In July 2018, Prateek Shah of Humans Defynd was kind enough to ask me for an interview to learn about my journey from Google to Yogaśāla. FB memory popped this up in my timeline today. Sharing the interview below.
We tried and tried real hard to summarise Hariprasad Varma‘s life and journey in a few sentences, but no matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t succeed. Meet the man who’s doing more than you imagine! Yoga Guru, Digital Marketing Trainer, Consultant and much much more! Fascinating read follows!
Q. Who are you, where you do live and what do you presently do?
A. I’m Hariprasad. I live in Hyderabad. I’m a Yogapreneur and founder of Yōgaśāla (www.yogasala.org) – a location-independent platform to travel and create spaces for yoga on the go! I am specialised in designing customised yoga practices for individuals and follow the Krishnamacharya tradition of yoga, popularly known as Viniyoga. I also organise yoga retreats across India in offbeat and exotic locations every few months. On a daily basis, I teach 1:1 yoga classes to individuals in Hyderabad.
I’m also a digital marketing consultant and trainer. I lead online and offline digital marketing training programs for a Delhi-based company, Digital Vidya. I also take up independent digital consulting work for start ups and agencies when time permits.
Q. How did you end up doing what you do and what has your journey been like?
A. It has been an incredibly exciting and at times terrifying journey. After pursuing Science stream after 10th grade in school, I chose to pursue graduation in English literature. Being from Kerala where Engineering and Medicine were the default option for majority students, it was an unconventional and ‘risky’ choice for a Science student. I had two dreams then – to become an IAS officer and to be a journalist. And then all of a sudden, in my final year of graduation Google came for campus recruitment at my college. There was no history of any selection from our college before that year, and so a bunch of us cooly walked in for the interview with zero expectations. Next thing I knew, I was sitting in the final round of interview and in next few weeks got an email confirming my selection to Google India along with four other classmates! I moved out of Cochin to Hyderabad and my Google stint started.
IAS and journalism dreams took a back seat temporarily and I thorough enjoyed life as a Googler. I got to meet some incredible people at Google and the entire work experience at Google was a tremendous learning curve for me. However, two years into work I figured I wanted to pursue my dream of attempting the civil services examination. And so I quit Google and moved to Delhi which became my home for the next four years. Four years where I shuttled between my 200 sq. ft. room in South Delhi and the coaching class. Except for a weekly heritage walk that I attended with some JNU and DU students, my life in Delhi was buried in books, debates and discussions with other aspirants. For the first time, I discovered that there is a way to learn anything. I fell in love with the process of learning. I had chosen Sociology and Malayalam literature as my subjects for the examination and completed MA in Sociology with Junior Research Fellowship from UGC in the very first year of study. However, I couldn’t crack the IAS examination. Meanwhile, I had got admission in Asian College of Journalism for Print Journalism after my first failed attempt at civil services exam. I had to choose between the two college dreams. I chose not to join the journalism course believing firmly that I’ll crack the IAS exam. And here I was four years later drawing a blank, unsure what to do next. I had no Plan B.
My last manager at Google and few colleagues used to be in touch with me tracking my attempts at the exam. All of them urged me to return to the industry and restart work in digital marketing. Seeing no other option I returned to the industry after a gap of four years working with couple of start ups and then with Accenture in Hyderabad. Truth be told I hated the desk job and there was lot of resentment in having to do the work which I had decided not to do four years ago. It was then that I decided to start yoga practice and asked for suggestion to a friend. I was directed to Yoga Vahini in Hyderabad which became a major turning point from thereon.
Yoga Vahini, founded by Saraswathi Vasudevan, taught yoga in the style of Krishnamacharya tradition. The focus of this style of yoga is on adapting the practice to the specific individual’s physical and mental requirements, instead of achieving some fancy or gymnastic postures. Inner work through yoga based on yoga sutras was also an important part of yoga teaching here. This style resonated deeply with me and I felt an urge to learn more. And so, before I knew I was part of a 1.5 years long Yoga Acharya training program with Yoga Vahini. I juggled my day job and the rigorous yoga teacher training program. I also started leading online digital marketing trainings on weekends with a Delhi based company during this time. I joined Amazon and moved to Bangalore in 2016.
