Today we’d like to introduce you to Rutu Chaudhari.
Rutu, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I came to yoga with a bit of hesitation and cynicism during college. I had no interest in practicing yoga because no one that looked like me did it. In my mind, yoga was something white women did. This is ironic because I am an Indian immigrant and yoga comes from India, but in the West, I didn’t relate to the practice. I finally tried it because a friend was teaching a donation class and insisted I attend. The first class I took changed my life.
Being an immigrant, a person of color and a woman living in the south is pretty loaded. On top of this, my family life was violent and traumatic. By the time I was in college, I had anxiety and depression and I did not have the healthiest ways of dealing with it.
During my first yoga class, I experienced a feeling that has inspired me since. I felt a sense of presence, relief, and a letting go of the weight of the past I held for so long in my body. I had a glimpse into a new way of being, enough so to make me continue and become a diligent practitioner. Yoga helped me manage my anxiety, shift my body image and feel good. It became my therapy. Yoga taught me to confront my daily challenges with authenticity, clarity and creativity.
I decided to study and teach yoga and have been teaching in Atlanta since 2004. I opened a yoga studio in 2011 and in 2016, I started a nonprofit called the Dharma Project in response to the elitism and exclusion of the Western Yoga culture. When we think of yoga, what comes to mind for most people is affluent women with expensive pants doing painful contortions of the body. What yoga actually provides is healing, self-examination and transformation. It is a tool to integrate not only the disparate parts of our own self but also, to unite the separation we’ve created all around us, be it our communities, our food, our planet, etc. Performing a posture is what we have reduced yoga to when what is it truly teaches us is to evolve, love and unite. That is its purpose.
The Dharma Project is an initiative to use the platform of yoga to create social change. We bring the powerful and transformative tools of yoga and meditation to communities that have experienced or are currently experiencing high levels of stress and trauma. We work with police officers, teachers, young adults from low-income school systems, frontline non-profit staff and many more. Additionally, the Dharma Project aims to change the perception of yoga and reframe the narrative of who does yoga. We seek to cultivate a leadership in yoga that is representative of the communities that exist in our city by offering yoga teacher certification scholarships to people of color, men, various body sizes, those who identify as LGBTQ, etc.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The road has not been smooth but it has been joyful. I am fortunate to have a generous community that supports this work.
A big challenge is that yoga has a branding problem. We treat it like fitness because many studios and teachers have made it about a workout. Yoga and meditation are two of the most effective tools for physical and mental health. They deserve to be respected and included as such in Western Healthcare.
Another challenge is that it is difficult to earn a living as a yoga instructor. The value of the art has been diminished by commercialization, appropriation and greed. The Dharma Project aims to lift the financial standards of yoga teaching and create sustainable yoga careers for instructors.
My advice to other women just starting on their journey is to seek that which makes you uncomfortable and walk towards your fear. Invest your time, resources and energy into cultivating your craft and being the best at what you do. Don’t settle for being good, be great! Find mentors and remove your filters so you can learn from people that have what you want and have been where you are.
What should we know about All Life is Yoga/The Dharma Project? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
We are most proud of the inclusive and generous community created at All Life is Yoga. We are truly committed to inclusion and access and it reflects in our classes. In our classes, you will find every age group, race, body size, sexual orientation, gender, economic position, etc. We are proud of the mission of the Dharma Project to bring the healing practices of yoga to communities that have or are currently experiencing high levels of stress and trauma.
We specialize in alignment-based yoga, meditation, nutrition and lifestyle education, Beginner and advanced yoga teacher certification programs, restorative yoga, yoga therapy, trauma-based yoga, spinal traction and health, anatomy, safety, sustainability.
Who do you look up to? How have they inspired you?
My mother is my greatest inspiration. She is sincere, generous, kind, and forgiving. She loves unconditionally. The most important qualities one can have. She’s also the most amazing Indian cook!
My sister, Puja, for teaching me to be courageous and dream big from a very young age. And also for planting the yoga teaching seed in me.
Hunterwali A.K.A Lady with the Whip, Diamond Queen, Veer Rajuptani is my alias. Hunterwali was an early feminist voice in Indian cinema, She shifted the role of women in Bollywood and also spread humanist and social messages through the medium of film.
Jane Austen because I love her writing style and latent feminist thought wrapped in a veneer of entertainment.
Billie Holiday because she expressed her pain without reserve and created inimitable vocals in the process.
The Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram for her commitment to her soul and her personal journal of prayers. She inspires my meditation practice.
- We offer affordable yoga classes. $10 per class.
- Address: 27 Waddell St NE Suite D
Atlanta, GA 30307
- Website: www.alllifeisyoga.com, www.thedharmaproject.org
- Phone: 678-485-8993
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/alllifeisyoga/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alllifeisyoga/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/alllifeyoga
Michelle Norris, Forret Aguar, Kelly Lockman