"The courage to choose Peace over Chaos" - Sharan Khan

by Gargi Harjai October 31, 2021

The Courage to choose Peace over Chaos

Revalsar Sunday Stories edition 22 with @sharankhannayoga 

From Head-Public Policy, South Asia to becoming an Ashtanga Yoga Teacher- My story.

"My Yoga Journey started 7 years back. This practice came in a phase of my life when I was literally transitioning. 

I was 28; successfully climbing the corporate ladder, thriving on the fact that I was one of the youngest to reach senior roles in companies like Coca-Cola. I ran Marathons, stayed on all the fad diets to look perfect. I desperately checked all the boxes of ‘success’ as were defined for me. 

But I felt stuck mentally and physically. I was so stiff that when I walked into my first ever yoga class to’ stretch’; it was a very painful experience. Yoga was like that painful pill my personal trainer forced me to swallow once a week. But that once-a-week yoga class was helping me breathe. Soon enough that once a week class started to become the highlight of my week. I waited eagerly for it. I had found a deep connect which I could not articulate even to myself.

So I started to do some research and decided to study this practice authentically. Thus, began my Ashtanga Yoga journey with a teacher authorized from Mysore. I remember walking into my first ever ‘Mysore- style’ practice in a tiny room in south Delhi. I was the only Indian girl (yup!) surrounded by a few Japanese & American practioners. I had never seen this kind of Yoga before. There was no studio kind of ‘led’ class, these people were breathing in a funky manner and floating in the vinyasas. I was struck by the beauty and the sheer aura of the class. 

It was not an easy journey physically, mentally or just even logistically!

The ‘shala’ was located 18 kms away from my house. My body was so stiff that the teacher made me repeatedly do the Ashtanga Surya namaskar A & B for 3 months. While people around me were flying through the primary series, I was just constantly trying to go past my knees in the forward folds. I remember my mother’s shock when she figured that I woke up at 5am every day to drive an hour to reach the shala , practice for 30 mins (it’s all my body could take) and then drive back an hour to attend a day’s of work. But I knew I had found my calling in life. Those 30 mins of practice became the highlight of my day, I had fallen hopelessly in love!

My practice not only changed my body, but it also changed my mind. I started to build this hyper sense of awareness in everything I did. This inner voice started coming which guided me through every situation at work or in my life. In a span of 3 years, I felt the shift in my energy. During this very time, I excelled at my job. I was chosen to head a global leadership role in another very large organization. I remember feeling still; nether happy nor sad. I was doing my duty for that stage in my life. 

This practice had gone beyond the physical for me. As fast as I was growing in the corporate world, that fast there was a shift taking place inside me. 

I remember very distinctly sitting in a very high-profile meeting. I used to deal with Central government officials of countries in the South-west Asia region & lead policy discussions. I had managed to convince a very high-level official in the Indian Government to change a law that would have a very high-level positive impact for the corporate sector! My bosses were elated, clearly, I had outdone myself. 

But strangely I felt empty & disconnected. I was so confused; I was achieving the old Me’s dream but the new me was seeking something else.

I realized very quickly from thereon that I only felt complete when I was on my mat. That feeling and space was sacred and nothing else seem to match up.

My passion for my practice was so attractive that a few of my friends decided that they would land up at my house in the early hours of the morning to study with me. Most of them were pretty fit and thought Yoga was for the old or for the spiritual seekers who had given up on ‘normal’ life. My teachings converted them to such an extent that they never missed a single day. God forbid the messages I got if I cancelled to travel for a meeting!

And just like that from my living room started my Teaching Journey. How much I loved watching each of them grow in the practice. Soon from 2 people we started to grow, and before I knew it in a span of 6 months, I was teaching this practice to many more. I had started working even longer hours between waking extra early to do my practice then teach and then a day of my very demanding job. But I didn’t want to stop. Teaching this practice was filling me up, I felt warm and so happy. It was a wonderful feeling that I was starting to own.

I started to transform. I started to realize that teaching was that one space where I could be exactly who I am. No façade was required. My students became my community. I was spending hours sharing what I loved the most. My only wish was to have the courage to do this all day.

And so in the month of August this year I took a drastic step- I decided that I would go to Mysore to get certified to share my Ashtanga practice. I would quit my very successful job to teach all the time. No one around me really understood my wish to do this. I was leaving a very successful, 6 figure salary job to teach Yoga! 

You know you’ve taken the right decision when people see your face and say that you’re glowing.  When they see the happiness seep through your social media posts.

Today as I share my story, I am starting all over again! Setting up a new life as a teacher. Growing my passion project to a full-time gig. I am excited and inspired. It is my practice that gave me this courage to pursue my passion. The courage to chose peace over chaos. To let go of an identity I hid behind for so long. I love you my practice the most. "

Gargi Harjai
Gargi Harjai

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