From reducing stress and anxiety to shedding weight, yoga is known for healing different ailments of both body and mind. Every year, 21st of June is celebrated as International Yoga day. So, on this occasion, we caught up with Yoga Coach Mehak Puri founder of Yellow Butterfly Yoga & Beyond.
Mehak Puri is a practitioner of yoga and meditation since 1998. She is a passionate traveller and got certified as an advanced yoga teacher from the Sivananda Ashram, Kerala. But life wasn’t always smooth for her. She was diagnosed with polio in her childhood. But despite that, she became a sprinter after many years of rigorous hard work and training. She’s currently based in Bangalore and works as a lifestyle consultant and Yoga coach. People, scroll down to know the awe-inspiring story of Mehak Puri!
First of all, Mehak, tell us about yourself, your family and your growing up years.
My first few years were busy, trying to deal with my polio, managing my emotions as a child, learning to find inner strength at a very early age of 5-6 years. School life was just about athletics to build a stronger body. I sought validation and attention as I thought my polio made me stand apart. My parents were my strongest support and never made me feel I had a handicap. In fact, to the invisible eye, my polio was not that evident unless they saw me up close or noticed my movements. Even at that age, I felt very blessed for I know how polio could affect people, but I feel I just had a glimpse of the handicap in my body. No doubt till date the effects are there but I know how protected I have been. My family has always been very open and liberal, both my parents gave my sister and me a lot of freedom to be our own person, have our experiences and learn from them. From letting us go trekking to the mountains as early as 10 years for 2 weeks to having boyfriends, to finding creative pursuits other than studies. It’s truly a blessing.
Could you tell us how & when did you realize you have polio? How difficult was it living with such a disease initially?
So, at the age of 2 when a child is given polio drops, I remember my mother telling me that I use to throw them out. Next few years they didn’t realize that the right side of my body was different and affected by polio. Until my grandfather who was an Ayurvedic doctor saw me limping. But the support around me was so strong that they never made me feel handicapped. When I joined a school, I had the good fortune to meet a sports teacher who advised my parents to run for my right leg to look similar to the left. From that moment on, there was no looking back. I went onto study sociology in Jesus And Mary college through sports quota. But that’s where my professional running took a back seat as my handicap didn’t allow me to compete with people from all over the country.
You went on to become a sprinter. Can you tell us all about that?
My parents, a sports teacher and my paternal grandfather were my pillars of strength. For me, there was no choice but to do this so there was no struggle. From the word go, I knew I had to put all my energy into running. At that point in time, I had no idea I would win races, enter competitions, be a school caption. We didn’t even have proper running shoes in the ’90s. I remember being on the track, I would limp but run so fast that everyone watching would be shocked how I didn’t fall or stop. Eventually, my sprinting with a limp became my trademark all over the city. Different schools knew there was this girl in Sardar Patel Vidyalaya who ran fast with a limp! I could only manage 100 meters, 200 meters, and 4*100 meters relay.
After that, you entered the corporate world. How & why did that transition happen? We hear you were in the fashion industry back then.
After sports my other passion was fashion. Something about the glamour industry really excited me. I went on to do a Diploma in Television and film production right after, I had a dream to be a VJ! But instead, I joined the fashion industry and learned the ropes from the basics. My first job was with a fashion show choreographer and I learned model management, backstage management, and events production. Soon I joined a reputed international modeling agency, Elite model management doing more of the above. A few years later I went to London to study Fashion PR. And eventually on my return joined the international fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar. I loved creating, organizing fashion shoots from the ideation of it. Learned a lot, traveled a lot all over the world, worked with Bollywood. This all this for almost a decade. But my real calling came back i.e. Fitness and Yoga.
How and when did you discover Yoga? When did you start doing it seriously?
I started yoga way back in 1998 when my body couldn’t take the athletic routine anymore. I had injuries and my body was very stiff. I used to do a few asanas taught by my grandfather. I also started chanting and got heavily into Buddhism at the age of 18 years. It helped me to deal with a lot of my negativities. But then life happened with the fashion industry and yoga took a back seat.
It was only in 2008 and my body was giving up with my work routine, my mind was becoming rather agitated, angry and reactive all the time and my soul felt very shallow and empty. Within 6 Months I decided this is not what I want to do for the rest of my life. I quit my job and went to the Sivananda ashram in Kerala to do my Teachers and advanced teachers training. No looking back since – only been learning more and more, with my state of mind changing, and sharing it with others.
How & when did you decide your quit your job and take up Yoga professionally? We hear you were doing workshops with big corporates like Harley Davidson, Dabur, Rate Gain, Microsoft, etc. How was that experience like?
Again, like I had no choice with running, I had no choice but to quit my job to take up yoga full time. My work experience in the fashion industry has blended in beautifully with my other strengths and I lead a wellness brand. Over the years I have come across beautiful people, whether through companies or otherwise and feel blessed to inspire them in their journeys.
Tell us all about your current practice. We hear you not only do Yoga, but you are also into meditation, outdoor sports & other activities- can you tell us about them.
Over the years, I have become a Lifestyle Consultant, inspiring people to lead happy healthy lives daily. I use tools that have their foundation in yoga – asanas, pranayama, meditation in my classes. Apart from yoga, I’m a certified meditation teacher wherein I conduct group and personal sessions. I am a certified karmic and reiki healer where we use therapies to help heal the mind on an emotional level. Therapies such as stress release, confidence building, dealing with negative emotions and past life regression are some I enjoy facilitating. I am also a Sports Nutritionist and help people eat well by guiding them through their diets. All of this helped me come out of my cocoon into a butterfly, thus the name Yellow Butterfly Yoga & Beyond!
You teach Yoga to young children as well. How do you think Yoga can help young minds?
They are blossoming with so much energy which if channelized the right way, can help them be very creative, grounded, aware and happy beings. Yoga helps in the process.
Similarly, how do you think Yoga can help urban working class which leads a very stressful and hectic life?
Yoga is a lot to do with awareness training not just of the body but of the mind as well. By keeping themselves constantly engaged in the rat race at work and responsibilities of a family, people tend to drain themselves out of all their creative energy and juices. Yoga does the complete opposite. It keeps you so alive to be creative in the way you live that just mere survival to earn money, achieve here and there, keep others happy; seem only rather small. It helps them look at a much bigger expanded picture with so much more inner joy and strength!
Lastly, what are Yoga’s overall benefits for people-including physical & mental well being?
Yoga is a lifestyle. Your practice on the mat has to reflect on the way you live – your thoughts, behaviors, beliefs, and attitude. While the physical benefits are many, it is the mental, emotional and spiritual that are closer to my heart. It keeps bringing you home to your true self, your higher self, beyond your limited thoughts and emotions, beyond your limited actions and consciousness.
(Featured Image Source: Facebook/mehak.puri.7)