In this week’s article of our Rediscovering Ayurveda series, we interviewed Naina Uttam.
Meet Naina Uttam
A mental health counsellor in training and yoga practitioner, Naina is a crusader of all things sustainable and natural. While 2020 wreaked havoc for many across the world, for Naina it was a time of blossoming change and becoming.
A formidable student of Bharatanatyam, Naina’s origins are deep-rooted in the harmonious village life with her grandfather formerly heading the farming community in her native place. Although Naina has always felt a deep inclination towards health and wellness, she discovered her calling and immeasurable love for yoga only a year and a half ago. “I started for very superficial reasons. I wanted to achieve splits and similar poses. But once I began with the process, I realized how alive and rejuvenated I felt doing the yoga flows. My mind and body felt more in sync and gradually yoga became the one thing I wanted to do upon waking up,” she says reminiscing the start of her yoga journey.
Also read: Yoga in the days of Menstruation
Given the abundance of time and space during the lockdown, Naina had the opportunity to explore yoga to her heart’s content. She sincerely believes that the impact she has experienced after incorporating yoga in life has been her biggest motivation to continue learning and exploring the different realms of yogic sciences. In retrospect, she says, if I look at my journey, I am really grateful to have come so far.
“It seems like a cakewalk online but a lot goes behind achieving a certain pose. I’ve learned so many life lessons while practicing yoga. Be it patience, consistency, self-acceptance, or the simple act of surrendering. There was a time when I wasn’t able to achieve a certain pose or flow and it would lead to a lot of frustration. But something within me kept saying ‘persist, persist, persist’ and so I did. It took a while but I was eventually able to achieve that pose with so much confidence and conviction instead of a hit and trial, and I am so grateful that I kept going.”
That said, Naina also understands that keeping yourself motivated can be quite tricky. “Motivation comes and goes,” she says. This is why she believes consistency, in any case for that matter, is key to success.
Yoga and mental wellness
Apart from its myriad physiological benefits, yoga is also known to help with calming the mind, grounding the soul, and bringing a balance in your mental wellbeing. Just when we are in the middle of a global mental health crisis, it is imperative that we understand the numerous healing benefits of yoga and how we can practice it sustainably. As a mental health professional in training, Naina elucidates the importance of yoga from a mental wellness perspective.
“The Ancient Healing Practices epitomize yoga as complementary and alternative medicine. While it may not be the most scientific way of treating mental health, there has been great research about yoga which suggests that it is synergistic to many techniques of psychotherapy,” explains Naina. However, she does insist that in case of a severe mental health crisis, yoga should not be viewed as a one-stop solution, neither should it be taken as a primary resort. One must definitely reach out for help to a mental health professional. You can find a therapist here.
A typical day in Naina’s life involves decluttering her room in the morning, performing a quick yoga flow to get started with the day, followed by therapy sessions that she takes under supervision and working out in the gym. A mindful vegan, Naina also enjoys making her meals, especially her delectable and colorful smoothies that you can check out on her Instagram @naina_uttam! Her evenings are reserved for spending time with loved ones, moments of pleasure and self-reflection.
On veganism and organic living
When asked what are the things she most cherishes about her organic and yogic lifestyle, she says:
“I really love performing yoga asanas because of the balance they bring in my life. Meditation is another thing that I enjoy doing but truth be told, it takes a lot of discipline, even more than the physical aspects, to be able to master it. But it is something I strive to do. The next thing that has really helped me is moving to a plant-based diet. It has enabled me to have clarity of thought which has further helped me elevate my energy levels.”
Naina’s journey to adopting a vegan lifestyle began when she found herself amid moments of epiphanies. “I was feeling a lot in conflict with myself especially when I was consuming meat but couldn’t walk past slaughterhouses. That was the point I confronted my hypocrisy and soon after, I got introduced to the vegan lifestyle,” describes Naina.
The more she delved into the existing research around veganism and its sustenance, the more inclined she felt towards the lifestyle. Quite fortunately, Naina has also been lucky to be surrounded by people who are not only encouraging of her endeavours but also participate with equal zest. “Ed Winters (@earthlinged) is one activist who has immensely helped me educate myself. Conversations with my boyfriend who is also a vegan have helped me understand the moral aspect of veganism,” adds Naina. That is not to say that a vegan lifestyle must be embraced by or is suitable to everyone. However, in today’s time and age, with the influence of the Internet, the least one can do is educate themselves about the impact of commercialization of the meat and dairy industry.
Indulging in self-care
Although eating clean does most of its magic, Naina does fancy a little self-care indulgence every once in a while.
“I don’t use a face wash regularly and only ever use it if I am exposed to dust. For scrubbing, I use coffee grounds that do wonders to my skin. Additionally, to keep my skin moisturized, I love to pamper my skin with hemp or coconut oil and use sheet masks whenever I have access to them!”
Today more than ever, with the availability of information online, awareness is remarkably accessible. On the relevance of yoga and Ayurveda in the contemporary world, Naina says, “Ayurveda speaks about holistic health and wellness and focuses on the consumption, healing and remedial aspects of the human body. Yoga on the other hand is incredulously vast and emphasizes the anatomical sync. Ashtanga Yoga has 8 limbs and Asana is only one part of it, so you can imagine how immense it is in its entirety.” Naina also believes that brands like Amrutam are actively working towards creating awareness about both yoga and Ayurveda in a way where information is both authentic and accessible. If you wish to seek a wholesome understanding of your body through an Ayurvedic lens, you can book an appointment with an Amrutam Expert today at Amrutam.Global!
Also read: What does Ayurveda say about Self-Love?
For Naina, yoga is a way of living and empowers her to view things around her as extensions of herself. And in keeping with this trail of thought, virtues of compassion, kindness, and empathy inevitably find their way in her life, thought and actions both towards herself and others.
Her parting message to the readers is:
My message to all the readers would be to please respect yourself and mother nature because once you do that, a lot of things will make sense to you.”