Alvin Thomas meets Deepali Kumar, a former journalist whose path to self-discovery has led her to a whole new career.
It has been a while since I did an interview for Coffee with Y, so I wanted to find someone with an inspiring story to tell.
And during my recent outing at the Muscat Marathon 2017, I happened to meet Deepali Kumar, who works with a wellness institute, and she fits the bill.
During a brief chat with her, I learned that Deepali is a former journalist and a very proficient yogi
who actually gave up her career in media to pursue her true passion and love: yoga.
Our meeting point was Oman Avenues Mall, where we decided to meet for coffee although Deepali, 25, doesn’t actually drink the “survival juice” anymore as part of the strict lifestyle she has adopted.
As a matter of fact, she tells me that coffee is one of the many things from her past she has let go of since starting yoga.
“If you knew me a few years back, you would be shocked to see the changes I have made to my life. Especially after practising yoga,” laughs Deepali.
She was born in Oman, and has resided in the country for most of her life. Talking to her, I also learned that she is actually an “Oman aficionado”, meaning that she knows the country inside out. “Oman is home and I cannot think of any other city as my hometown.”
But she has not always had a deep sense of inner tranquility. As a former student of an Indian school in Oman, she suffered bullying.
“My time at school was terrible. I was bullied and even shamed as a student. And because I wasn’t the brightest kid in school, I was even picked on by teachers,” she says.
“And as a woman who was growing up, it led to a lot of issues with my self-esteem. I suddenly became confused about myself: I didn’t know if I was even capable of doing things on my own.
“The sad part is that it is not just me who goes through this on a daily basis. This sort of hatred is what shapes the women of today, and that is what they take into their careers and their lives.”
Luckily, however, Deepali was able to find support from her friends when she shifted to Mumbai to pursue a degree in mass communications – and used that as leverage to forge a career in journalism.
“My time in college really helped me shed all the negative energy I had garnered from school. If it weren’t for my time there, I really would have lost myself when I got back,” she exclaims.
In 2012, Deepali was taken on as a reporter for a magazine in Oman. Soon, she went on to become the assistant editor. However, in 2013, she made the shift from journalism to public relations to get a taste the corporate world.
But she tells me that her life in a business environment didn’t last long, and soon, she decided to adopt a new lifestyle – one that she knew nothing about.
“A year and four months into my job, I realised that, despite being content with work and my life in Oman, I wasn’t fulfilling my inner desires. I just wanted to get rid of the shackles that bound me and live a new life. I wanted to escape.
This was also when Deepali’s interest in yoga grew. Soon, she acquired a video of the 30 Days Beginner’s Challenge yoga video by Adriene, from YouTube.
“The first time I got on a mat, I was doing everything wrong and became disappointed in myself. But as the days passed by, I could see so much progress. Suddenly, I realised that I was getting very confident with the way my body worked. I also saw movements in my body that I never knew I could achieve. But above all, I was able to attain a level of concentration and peace that I never could achieve by my time behind a desk at work.”
So in November 2015, Deepali made the toughest decision of her life – pack her bags and head to Chennai, where she would start training at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, an institute with decades of training experience in yoga.
“Yoga affected me in ways I cannot even explain to you. It did so much for me. I accepted myself as the person I am, and healed any wounds that were left open,” she explains.
During this time, Deepali also became intrigued by yoga rehabilitation, and decided to train as a professional yoga therapist – to help others deal with various physical and mental problems.
“Krishnamacharya [a yogi, healer, linguist, Vedic scholar, expert in the Indian schools of thought, researcher and author], had a very different approach to yoga. He didn’t believe in the westernisation of yoga but was still very secular in his approach.
“What he successfully did was disconnect religion and faith – thereby giving us yogis an option to choose whichever path we wanted to,” explains Deepali.
“That’s why I decided that I wanted to become a yoga therapist. I don’t simply want to use yoga as a medium to heal sick people, I want to sit down and listen to the various problems a person is facing, and then use yoga as a channel to counsel his or her problems away.
“For example, you’re diagnosed with anxiety, you will most likely be put on medication. But, these medications will take a toll on your body. And with yoga therapy I aim to cure these sicknesses using alternative methods, which have been used in yoga for centuries.
“One thing about having a strong mind is that you can beat any form of negativity. For instance, my mother is a three-time cancer survivor, and I believe that it is her positive mindset that helped her get through the ordeal than the actual medicines that she was exposed to. And if that doesn’t show the power of the mind, then what will?”
Deepali is due to obtain a degree in yoga therapy from the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in July, after which she is expected to begin “training” patients, but whether or not she stays in Oman to practice remains to be seen. “Life is so spontaneous. I don’t know where it will take me next,” she says.
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