we become so focused on doing, finishing, completing you forget about how beautiful the process to “get somewhere” can be. I really would advise spending five minutes a day or so and simply do nothing. (Smiling.)
DYM: I love that you include affirmations in your program. Will you please explain why affirmations are vital in our lives and why they work?
Priya: Affirmations are statements of truth that we hope to absorb into our lives. The more that we practice it, that more we allow for that statement to be true. Affirmations are so powerful as they can truly transform the brain. Our subconscious part of our brain holds detrimental thoughts, habits, and perhaps even actions that are on automatic. When done repeatedly and with intention, affirmations can turn those automatic thoughts into conscious and positive thoughts. To me, affirmations are like planting seeds for growth, change, and positive transformation.
DYM: That is a beautiful way to explain affirmations. What are some of your favorite affirmations?
Priya: I used affirmations quite a bit on my healing journey. I spent a lot of time with this one. “Forgiveness is a gift to myself and also to those who have hurt me.” Currently, I am working with survivors of sex trafficking and we have been using this one for three months. “I am peace. Even the in the chaos I can find my center. Even in the darkness, I can see the light. I am peace.”
DYM: Can you explain what it means to be self-aware?
Priya: To be self-aware is more than just being aware of one’s thoughts, feelings, or behavior. Self-awareness requires self-reflection, the ability to step back and observe one’s own process of thinking and feeling, as well as the result, thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
DYM: Explain to everyone what they can expect when they attend your program.
Priya: Those who attend The Intention Table programs can expect to cultivate an open, receptive, and present relationship with themselves.
DYM: What has surprised you the most about being a yoga/meditation instructor?
Priya: I think what has surprised me is how true teaching has come to me. I believe it is because I practice the principles that are derived from the eight-limb path of yoga. I love teaching meditation and feeling the energy that gets created in the room, as well as, having people feel mine. That is something that can’t be faked. Anyone can just repeat words, but energy or vibration is something that is felt.
DYM: That is so very true. What do you find most challenging about what you do?
Priya: I think the part that is the hardest is showing up for others when you have an off day. Learning to honor yourself and your own needs while being there for others can be tricky and challenging.
DYM: What do you find most rewarding?
Priya: The most rewarding part is watching people help themselves and break free from whatever holds them back.
DYM: What mistakes do you see a lot in yoga that people should be aware of?
Priya: I think one of the most common mistakes I see in the asana part of yoga is breath guided by movement verses movement that is governed by breath. The other thing that I see is that each human being is so uniquely designed and one person’s posture may not look like the next due to physiology, anatomy, and structure. This can be confusing as cues for alignment are very structured of what something is supposed to be, however, so many variables come into consideration for each individual being.
DYM: There has been a lot of controversy about yoga in the news lately, what do you wish everyone knew about yoga?
Priya: Sure, yoga instructors know that yoga is an eight-limb path towards spiritual growth and self-discovery, however, for the most part, they are the only ones who know that. Most people popping into class pass classes or yoga studios have no clue about that yoga isn’t just about the postures they do in class. They have understanding that the postures are limb number 3 and that two critical limbs come before the postures as well as five more that come after. If more awareness were brought to all of the limbs of yoga, then perhaps it would shed light on the fact that regardless of your religion yoga helps you connect to your highest truth at a deeper level.
DYM: That is a great way to explain it. Tell us about someone who has influenced you on your path?
Priya: I would have to say, Chrystal Rae, one of the founders of Gaia Flow Yoga has influenced me on my road, as well as, a kind-hearted gentleman, Jeff Clardy, who opens his private studio several times a week to anyone who wants to practice yoga. Both individuals hold the light for others, and they can do so because they have done the self-work to help themselves. I see that I am following in their footsteps of holding the light for others by helping heal myself.
DYM: What advice do you have for a person who has been practicing yoga/meditation for a long time but seems to need a little more extra something to their practice?
Priya: Being that each moment is different from the next, no two yoga practices or meditations will ever be the same. Advice for someone who needs a little more would be to set an intention for that given day and then to let that intention go. Almost as if to remember why they are doing the practice in the first place and then to surrender to whatever shows up.
DYM: What advice would you share with a person who is just starting yoga/meditation?
Priya: Meditation and yoga are a practice. Don’t give up after trying it a few times. Keep showing up for yourself. Start with a short duration and gradually increase the time limit.
DYM: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Priya: I am grateful for the opportunity to have started life over again and again and again. Mindset, gratitude, and self-love go a long way, and I do believe that people regardless of what they are going through or have been through can choose to start over and learn themselves in a way that brings freedom.
DYM: Do you have any special workshops or events coming up you would like to tell us about?
Priya: Yes, on November 10th during the day, I’m speaking at the Cosmic Yogi Festival on the topic, The Eating Meditation Experience. On October 30th I’ll in Deep Ellum at Table for 16 facilitating The Intention Table: Eating Meditations. Also on November 10th, I’ll be in Plano at the Table for 12 restaurant leading A Grateful Tasting and Mindful Meal. I am offering a 10-week meditation course starting at the end of October.
DYM: Priaya, you are an amazing woman who shows us all there is hope and we can overcome anything. Thank you for sharing your incredibly inspiring story. We are honored to have you share with us and to be speaking at the Cosmic Yogi Festival.
Check out Priya Patel’s Website to Find Her Upcoming Events:
Instagram: @priyainprocess @theintentiontable
Facebook: priyainprocess and theintentiontable
Facebook Live Series: Mindful Minute and Conversations around the Table