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Interview with Aastha Gupta, an International Yoga teacher

Q1 - Can you tell us a little about who you are and what you do?

Hey thanks for reaching out! I’m Aastha. I graduated from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University and am a certified ‘Hatha Yoga’ teacher from the ‘International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre. I’m an entrepreneur in wellbeing and also a trained facilitator and outdoor-based educator.

I am currently (from quite recently) working towards the mission of making workforce wellbeing the norm; and not the exception - by taking the original style and philosophy of yoga to individuals and organisations all across the globe. As of now, I am teaching hundreds of children and adults yoga online and also working with leadership & people teams of selected organizations in Europe, India & US to take yoga and it’s wisdom to workplaces in it’s authentic, Indian form.

Q2 - You recently began undertaking free yoga classes. What led you to take this up?

Well, I was going to start working at a health startup in April, but owing to Covid, that never really took off, as they had stalled all new hirings. My own practice during Covid was really helping me in the time not only in keeping healthy, but also in adapting to all the uncertainty. Gradually, I started teaching my family. We were all home, and being locked down made it easier. I soon took out some free courses for friends and family online, and things just grew organically from there. People liked them, they felt that they benefited from it and they were gracious enough to recommend and spread the word in an overwhelming way, over the last few months, to hundreds of others!

Q3 -How can we strive for balance between the ancient and modern practices of wellness?

Umm… this is a very interesting question for me. I think one needs to see any practice for what it is, and how it impacts our body; whether it is an ancient or a modern practice.

For eg., in some ways fasting is a practice that has existed for thousands of years in different ways, while today ‘intermittent fasting’ is what is most popular. Kapalbhati in yoga is an ancient practice and in many ways it is similar to Wim Hof’s breathing style - which, too, is becoming popular more recently. In both these cases, there is definitely a difference in the nomenclature, but practice to a large extent stays the same, and works in the same manner on the body. So I wouldn’t care to strive for balance in ancient or modern in this case, since I don’t really look at it that way. They both get the same job done.

On the other hand, I can look at a practice like yoga. I currently teach the classical style of yoga called Hatha Yoga (the practical side of Raja Yoga as mentioned in many ancient texts on yoga). This practice has been adapted and revised over centuries by many different phenomenal people. New styles have come up, which are strikingly different. In some cases, the merit of yogic exercises (which are not only good for the body and mind, but also seen as a spiritual exercise) has gotten left behind . I mean, nowadays there is beer yoga, acro yoga & hot yoga and so much more! They sound amazing and fun, but I’m sure they are not replacements in any way of ancient practice. Here, the nomenclature remained the same, but the practice didn’t retain its essence!

And the health industry today is probably going through its worst peak when it comes to misinformation & unethical marketing.

So the point I’m making is, one needs to know why they want to pick up a certain practice, and logically understand its impact on the body and mind before picking up random trends, diet plans or workout routines. And if we do that, whether it is ancient or modern, doesn’t matter so much!

Having said that, at the risk of being labelled ‘old-school’, if you don’t want to take the time and effort to gather information, I would find it safer to keep things as original and classical (or ancient) as possible.

Q5 - Have there been any significant personal or professional experiences brought about by this pandemic that you would like to share with us?

Well, the pandemic helped me realise how much I love teaching or working with groups. Being an entrepreneur was always on my mind and the pandemic made the process of starting out a lot easier than I would have otherwise imagined.

I saw myself doing something like this 5-7 years down the line after having picked up the necessary ‘skill-sets’ and all those things we hear or tell ourselves.

But sometimes being out of a job and the lack of choices makes it easier to take the plunge! More importantly, working as a solo entrepreneur offers phenomenal freedom, control over the amount of work you want to do in a day/month, or in life, and in my field, it keeps you on your toes for new ideas, new collaborations to turn the current trends of an unwell workforce. Knowing and experiencing these things, I’m not sure if I would have it any other way. And to be honest, you build ’skill-sets’ no matter what you do - especially if you’re working by yourself! I have a website for my offerings and I wouldn’t have imagined this 4 months ago! You can log on to www.aasthagupta.in to find out more.

Q6 - If somebody wants to take up yoga but is skeptical about their ability, flexibility, or level of discipline, is there any advice you would like to share with them?

If there is one thing I have learnt in these times, it is that yoga is for everyone. It is way more than a physical exercise or a stress-release practice. It’s benefits to the body and mind are well known of course, but the changes it brings about in life are different for everyone. For me, it brings about a state of mind that is fearless, calm, content and full of energy. My only advice is; gaining control over the body and mind (specially in these times) - is one of the best things we can do for our own life. And I’m not sure if there is a better way to do it than yoga. I would say sign up for yoga somewhere and don’t let the mind make quick judgements..try and let 4-5 classes happen and then decide if yoga is for you. I really feel it is for everyone!

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