Life coach Sudhir Maheshwari, 40, doesn’t quite understand the concept of work-life balance. “Are you not living when you’re working? Is your life something separate that happens outside of the perimeters of the walls that you call work?” he asks, amused. An ex-monk, an ex-professor and an MBA graduate, Maheshwari, founder of Mystic Yoga, addresses this issue with the How to Live programme.
“The most common query we get from anyone who lands up at one of our four studios or cafes is how to achieve that elusive state of balance,” he says. At Mystic Yoga, they address it through multiple ways. Mystic Therapeutic classes are for those who are struggling with “flexibility, backache or knee pain, fatigue, or stress from daily activities or are recovering from an illness or injury”. Mystic and intermediate yoga is more for fitness.
YM or Yoga and Meditation classes are two hour classes with an hour of yoga and half an-hour each of chanting and meditation. Personal sessions are also offered to those seeking more guidance. And since they acknowledge that after the daily grind of office, yoga, meditation and home, even the most balanced person can get tired of the monotony, they also organise yoga retreats.
“We take a group of members to ashrams or camps, where they can connect with nature, practise yoga in the fresh open air and live simply in a disciplined manner for these few days,” says co-founder, Chirashree Ghosh, 47. It becomes a way to be one with your self. “You stay in simply decorated rooms, you practise yoga twice a day and participate in group activity. This way one learns to disconnect with the worries of life and work in harmony with others,” says Ghosh, who recently concluded a retreat in Tinchuley with the Maheshwaris.
Brothers, Sudhir and Abhishek Maheshwari, 33 and friend Chirashree Ghosh, were practising yoga as a personal practice long before it became a commercially viable proposition. While they all trained for different careers, yoga remained intrinsically linked through their lives. Instead of joining the corporate rat race after his MBA, Sudhir decided to become a monk.
“I trained as a monastic in the ashrams of Paramahansa Yogananda and learned yoga philosophy and Raja Yoga meditation system for six years. But later I realised that the life of an ascetic is not for me,” he says. Armed with a degree, and years of yogic wisdom, he became a professor. It was while teaching at the Wigan & Leigh College, Kolkata, that he met Ghosh, who has a masters in Comparative Literature from Jadavpur University, and taught Communicative English, and discovered their shared love for yoga.
For Ghosh, who is also trained in Indian classical music and dance, yoga was already part of her ethos. “Bharatnatyam’s basic principles are rooted in yoga,” she says. The two would teach and conduct corporate workshops on stress management, time management and allied areas when it occurred to them that the concept of how to live and achieve balance is answered through yoga and ayurveda.
Sudhir’s younger brother, software professional, Abhishek, was in Sri Lanka on an offsite project for a multi-national company, when Sudhir suggested the idea.
Abhishek, who used to tag along with his elder brother to ashrams while growing up and also continued his yoga practice, quit his job “at the drop of a hat”. “I told him our plan and he came back to the country in two days,” says Sudhir.
“We spent a lot of time developing the concept and what our product would be and finally opened Mystic Yoga in 2010,” says Abhishek. Starting with corporate sessions on yoga and stress management, the studio grew from its first outlet in Salt Lake to others in Lake Avenue and Camac Street.
Ghosh was already “providing nutritional guidance based on ayurvedic diet and conducting detoxification programmes for members of the Mystic Yoga Studio”. This is when she realised that a space must be dedicated to eating healthy. The Mystic Yoga cafÃ© was thus born in 2014, with a simple menu that emphasises on nutrition rather than calories.
“Healthy need not always mean bland food,” says Sudhir, who made it a point to keep desserts like apple pie on the menu. But even if you do stick to their healthy specials, their simple but nutritious array of juices, smoothies, salads, soups, wraps, sandwiches and rice platters chase away any preconceptions of starving yogis.
The founders also bring out a monthly newsletter called Mystic Yoga, which is available not just for subscription but also on the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store. The magazine and its storehouse of articles on every aspect of yoga costs a little under Rs 100.