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Why Pragya Bhatt quit her high paying job and chose to become a yoga instructor

Prateeksha Nayak
9th Jun 2016
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I am going to start exercising next week onward
One more bite
One more sip
I am never going to binge eat again!

We all keep making these resolutions, don’t we? But let’s admit it, it’s easier to grab that tempting-looking packet of chips than to lift some weights. We are all so addicted to the perks of modern living that we fail to stop and reflect upon what all this convenience is doing to our bodies.

Pragya Bhatt’s life was like that of most IT employees. Long work hours that required sitting in the same place, convenience food coupled with all that stress, and before she knew it, she was the heaviest she had ever been in her life. It was then that she decided to take stock of the situation and started working out in the gym on her office campus. While all this workout did help her shed a few kilos, it left her feeling deprived and tired for most parts of the day. The turning point of her fitness journey and life came when she joined a power yoga class. Yoga did not just help her shed kilos but changed her as a person. From a student to being a teacher, Pragya’s yoga journey is a captivating one!

Credits: Joel Koechlin
Credits: Joel Koechlin

Always a dreamer

Pragya (34) was born in India, but grew up all over the world, as her parents are diplomats in the Indian Foreign Services. She studied in various international schools and moved to India after her high school. She completed her Btech and then went on to work for IT giants Infosys and Accenture. After a seven-year stint in the IT industry, Pragya realised that it was not her calling. She was always a dreamer and had an adventurous streak, thanks to extensive travelling, frequently changing schools, and exposure to different cultures and languages at a young age.

Around the same time, she had gained a lot of weight owing to her sedentary lifestyle and also developed weight-related complications like insomnia and lethargy. When she realised that working out in the gym was not really for her, she joined a yoga class and, to her surprise, the weight started melting away. While everyone else around her could only notice the change in her physical appearance, Pragya could feel the change it had brought about internally. Yoga had in a way changed her as a person.

“I think yoga found me and not the other way around,” she says.

The plunge

She then arrived at a decision to devote her life to yoga. But taking the big leap was not easy. Although she had practiced yoga she did not have a detailed understanding of the science.

“Being an Indian in foreign countries sort of pushes you into being an expert on all things Indian, so we had a bunch of books lying around the house on the subject. When my parents were posted in Brazil we used to visit the Hare Krishna Temple there and attended the yoga classes there. We had yoga classes in my college also which I did attend a few times,” Pragya says, recalling the beginning of her tryst with yoga.

She started afresh by looking for a teacher and finally found the right one. However, finding a good teacher is only half the battle won.

“Remember, a good yoga teacher is a good yoga student as well, so I study with my teacher regularly. And I’m on a quest to read everything I can find written on the history and philosophy of yoga,” says Pragya.

Pragya then went on to get her Teacher’s Training Certification from Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusudana Samsthana (SVYASA) in Jigani, on the outskirts of Bengaluru.

The initial struggle

Although she was now equipped with the required knowledge, Pragya’s challenges had only begun. Her struggle wasn’t so much about taking the decision of quitting her cushy job but more about how she could make the transition seamlessly. She had bills to pay and it was going to be difficult to sustain herself. Moreover, it was inconceivable for her family that she would throw away a cushy job and a promising career to become something which is not really considered a ‘real’ career. 

So what kept her going?

“I had people rooting for me ,I had my tribe,” exclaims Pragya.

She put a lot of heart into teaching and started informally at first with a five days a week class at the whims of her students, and the word spread. She gradually started planning her classes diligently and paying attention to each of her students. And all the hard work paid off, as her student base grew by word of mouth and today she has a plethora of group classes, workshops and a wide repertoire of private students.

According to the government’s Make In India report, the wellness industry in India is worth $490 billion, and wellness services alone comprise 40 percent of the market. There are as many variants of yoga as there are enthusiasts. According to an Assocham study, demand for yoga instructors is expected to grow by about 30-35 percent in a couple of years.

So how does Pragya deal with all the competition?

“The reason my classes have very little attrition so far I guess is because I put in the hard work and do my homework.” She says stressing on the importance of understanding the science than merely being enamoured by all the glamour around it has helped her.

Pragya is currently busy writing a book that explores the history and mythology of asanas with noted photographer Joel Koechlin and is working on creating her own yoga modules to service the barrage of class requests that she continually gets. She might have come a long way from where she started but yoga continues to teach her something new everyday.

“I think it has made me happier and more content. Yoga is something that has changed my life and I think my style as a teacher is heavily influenced by the belief that if I could do it then so can you. It has taught me the spirit of helping people, being compassionate and understanding and knowing the value of human interaction. Spending your days doing something you love, something which you feel completes you, something that gives you a purpose and something you feel is making an impact in the society really helps in calming you down. The exact opposite of what being in the rat race does,” she concludes.

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