Chandana – Stand Up For Yourself
Chandana is an inspirational Ashtanga yoga teacher, always with a smile and positive vibes. But she also has a background that´s been far away from positive. This is a touching story about strength and determination.
CHANDANA, PLEASE TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF, WHERE DID YOU GROW UP AND WHERE ARE YOU LIVING NOW?
I was born and brought up in Jamshedpur. Childhood was really a blessing cause I grew up in a joint family surrounded by cousin, super loving grandma and lots of relatives. Schooling was also fun, because I was always into sports and mountaineering. Then my college and post grads degree took me to Pune. This is where I live now.
WHEN AND HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH YOGA?
Well as I mentioned, I was an athlete in school. During my first year in college, with no sports and unhealthy hostel eating, I was a good 78kg of unhealthy mass. So when I went back home for my brothers marriage, he just kept staring at me. He wanted his old sister back (he is my best critic). The day after that, I went to my football coach, he introduced me to Asana practice. This was in 2000 and then 2010, after quitting my corporate carrier, I made Yoga studies and teaching my life.
WHEN YOU WERE 29 YOU WENT TO THE STATES TO MEET A MAN, WHO YOU ALSO MARRY IN 2010. PLEASE TELL US ABOUT IT AND WHAT HAPPENED SHORTLY AFTER.
Yes I did go to the States to meet a guy to spend some time with him, I guess my decision to marry him was an impulsive one made under family pressure (well, 29 is considered to be pretty late than the usual marriageable age). So yes the marriage happened but soon after we reached and settled in US, the verbal abuse started. It was really demeaning, so I decided to come back to India. The abuse continued, so I finally asked for a divorce after two years. I should have put my foot down then, but gave him a few more chances to improve. That didn't go well at all. In 2013 after I came back from an ankle surgery, he sexually abused me. That's when I fought for my freedom and I am really happy now.
WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST DRIVE FOR MOTIVATION, TO KEEP YOUR STRENGTH TO STAND UP FOR YOURSELF?
My practice, my study is my life, my Sadhana. My life revolves around it. When this man chose to physical harm me cause I was not strong enough to protect myself. All I thought about was my leg. I was already thinking about my freedom, my life without him... So I never mourned or was depressed over what happened to me. I was already thinking of my life beyond that moment. My life in my yogic path. I have been very vocal about what I went through cause it not only made me strong, it gave immense confidence & strength to my parents and also I get to reach more individual who need help & support .
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO HIM IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE?
Be a good man.
ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE TO SAY TO THOSE WHO IS GOING THROUGH THE SAME THING.
Stand up for yourself. Silence never helps and yes I know it's not easy, but never feel sorry for yourself. You are not at fault.
TODAY YOU´RE WORKING AS AN ASHTANGA YOGA TEACHER. CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT A USUAL DAY FOR YOU?
I am smiling as I write this. I get up at 2:30 AM, my practice starts at 3:30 AM and I am off for classes at 6. Teaching goes on till 11 AM, back home for some rest and I have my last meal around 3:30 in the afternoon. Post that either I work on my mails or meet friends. Bedtime is sharp 8.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE THING THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF ACHIEVING?
Ahhh life is so full, it's hard to pick one. The trophies in school, the weight loss, the achievements during my corporate life, the first time when I met and touched my Gurujis feet. There are so many. Cannot pick one.
WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY?
Hahaha... again difficult to pick one. Dancing, trees, dew drops on the grass, mountains, sea, practice, the heat that comes up when I do Ashtanga Yoga, teaching, then aha moments when a student gets the asana for the first time, my family, my brother, my friends and sometimes some special strangers who fly by your life.
SUM UP YOUR LIFE IN 5 WORDS
I feel truly blessed. Gratitude.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS YEAR?
Being more conscious and a good help to humanity.
CHANDANA, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR TAKING YOUR TIME AND SHARING YOUR STORY WITH US. IT TAKES A LOT OF COURAGE, YOU´RE TRULY AN INSPIRATION.
Photos by Bimal - IG: @bimal_nair