During this time I got opportunity to be part of a project where I had to lead corporate wellness workshops for a company’s employees in Tripura, Assam, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh. The travels and teaching experience gave me a glimpse of how life could be if I pursued this path further. It was then that the concept of Yōgaśāla was born. I went on to establish Yōgaśāla as a location-independent platform to travel and create spaces for yoga on the go!
I also started organising yoga retreats across India collaborating with other yoga trainers, trekking groups and NGOs. The first retreat I organised was in Hampi, a week after I quit Amazon.
Since then I’ve organised / facilitated retreats in Hampi, Cochin, Uttar Kashi, Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary near Almora, Meghalaya and the latest one was in Kashmir last week. My next retreat is in Istanbul in November 2018. It will be an international retreat with particpants from both India and Turkey.
Q. Other than your work, what do you really like to do? Other than that thing, what else do you like to do?
A. I’m also a life coach, professional story teller, and tarot card reader!
I am in the process of completing my life coaching certification from TAO Leadership Academy in Bangalore. I’ve started holding coaching conversations with those in need, and hope to invest more time in this domain in the coming days.
I got trained in story telling by Deepa Kiran who is an international story teller based out of Hyderabad and my yoga batch mate. Together, we developed a workshop on introducing yoga through story telling for adults and kids.
I stumbled upon tarot card reading in 2016 through a friend and soon got professionally trained. What started of as a hobby soon turned into a professional service when I started getting requests for consultations. I founded Tarot Dojo (www.tarotdojo.com) and now take professional tarot consultations during my free time.
I am trained in counselling by Sujata Potay, an eminent psychotherapist based in Hyderabad and founder of Inner Horizons. The training I received from her over ten years back laid foundation for many of the inner work processes I learnt later on.
I’m also underoing a teacher training course in healing chants from Yajur Veda by Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram. It is a two year program where we learn to integrate Vedic Chants into the yoga practice that we design for individuals.
I’m also getting trained in yoga sutras and inner work through yoga by my mentors at Yoga Vahini and Ritambhara.
Apart from this, I also take up digital marketing consulting assignments for SMBs when time permits.
Q. Do you like to travel? If yes, which is your fondest memory from the recent past?
A. Of course, my life is all about travel now! There are many memories that comes rushing in. One of the fondest memories is eating lunch with a village family in their hut in Nagin Valley in Gulmarg, few kilometers away from LOC. As we ate the delicious roti and dal, they narrated stories of how they move out of that village to Baramullah during winter as snow covers all the houses and tourists ski on top of that snow during that time!
Q. What do you think are your goals in life?
A. Experiencing fulfilment in my daily actions is something that I aspire for and focus on these days. Self-reflection and exploring the many dimensions within me is also a constant goal in my life.
Q. How do you define happiness? How do you find happiness?
A. Santushti is the term that is coming to my mind. A deep sense of contentment, not feeling the need to acquire and hoard more and more, feeling of having enough….I think these to me are indicators of happiness. I experience happiness when I experience something fully and deeply, being one with the experience without any distractions.
Q. In your wildest dreams, if not your present occupation, what would you have liked to do?
A. As a child, I wanted to be a magician at some point. After watching my one and ony live magic show, I even bought a magic set and numerous magic books! But honestly, life seems quite magical today. I think somewhere along the way I’ve come to realise all of life is a magic and we can discover miracles in the ordinary and mundane things of life.
Q. Can you share one (or more) extra (or ordinary) thing / incident about your life which is fairly fascinating?
A. – Sometimes I surprise myself with my tarot readings. Hahah! The kind of heartening reviews I receive is always a fascinating experience for me.
– The fact that I am able to make out a living much better than my earlier corporate life by combining digital marketing, yoga, tarot, story telling and life coaching is a fairly fascinating dream come true for me.
Q. One (or more) book / movie you think everybody should read / see?
A. Book – Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Siddhartha.
Movie – Peaceful Warrior
Q. Your life’s mantra(s) – something that you live by?
A. Keep Smiling! – This is borrowed from my school motto.