Times of India, 21 Dec 2017
How do you forge a deeper connection with yourself if you aren’t doing what you love? For Hariprasad Varma, the answer has been clear since the beginning of this year – especially because he has melded his passions for travel and yoga.
Hariprasad, who hails from Tripunithura, Ernakulam, calls himself a ‘Yogapreneur’ and is aiming to spread the practice of yoga through his travels. “I specialise in providing customised, individual sessions but didn’t have a fixed space for a studio. I love traveling, and so thought why not combine yoga with my other interests such as trekking, storytelling and tarot reading. It would serve as a vacation for me as well, and that’s how the concept began to take shape,” he says.
This year, he has already travelled to Hampi, Uttar Kashi, Kashmir and Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary. “The idea is to hold a yoga workshop in every State; to create a space for yoga as I travel,” says Hariprasad who runs Yogasala and Tarot Dojo.
For Hariprasad, Traveling has been “a healing process”. “I was in Delhi for four years, trying to get through the Civil Services exams. Traveling used to be my way of busting the steam. It also had a healing effect. That’s how I started loving the mountains and trekking”, he says.
Those travels sowed the seeds for his yoga ventures. “I realised that most people were not aware of yoga and its benefits, and I wanted to at least introduce them to it. The easiest way for me was to combine it with my interests. Traveling has helped me through tough times and I wanted to complement it with something meaningful,” he says.
As a result, Hariprasad started organising retreats in varied locations, collaborating with other yoga trainers, trekking groups and storytellers. While some of the locales are planned, some like the one in Kashmir was ad hoc.
“I had gone for the Kashmir Great Lakes trek a few years ago, and wanted to do it again this year. So, I tagged along with a group. Since we walk close to 17 kms a day, starting early in the morning, we had to warm up. So, the group leader asked me to give a class and that’s how we sort of converted it into a workshop,” he says.
For the planned workshops, however, Hariprasad says that he takes into account the geography and uniqueness of the location. “In Hampi, we planned our classes on top of the Elephant Stable and at the Sunrise Point on the hill top next to Hanuman Temple. Also, we had a lot of heritage walks. In Uttar Kashi, the session was on the banks of Yamuna and we also trekked to Yamunotri. In Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary, we trekked few kilometres inside the forest and even had a full moon meditation session in one of the nights,” he says.
The criteria for choosing the locations, Hariprasad says, are that “they should offer an enriching experience to the beginners and also be a place that I have never been to. All the places where we had retreat this year were varied as one was a mountain, another a World Heritage Site, and the latest a forest. The good thing about these places is that there is no mobile connectivity.”
The diversity is also present in how he imparts the yoga classes in retreats. “There is a mix of storytelling and tarot reading, which sustains the interest in yoga among the attendees,” Hariprasad explains.
On how successful he has been in his mission of initiating people to yoga, Hariprasad says, “Some people connect with yoga deeply because it reconnects them with their breath and makes them more conscious. Others are more interested in the trekking part and the sense of adventure it entails.”
While he enjoys yoga and travel, Hariprasad, who has worked with tech giants Google and Amazon, is also working as a digital consultant and trainer, based in Hyderabad. “The perks of the job are that most of the trainings are given online and all I need is a laptop and broadband connection. Last month, I was at Auroville, giving the training from a tree house. A few months ago, I was attending a yoga retreat by a friend in Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh and did the training in between breaks,” he says.
For 2018, he has already started a course, with travels planned to Meghalaya in January and a dream yoga workshop in the pristine Havelock Island in Andaman.
The New Indian Express – 19 May 2017
Modern time has seen yoga being tied to eccentric practices. Some variants like beer yoga and stiletto yoga have taken the internet by storm. The common perception of the ancient Indian practice is hence restricted to its mere physical aspects. Acharya Hariprasad Varma’s collaborative workshop with educationist Deepa Kiran, however, imparts a different idea of tradition through the art of storytelling.
“If you observe, yoga and storytelling have certain similarities. While the former intends to make a person aware of their own body and patterns of mind, the latter encourages an individual to observe what emotions the tale evokes within,” explains the 31-year-old guru, when asked about pairing these seemingly distinct realms. Also, both the trainers being familiar with each other’s sphere of expertise helps them design this day-long workshop. Deepa—who’s also a national award-winning academician in the field of ‘storytelling in pedagogy’—pulls in her knowledge of Iyengar yoga to create stories pertaining to the form.
Flexing the Mind
So, how do they blend the exclusively-designed stories with the age-old discipline? “We weave a story on a quality which represents an ashtanga (eight limbs or branches). After this, the participants will be trained to look into their own self and communicate what the narrative evokes,” says Hariprasad, who is trained in the Krishnamacharya tradition of the practice. Each member of the session will be acquainted with deep-breathing techniques and prompted to express themselves through activities like painting or songs.
The duo’s activities are designed to suit teenagers and adults, as they believe that a certain maturity is essential for completing these.“Every individual is crowded by technology and most people grow up to be adults who are detached from their present reality,” Hariprasad reiterates the importance to stay in touch with one’s own self and the immediate environment. The group-intensive workshop also creates a space to strengthen bonds in an age which, according to the trainer, has ‘attached bathrooms-but-detached relationships’.