The girl who abandoned her architect’s job to become a yogi   

Picture for representation purposes only

If you think all millennials are the same, think again. While from a distance, one might imagine all millennials to be reckless selfie addicts trapped in a rabbit hole of ‘likes’ and followers, a closer look might reveal that many young adults are indeed focussed, driven, and know exactly what they want and how to achieve it.

One such representative of the Generation Y is Aayushi Bansal who risked her promising career as an architect to encourage the practice of yoga. An alumni of RV School of Architecture in Bengaluru (2012), University of Arts in London (2013), and Florence Institute of Design in Italy (2016), Aayushi worked as an architect and interior designer for three and a half years before deciding to take the plunge as an entrepreneur.

Aayushi Bansal

Aayushi forayed into the world of yoga at the early age of nine, and her inspiration to continue this journey came from her teacher Swati Chanchani who happened to be a direct disciple of BKS Iyengar. Needless to say, abhyasa became a second nature to her, and even as she continued to focus on her academics and other endeavours, yoga continued to be a part of her daily routine. Therefore, it came as no surprise to her folks when in July 2017, she made her decision known to quit her regular job as an architect and start her own yoga studio Svatma.

THE DRIVING FORCE

Aside from her deep-rooted passion for yoga, Aayushi found a good deal of encouragement during her many expeditions around the world. She made it a point to find a yoga studio and practice in every country she visited. During those visits, she observed how deeply the western world values yoga; and despite having its origins in India, its importance is only beginning to be realised here. THAT was her beckoning. So, she saved up enough, rented a studio, and invited people to roll out their mats and begin their practice.

“Since entrepreneurship has its fair share of perils, was there any opposition from anyone?” we asked.

“I come from a family of businessmen who are into steel manufacturing. They understand the risks, pitfalls, and rewards that comes with owing a business. So, thankfully there was no opposition, on the other hand, they were quite supportive of my decision,” Aayushi replied in a calm demeanour.

With regard to the kind of homework that goes into the setting up of a business like this, Aayushi explained that her personal journey came in handy. A bit of planning went into marketing, operations, and identifying a suitable location. The studio is located near UB City in Bengaluru which surprisingly has a dearth of yoga studios. This helped in getting visibility and attracting enthusiastic students who would otherwise have to travel long distances for their practice.

She managed the investment herself because the costs are low. All that yoga practice needs is a clean spacious room, mats and lots and lots of practice. And thanks to her background in architecture and interior designing, she designed the studio herself. She has a total of nine teachers including herself who conduct 34 classes over the week and weekends. The variety of teachers bring their own flavours to teaching which has been well received by students, she says.

The business model isn’t a very complicated one either – reasonably priced classes leaves a profitable margin after meeting expenses like rent, bills, and paying the teachers their dues.

A snapshot of the yoga classroom

 “Is there anything at all that you lose your sleep over?” we teased.

“Well, I can’t teach people to relieve stress if I stress over things myself,” she laughs. “The whole point of being a yoga practitioner is to be able to keep it together under all circumstances. Abhyasa isn’t just confined to your physical fitness alone. Its benefits are far-reaching, and they seep into your psychology, personality, and overall mental wellbeing.”

It is however impossible to ignore the makeover Yoga has received in the 21st century. What began as a simple practice on a mat aimed at ‘inner transformation’ has rather transformed into a consumerism stunt in many instances. The onslaught of franchises, apparel brands, hash-tagged images of fancy postures, and new genres popping up, seems to have diluted the very essence of yoga – its simplicity. This commodification of yoga in some cases ends up being an ego inflating exercise. How then, in this contemporary atmosphere does one remain true to the spirit of being an honest Yoga teacher?

Svatma has its priorities in place. The idea behind it was to generate awareness about yoga and more importantly encouraging people to practice regularly. Although, Aayushi’s vision for Svatma is to open studios in other countries, she doesn’t plan on opening any other studios in Bengaluru. Instead, she and her team of teachers regularly conduct workshops and retreats to help people imbibe yoga in their lives. There is no massive marketing or expansion plans, rather reaching out continues to be the key focus.

Through the looking glass, does this young entrepreneur see herself doing anything else?

Aayushi doesn’t plan on taking any other undertakings immediately, but in the long run, she sees herself exploring her creative side and starting her own brand of high-end furniture.

Millennials wanting to be entrepreneurs is no longer breaking news. There are no dearth of ideas and innovation. But how many of us really make it to the end of the line is still a question mark! The success of a business venture, or any risk worth taking lies in focus, discipline, and consistency. Whether you’re practicing asanas on a mat or running a business, you are the carrot, you are the stick.

Aayushi Bansal is one such young individual who is an embodiment of this optimism, ingenuity and chutzpa of India’s millennial entrepreneurs. Yoga can surely help build the much-required discipline and inner-strength all entrepreneurs need to have in their DNA. Power to yoga!

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