Gargi Sharma, a native of Haryana, India is a Vedic lifestyle specialist at ISIS Boston and a gymnastics coach at the Massachusetts Gymnastics Center. Gargi has focused on Yoga and gymnastics throughout her life in India, winning the national gold medal in Yoga at a university level while receiving her master’s degree in sports medicine and training. She went on to become a medal-winning competitor in Yoga at a national level in India and served as a judge for national Yoga competitions. She completed her study of Naturopathy and Panchakarma at Sanjivani Teaching Hospital and advanced Ayurvedic and Yoga Therapy study under Swami Ramdev at his university in Haridwar, India. Gargi also maintains a private Hatha Yoga practice.
How did you get interested in Gymnastics ?
I was athletic since early childhood and had a very competitive personality. My parents encouraged me to pursue my interests and talents. While in the eighth grade, I saw gymnastics in the Olympics and I wanted to pursue that. That led me to get a bachelors and masters in physical education with a focus on gymnastics and yoga. Due to my tremendous amount of flexibility and due to the fact that I had been doing yoga at an early age my professors told me to pursue yoga as well. Later I became a gold medalist in both yoga and gymnastics. For three consecutive years I was the sportsperson of the year at GNK College.
How did you train for Gymnastics in India where it is not easy to find such training?
Training for younger school age children is not as readily available, but for collegiate students there are numerous programs. Most of these are sports programs. The program I attended was at GNK College, which was the top sports college in northern India. When I competed at the state level and became a champion, I was then selected for the national team. I was fortunate that my coach at the national camp was a Russian Olympian and under his training my gymnastic skills improved further.
What attributes are required to make a successful gymnast?
Discipline, focus and dedication are the most important attributes.
How did you get interested in Yoga and Ayurveda?
Yoga is more popular in India than gymnastics and it is more readily available from a young age. As stated earlier my professors persuaded me to do yoga, due to my previous experience and athleticism. During my M Phil I focused on yoga therapy and sports medicine. That allowed me to go to different Gurukuls and observe and collect data and learn from different teachers. I went to a Gurukul in Pune that was run by a102 year old yogi. You couldn't tell that he was 102. He looked more like a man in his 70's and the things he could do were fairly amazing. He really liked me and taught me acupressure and how to cure digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome (dharun). Yoga therapy is very much related to Ayurveda. While being a lecturer at GNK College I got a certification in Ayurveda and panchkarma from Sanjeevni Hospital in Karnal.
How close are Yoga and Gymnastics? How are they the same? How are they different?
Yoga and gymnastics are very similar, especially when you get into more advanced yoga poses. Both disciplines require a tremendous amount of flexibility and strength. Yoga is all about balance and gymnastics is about speed and strength. The difference lies in pranayama (breathing techniques), which is not very emphasized in western yoga
How did you decided to study Baba Ramdev? What was your biggest learning under Baba Ramadev?
Due to my previous success, I was chosen to study at his ashram in Haridwar with a delegation of my professors and some other students from GNK College. Baba Ram Dev emphasizes pranayama exercises, when I was training at the collegiate level more emphasis was placed on asanas. By studying under Baba Ram Dev I became more exposed to the benefits of proper pranayama.
There are many different types of Yogas. Any suggestion on where to begin and what to look for in a Yoga studio?
My suggestion for students is to understand what their goals are. If losing weight and getting in shape is their goal then they should seek an instructor who is very focused and very demanding of their students. Most yoga instructors approach yoga as something of a peaceful endeavor and they don't push their students. The approach I take to yoga is trying to get results and push them out of their comfort zone. If they are looking to reduce stress in their life then an instructor who is well versed in breathing and pranayama would be beneficial. It all depends on what the individual is looking for.
Any other message for our readers?
If you are really interested in yoga then you really should find a credible practitioner. You can only do that by asking the right questions so have some background knowledge. Don't go blindly to a studio.