Yogi Ram comes from a long line of yogis.
"My father, my grandfather, my great-grandfather, all were yogis. Even my mother," Ram says, "So, I've been raised as a yogi (since) I was 6 years old."
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As a yoga instructor, or yogi, Ram Kanagarajan teaches at the Sree Sakthi Yoga studio on Evergreen Avenue in downtown Arlington Heights.
Wearing a white robe and seated cross-legged along a wall halfway into the studio, Yogi Ram watches as his students, who he refers to as "disciples" engage in various postures, practice their breathing and meditate.
He teaches, up to four classes daily, what he says is an authentic and ancient form called Siddha yoga. "So, that is my style of teaching, because I came from Siddha tradition in south India."
Yogi Ram came to the United States from India five years ago based on the urgings of his guru, Sree Boganatha Mahamaharishi.
"My guru said, 'Your presence is needed in the West. Just go.'" Ram said. "So I just came here and started teaching."
Yogi Ram has been teaching in Arlington Heights for three years.
He explains there's more to yoga than just laying down a mat and bending the body into various positions or postures.
"If you translate the word yoga into English, it will give you the meaning, 'connection, binding, oneness,'" he says. "If you are doing a yoga, that yoga system should address three things: Your body, your mind and your soul."
Yogi Ram has studied informally under monks, siddhas, spiritual masters and philosophers, and remains humble. He says there is no special process that takes place to achieve the status of being a yogi.
"Anyone can become a yogi. The only qualification is that the person should have an interest to learn yoga. The moment a person starts doing yoga, the person is called 'Yogi.' "
Yogi Ram says the proper term for females is "Yogini."
"That's it. So once the person enters my studio, all are yogis," he says with a slight laugh. "I have no special thing as a yogi, I am just equal like all these disciples. That is how I am."