As told to Ainee by Naushina Shaikh
I am someone who needs to do what makes me happy, which explains my journey as a fashion stylist, dancer, and now yogini.
At the start of my career, I took up fashion because it satisfied my creative instincts. However, as someone who has a lot of energy, I also took up dancing in my free time. I believe that when you keep learning, it helps you to be more productive with your work. I enjoyed dance so much that I started exploring different fitness dance forms. Today, I am trained in contemporary dance, gymnastics and martial arts forms like kalaripayattu and taekwondo.
While dance was a great way to express myself, I knew I needed something more–and that’s when I discovered yoga. I resonated with the simplicity of yoga. While helping me get more fit, it also made me more grounded and grateful for what I have. I started shedding a lot of my emotional baggage.
Somewhere in the glitz and glamour of working in the fashion world, I had lost the connection with my real self. I clearly remember the moment when I decided to take up yoga full time. I was sitting in the front row of a fashion show in Mumbai, and I felt lost. I asked myself: “What was the purpose of my work?”.
Honestly, when I started, I found yoga dull as I was a dancer and was used to movement while yoga demanded stillness. I always say that for me a headstand was easier than shavasana. Over the years, yoga has not just improved my flexibility and strength but also helped me be more patient and calm. It also started healing me emotionally.
Since I experienced so many benefits from yoga, I further explored the wellness space. I learnt about many alternative healing therapies like the creative movement therapy and neuro-linguistic programming of your subconscious mind, that can heal you not just physically but also mentally.
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For me, yoga went beyond physical benefits and I wanted to spread this knowledge to others. I observed there were people seeking solutions to their physical and mental health problems but didn’t have the proper guidance. I decided to move into a space where I was not just beautifying people externally but also internally. I want to teach people that yoga goes beyond sitting in one place and doing kapalabhati and losing weight.
Today I am a holistic wellness coach and I have a diploma in yogic science, followed by a teacher’s training course and M.A. in Yogashashtra. I am also an internationally certified yoga teacher in the World Yoga Alliance and gold medalist in yoga at the national level. My thirst for learning continues as I am currently pursuing my PhD in Yoga. I believe that as a teacher if I stop learning, I should stop teaching.
I’ve also been fortunate to train with some reputed international coaches in acro yoga, aerial yoga, Ashtanga and Iyengar yoga along with traditional hatha yoga. I combine all of these into my yoga sessions.
Since I was a part of the fashion industry for over a decade, I have witnessed celebrities struggling to fit into specific beauty standards. I understood their struggles since I was bullied as a child in school for not having a ‘standard’ body. The shaming continued in my dance class as well as I did not have the typical ‘curves’ that a dancer needed. I wanted to end that.
When I decided to take up yoga as a career, I promised myself that I would never bow down to the commercialisation of this industry. I didn’t take the easy path of selling my yoga as a weight loss solution. I have battled the pain of social validation and body shaming and self-loathing. I believe that yoga is for everybody, and it’s not about weight loss–instead, it is about good health and self-worth.
For me, yoga is about pausing, breathing, sitting back and achieving stillness. It’s okay if you don’t practice a headstand every day. Your self-practice should be about listening to your body and mind. That is the most original form of yoga.
Naushina is a celebrity stylist, fitness expert, and yogini.