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“Flow doesn’t come to those who try to do things well…it comes to those who try to do things freely.” This quote by prolific author and therapist, Barry Michels, sums up hula hoop artiste, Eshna Kutty’s journey. Some call her virality on social media a “stroke of luck”, but not many know of her relentless pursuit of this art for over a decade now.
The Genda Phool video that took the internet by storm is a testament to her love and passion for flow arts. Draped in a saree and sneakers, Eshna pulled off some of the most complex moves with such effortlessness. It was her confidence that shone through, and netizens couldn’t stop discussing how much “swag” she had. But there’s always more to it than meets the eye.
In an exclusive chat with Health Shots, Eshna shares with us about her style of hula hooping, how it has transformed her as a person, and how instant fame has also given rise to endless pressures.
Eshna got acquainted with hula hooping after she watched a YouTube video many years ago. With time, she realised it was a part of flow arts — a term used to describe the intersection of a variety of movement-based disciplines.
As a graduate in psychology from Delhi University, she was initially looking to pursue clinical psychology, but realised how movement impacted her life in so many ways.
“I believe I am someone who expresses better with my body than I do with my verbal skills. That’s when I decided to pursue an alternative form of therapy. What makes movement therapy different from a dance class is that you are not teaching choreography or skill; it’s more about how you are feeling when you are doing a certain movement. I had pursued a course in movements therapy from TISS, and at the same time, I was also hooping. I think personally, for me, both the worlds collided,” says Eshna.
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Her style of teaching hula hooping blends in movement therapy, and that’s what makes it different. That’s because Eshna has always believed in the holistic nourishment of the mind and body.
“At the end of the day, my goal with hooping was never to promote that perfect body, because that concept in itself is so flawed. It’s all about how comfortable you feel in your body, regardless of what shape and size it comes in. I think that’s what hooping has done for me — it has given me the confidence to be comfortable in my own skin,” adds Eshna.
Saree, sneakers and a hula hoop are the perfect ingredients for non-conformity. But ask Eshna if she’s always been like this, and she’s quick to say, “I feel I have been non-conformist because of my parents. They’ve never been the kinds who have said science lena chahiye. My father is a filmmaker, my mother a journalist, and my grandfather sings. So, there’s a lot of art in the family. I’ve never been stopped from doing anything that I enjoy.”
She also believes that it is her educational background that has helped to shape her identity. Eshna was a student at LSR, and it is there that she was surrounded by several strong women and feminists. Later, during her stint at TISS, she became more socially aware.
“Initially, I would try wearing heels, putting on makeup; basically, I tried to fit in. Eventually, I realised not only did it make me uncomfortable, but I was not very good at it. On a good day, I might feel a certain way and want to look pretty, because I feel like it. On another day, I might not want to. I have that sense of individuality, where I understand what I want in the here and now, and that’s what makes all the difference,” adds Eshna.
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Eshna believes that when you pick up any hobby, it starts with buying an object. There is initial excitement, but as you go deeper, you start tapping into yourself and your emotions.
“After five years of hula hooping, I questioned myself – why was I still doing it? It all came down to how it made me feel. There were times when I would not do it straight for six months, because I always thought of it as a hobby. What I eventually realised is that hooping is such a safe space for me, where I come back and feel at home. It makes you feel you can do so much with your body that you had never even imagined doing,” she adds.
Eshna believes “a plastic pipe” has helped her imbibe several life skills. That’s because a “hoop keeps falling down, you pick it up and spin it again.”
“With hooping, there’s so much to do with being in the moment and expressing in ways you had never imagined. I think it starts with accepting, expressing and eventually expanding your scope. I have taken live classes online through the pandemic, and we have a sharing circle at the end. I felt so good when so many people told me “they’ve hooped their way” through the pandemic. I feel hooping is such a non-competitive space; there’s no right or wrong movement. It’s just how your body moves – it’s an open canvas, you can paint it however you like,” says Eshna.
Eshna feels she received instant fame and recognition, instead of things happening gradually. She didn’t have the bandwidth to process it over time, and accept new changes.
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“In two days, I had over 100K followers. I thought I was handling it well, but in retrospect, I wasn’t. In the last six months, I have barely put out my hooping videos. Somewhere, I feel social media fame has hindered my practice, I have a sense of self-doubt. You know when a musician hits their best song, early on in their career; I think that’s what happened with me. I hit my peak with the Genda Phool saree flow video. Personality or skill-wise, it wasn’t my best video, but the audience will always see it as my peak,” reveals Eshna.
She says there are times when people tell her that she can never match up to that video, while others say she is riding on the “saree wave”.
“I am in that zone, where saree flow is starting to have its own definition. There are women who are doing back flips, cooking and yoga wearing sarees. I feel saree flow doesn’t have a face to it now, it has become a country-wide thing, and I like that. I feel this way I am going to get back my identity,” she says.
“Every time I have taught something to a woman versus a man, I have always had to push a woman more. They are always unsure if they will be able to do it, but with men, that’s different. And guess what? Women are fully capable of it. It’s just that women won’t pick up something or a hobby, because it doesn’t fit into their role. I feel if they found a way of tapping into it just by trying it out, they will understand they can do anything,” says Eshna, signing off.