Updated: Apr 19, 2019
Palka Gupta is our fantastic Meditation, Vinyasa and Hot Yoga instructor. We wanted you to get to know her a little more so we asked her a few questions about her yoga journey and what she loves abut the practice.
How long have you been practicing yoga and how did you first discover it?
I am first generation American born into a traditional Indian family on the outskirts of NYC. I have been practicing yoga for 25 years, and I first discovered it as a child, seeing people in my community practicing. Yoga asana and meditation have been a part of my life since I can recall my earliest memory, and it has always been intertwined in my lifestyle and upbringing.
What made you take the leap from yoga practitioner to yoga instructor?
Since the yogic tradition has been a part of my heritage, I definitely have taken it for granted at times in my life. Despite some protests, I have always been fascinated by the benefits of Yoga and Ayurveda from an early age. I started professional dance at age 7 and my dream was to dance for a living, but my family encouraged me to qualify as an accountant. Yeah, pretty different! I served corporates and charities for 15 years moving several countries along the way. My last job working as a CFO for a start up in Slovenia really made me question my choices. A few years ago, I knew it was time to move on and serve people in a different way. You can say "I heard my calling". Teaching yoga asana and meditation has been the most rewarding work I have ever done.
Can you tell us a little bit about your training? What did it mean for your personal practice?
My training started at a very early age and every day, I still feel as if I am a student. My personal practice and training go hand in hand, every single day. The moment I feel I am no longer learning in yoga is when my training will be over, and I do not see that happening in this lifetime!
What is your favourite yogic teaching or practice?
Yoga reminds me to be here now, not only on my mat but every single moment. My name comes from the Hindi word, "palak" which means "eyelash" but my name also translates to "pal" meaning "moment" and "ka" meaning "of the". Every day, my name reminds me to be present and every time I step on my mat, I am again reminded to be present.
What is your favourite pose and why?
Natarajasana (dancer pose) because it challenges and grounds me, both at the same time! I also love how beautiful it looks, and what it stands for. I find inspiration from the Hindu form of god, Lord Shiva, who this pose is named after and who is known as the true yogi in the Indian tradition. Nataraja is the name given to Shiva as a cosmic dancer, a reflection of how my thirst for dance has been quenched through yoga.
What is your least favourite pose and why?
I don't think I have a least favourite pose. The thought of it makes me think of this lovely quote, "The yoga posture you avoid the most is the one you need the most." This quote has helped me surrender to any and every posture.
What's your favourite bit of advice to give to beginner yogis?
Breathe! You'll be surprised as to where your breath can lead you both on and off the mat. Our life starts with the breath and ends with it so just imagine the power of what else it can do! The breath is a powerful resource to overcome the mind and help one understand the body better. When in doubt, breathe, and follow where your breath takes you.
Aside from yoga what else captures your interests? How do you like to spend your time away from the mat?
I love to garden (moving from NY to the English countryside has been quite a contrast but I absolutely love it!) and have found it pretty therapeutic. I am fascinated by music so am teaching myself to play the guitar or attempt to! I also enjoy spending time with my family, exploring new recipes in the kitchen (definitely my favourite room of the house), read historical novels and cuddle up with my bengal cat.
Other than the physical side effects of practicing, what other qualities have you developed or left behind as a result of practicing?
I have become much more patient. My work was always demanding in a fast paced environment. In fact, even living in New York means you're constantly switched on and doing. Practicing yoga (and moving to the English countryside) helped me to slow down. I try more human being than human doing. :)
What's your favourite part about teaching at Leo Yoga?
We are all one big team, and I feel a part of it every day. The studio is such a lovely place to share practice and the people are just wonderful!
In just three words sum up what yoga is to you:
Be here now.
Thank you to Palka for taking the time to answer our questions and for sharing her yoga story with us! You can join Palka on the mat on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday evenings at Leo Yoga, Marlow. Namaste x