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Yoga Saved Me From A Job That Was Tearing My Life Apart

By Apoorva Gavarraju:

I was 22 when I walked into my first yoga class. I didn’t think much of it and had never done yoga before, so I had no idea what to expect. At that point, the extent of my understanding was limited to hearing about sun salutations and having a vague idea about some of the popular schools of yoga. I continued with the class, not knowing that it would eventually send me down a path I didn’t even know I was looking for all along.

I’m a video director and producer. I used to work in Bombay. I was 20 when I decided to move there, looking for my first job. It was right after graduating from college and I couldn’t wait to be a working woman and start earning. That’s what everyone else was doing. Initially, I worked extremely long days and barely slept on most nights. It was a blessing that I loved my work but it quickly got to a point where I was saturated. Needless to say, it was quite a confounding situation.

There I was, in my prime, pushing myself to unstated limits, not realising that burning out was a very real possibility for someone of my age. Obviously, I denied it for as long as I could. There were too many voices in my head and no room for reason. But you’re so young, how can you be tired already? You just started; is this what you moved to a new city for? You must be terrible at your job. Wait, how is everyone else doing it? Isn’t burning out only for old people?

Maybe I should have paid more attention to the migraines that sneakily went from being sporadic to incessant. Or the lack of sleep. Maybe not knowing the last time I had a healthy meal should have been a cause for concern or that finding time to call my lovely mother was gradually sliding down on my priority list.

I was so consumed with my job and the struggle to make a living that I was getting drained. It’s especially disorienting as the idea of independence is so addictive, but the reality of it is a flipping daze. I began to question every move and every decision to the extent that existential angst became my best friend. Sometimes it felt like I was simply watching as my life fell apart. Yes, just as dramatic as that. The days seemed to drag on and the only thing I wanted to do wholeheartedly was to sleep the numbness away. I knew this person wasn’t me. It didn’t feel like me. I was stuck in a rut, with no motivation, no direction and a complete lack of purpose. But I got myself into it willingly, didn’t I?

One thing that kept me going was the memory of the words of someone I look up to. The words talk about how a job is a part of your life, it is not life itself. These words spoke to me so deeply that something inside me switched. I had to find a way to step out of this whirlpool without being on a guilt trip. It was around this time that I started doing yoga. I needed something that was my own. A safe space, a sanctuary, where I could build myself up again and the one hour of yoga I practised every day somehow gave me that.

In hindsight, I believe it was the approach that helped me the most. I turned to yoga with an open mind and no expectation. I was willing to learn and understand what the practice had to offer. Yoga is not about the amazing postures. Those are convenient side effects but the practice itself is centred around the mind. If you can learn to control the mind, you have the power to be more than just a spectator of your life.

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apoorva-yoga-3Sometimes I try to find the exact moment when I realised my love for the practice. It didn’t happen instantly and it didn’t happen in any orchestrated manner. It was so gradual that I probably didn’t even notice the little changes in my everyday life off the mat. I was starting to feel happy. I was making efforts to be healthy and I learned to put myself ahead of everything else. When you dedicate yourself to the practice, it has a way of giving back in every aspect of life.

Eventually, I decided to move out of Bombay and spend a quiet year with my family. This was a conscious and well-calculated decision, one that wasn’t easy to make but was much needed. I continue my practice here and I also recently completed a diploma training course in yoga. That’s how deeply I am in love with it. And I’m pretty certain I want to do more. For me, it isn’t just time I spend exercising my body, it’s a way to exercise my mind. Through the journey, I’ve come to know myself better, closed doors on the past, healed emotional wounds and gained a whole lot of strength. It’s alright that I’m not working right now. And it’s alright that I’m not earning. I’ll get back to it soon. But for now, I’m taking the time to work on myself and that’s the best I’ll earn in any way.

We’re so blinded by the race we’re all caught up in, that most of us don’t even know what we’re racing for. We’re driven by society and controlled by fear. Don’t be afraid to take a step back from that. Don’t be afraid to move away from what is expected of you. And if you can, teach yourself to believe.

There was a moment, quite recently, when people cleared out after a yoga session and I stayed behind to put in some extra work. I had been trying to hold a headstand against a wall. I had convinced myself that I was giving my best. Even though I wasn’t. And that day, in that moment, I remember going for it in the middle of the room. I dragged my mat right to the centre, built a bubble of calm around me and did it. Just like that. I couldn’t believe it, but I did it. Can you imagine if I had actually believed in myself all along?

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That has been one of the most important moments for me. It’s quite small but it taught me big things. Breathe in power, breathe out fear and just go for it. No matter what it is. In the worst case, you’ll fall down. It won’t mean that you have failed.

With yoga, there is a lesson to learn every single day. You will learn them in the smallest of ways or the biggest of breakthroughs. The only necessity is the willingness to learn. I now take comfort in accepting that I don’t always need to be a girl with a plan. But I do want to be a girl who can handle anything that life has planned for her.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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