With another International Yoga Day coming up, we are pleased to present an interview of a renowned yoga expert and teacher, Shammi Gupta.
Even if a day had less than 24 hours, she would not miss doing her asanas.
Her love for yoga translated into setting up Shammi’s Yogalaya. This passion project stands tall and is a breeding ground for yoga lovers. She wants the benefits of yoga to touch and awaken as many people as possible.
What is evident in her approach towards a healthy lifestyle is that it hinges on “healing with alignment.” She strives to cultivate a sense of balance in all her practitioners, helping them to live a healthy and fulfilling life.
Throughout her interview, she used the word, “refine.” Ms. Gupta kept emphasizing that she wanted to “refine” her practice, her learning and teaching of yoga, and her own self. Her willingness to continuously fine-tune and temper who she is and what she is doing only makes it clearer to us that she intends to stretch herself.
We know you as Shammi Gupta, yoga expert extraordinaire. How would those who know you personally – family and friends – describe you?
Actually they will be the right people to answer this question (laughs). Jokes apart, I think Shammi and yoga have unified so much into one that they think Shammi is yoga. The reason being that for almost 80–90% of my waking hours, I am involved with yoga in some form—whether it is my own practice, taking some yoga session, doing lifestyle counselling, working with patients as a yoga therapist, working on my blogs, reading yoga publications, creating content and shooting for my yoga videos, or facilitating my ‘Train the Trainer program’, which is active even during weekends.
What led you to get into yoga professionally? What do you love most about it?
It just happened. I was focused on my MBA (MBA in HR and finance from The University of Akron, Ohio) and actually topped both. Yoga, as my own practice started in 2002 alongside my MBA. I saw it as an integral part of our cultural heritage that could keep me healthy and hearty. I got so deeply involved with this subject that my lifestyle began to change. I doubt if I ever missed a day of practicing yoga.
When I moved back to India after seven years in the US, I took up a job as a finance manager. But that lasted only a short while as I wasn’t happy leaving my son, who was five years old at the time, alone with a nanny or maid. So, I discontinued the job.
However, as there was no break in my yogic practice, I had reached at an advanced level. After some time, my neighbors requested me to offer classes to them. That’s how a casual journey of yogic teaching began in my life.
Before long, I realized that it was time for a formal yogic education. That was another journey.
The best part I love about it is that I never think “I have to do it”. It just happens and keeps me in flow and rhythm. It also keeps me in the moment all the time.
Tell us about that journey: When and why did you start Shammi’s Yogalaya?
It was formally registered in 2011. As the number of students increased, they started giving names like Shammi’s Yoga, Yoga at Shammi’s place, Yoga with Shammi.
By that time I had already decided to follow through with my passion. So, it was important to establish it into a concrete identity. Also, I had started organizing corporate workshops and yoga events, and a lack of a proper name and legal registration made it difficult to grab important opportunities.
What advice would you give to someone just starting yoga?
It’s a beautiful journey and as I usually say that the journey has no destination. You go on and on. The more you dig into it, the more there is to learn.
Wherever you start, start in the right manner. With perseverance, patience, love, respect, and devotion, everything else will automatically fall into place.
Besides yoga, what do you do for physical, mental and emotional wellness?
Yoga is an art, science, and philosophy that is holistic in nature and capable of touching the human soul on many levels. I guess, this alone is good for my mental and emotional well-being.
However, I love to travel and read. So, I am off to some place every 2–3 months and do extensive reading on yoga and lifestyle management.
What are some of your other interests?
As I said, travel for sure. Different sports, at times. But there is nothing like old Hindi songs. I listen to them almost daily. Anything combined with music is just enhanced.
What are some of your guilty pleasures? How do you indulge or pamper yourself? How often?
I love to eat golgappas and samosas. Well, I do indulge once in a while, with full love and contentment. I prefer not to do anything that would bring any kind of guilt in my life.
What accomplishment of yours are you most proud of?
I was able to identify some of my negative aspects and work on refining myself into a better human being.
What has been your most humbling moment?
There have been a few: When I saw my son for the first time… When people who are able to achieve a moment of ‘contentment’ with their practice, when people who had been suffering from physical pain and mental agony were able to transit into a better living through yoga… Those moments when they thank me and yoga for the transformation – these take me into a different world altogether.
What would you like to accomplish, going forward?
Refining my practice, refining my learning, refining my teaching, and being able to influence people to make yoga or wellness an integral part of their stay on this planet.
What do you think are the most troubling issues in the world today?
I think it is when we are not able to connect with the self, when there is no priority given to it. As a result, we are always trying to be something we are not. So we never truly understand “who we are.”
What are you most grateful for?
The guts to speak my mind and the ability to walk my talk.
Editor’s note: You may also be interested in these yoga tips for beginners.