After completing her cocooned life in school, her 5 years of higher education and 12 years of working as a corporate brand marketer, were all about fun, adventure, parties and ambition. What was missing? “Consciousness of self-care, concern about physical and mental health,” says 34-year-old Akanksha Sharma, a millennial who chose to quit her corporate hustle, pursue yoga full-time and share her wisdom with others.
Here’s Akanksha Sharma’s inspiring yoga story! Until 2018, when a major breathing issue drove her to an emergency ICU, she was under the illusion that her body could take anything. But this “shock” episode was her first alarm that her body was asking for help. “Good sense prevailed and I started to listen. I realized that I needed to start prioritizing my health too along with work. I started taking yoga classes. I loved my one hour of yoga practice after a hard day of work as it helped me switch off from work which I was never able to do before. That was my small win,” she recounts.
This wasn’t her first introduction to yoga. She enjoyed yoga classes even in middle school, but it met the same fate as other extra-curricular activities that people take up as kids. Contrary to the perception that millennials prefer a fast life, Akanksha says she never had preconceived notions about yoga being slow or boring. “Instead, I always thought that getting into asanas was super challenging. I set small goals for myself during the time I was learning and practising. That helped me become regular and consistent,” she adds.
Akanksha didn’t consider taking up yoga full-time until 2021 – when another unprecedented incident – her “biggest reality check” – shook her to the core. It was the year when Covid-19 unleashed its fury. Akanksha lost her father to the deadly coronavirus. “I never felt that kind of helplessness and heartbreak in my life… having both my parents struggling with Covid, losing my father, not being physically with them during the time they needed me, not being able to hug my mother or brother to console them. It was grief and pain I had never felt before,” she shares candidly.
Yet, instead of acknowledging that pain and listening to her mind, she tried to put on a brave front and get back to normal. “What I did not realize that time was that there was no ‘normal’ anymore,” she asserts, recounting that she finally gave up after six months of struggling with work and trying to scoop her grief under a blanket. She had also given up yoga during this phase and felt she was going down a deep dark hole.
But with her family’s support, she decided to break the pattern. She took a sabbatical from work to process her feelings and emotions.
Select Topics of your interest and let us customize your feed.PERSONALISE NOW
Her plan was not to become a yoga instructor, but life took its own course. “I moved to Himachal Pradesh for two and half months with my husband, had some solitary time, read books and practiced yoga every day even at 2-3 degrees. In April 2021, I went for a 4-week yoga teacher training course in Mysuru since I knew I wouldn’t get this kind of time again once I got back to work. I really wanted to experience it,” she says of the life-changing days.
The Sattvic food, the complete digital detox, the silence and only learning more about yoga helped her feel free to process everything that she was not being able to.
“I was able to accept my life and things happening in my life as they were. I cried my heart out, but I also learned how to smile and laugh again. I understood the worth of self-care, the strength of acknowledging our feelings and emotions and the massive amounts of strength and energy that we have in ourselves. By the end of those 4 weeks, all I knew was I couldn’t go back to what, where or who I was,” says the young Delhi-based girl.
The transformative power of yoga (benefits of yoga) led to Akanksha’s “inner calling” to be a medium to anyone who would accept her as their medium to learn this ancient practice of yoga that connects the mind, body and soul.
In hindsight, she feels that as a society, we value financial packages over passions, self love and self care so much that we don’t realise that there are alternative ways of living. However, Akanksha strongly believes that everything happens at the right time. “I found yoga at the time I needed it the most… I feel fitter, healthier and happier, more content in life, and yoga made me whole again!”
Akanksha has been teaching yoga for over a year now. The source of her small joys is when her students feel less anxious, stronger and less self critical of themselves and their bodies.
Many people may contemplate whether it is wise to quit a job to teach yoga. Even Akanksha admits she was very divided after her sabbatical. While her heart was pulling her towards yoga, her mind pulled her towards getting her financially secure job back. The struggle and stress was real for Akanksha.
Her savings of 12 years became her immediate saviour. But what strengthened her resolve further was how yoga helped her acknowledge and accept her emotions and thoughts. “So, I really did not want to go back to the 9-9 life. I realized I would not be happy there, and so I probably wouldn’t be great at it anymore. So, I decided to give myself the time to explore, to work hard towards my calling and rediscover myself at 34 years of age! I believe health is the only genuine currency we have and that’s what we should prioritize.”