“She always loved nature and movement (sport, dance, adventures).
A 'well-educated city-girl' from Delhi, who has had a comfortable life with no reason to complain. However, she felt she never got enough opportunity to explore her love for sport and movement to be able to acquire even their basic skills early on. Additionally, given the patterns that our society and education system follow, she was led to believe that such activities were only recreational bits of fun to fill time and at most, add some nice dimension to one's personality."
Kriti Gupta studied Interior Design and practiced it for 3 years. Today, she practices Vanargiri/Parkour/ADD (l'art du replacement) full-time. "It's my passion, personal pursuit, and my profession. I teach it, have my own company - Vanarshala - with 3 partners, who are also an integral part of my life, have designed and opened India's biggest outdoor Parkour/ADD/Vanargiri training facility in Gurgaon, on 22nd February 2020, says Kriti."
As for sports or movement, Kriti skated for 7 years during school, camped, trekked, danced and Kalaripayattu for a few years. In 2016, when she was 26, she also completed her Basic Mountaineering course to quench her thirst for being outdoor & to move meaningfully as she had realized that design was not what she wants and it didn't interest her. She thought it ripped nature apart and most projects were emotionless commerce.
Getting into parkour was by accident for Kriti. She says," I'm the one who continuously challenge myself; mentally and physically. One of my college friends (at CEPT University, Ahmedabad) may have noticed these qualities and wrote to me when I was practicing design in Delhi (at Studio Lotus) that something like 'Parkour' exists and he's heard that certain groups in Delhi give lessons. I googled to see what exactly Parkour was, I liked it and googled again to see who's teaching. There were a few names (some of whom are now our counterparts in the industry (she smiles) and went for a session to the one that responded most clearly. This was Aman's team, who were all among, what we can call, the first generation of Parkour teachers in India. So, I immediately started going for Parkour (again, as a 'hobby') twice a week, like students now come to us.
From there, with Aman Roy, who was my second Parkour teacher (first was Piyush sir, who is now based in Pune), I created this world, which we call Vanarshala because he also has free imagination, an open heart and also believes as I do, that anything is possible because the mind is everything. If you can imagine it, you can live it. Now here we are. He is one of us 4 partners in Vanarshala and it is built largely on his ideals, values and the way he envisioned this profession to evolve back when it was almost nothing!"
When asked about how was her family reaction when they got to know about her practicing parkour, she says, "my family is pretty progressive. We have deep, energetic conversations, for which, my father is to thank. My father is a dynamic, imaginative man, with a conservative set of values but an open-mind. My mom was a strong, liberated woman, too. But since we lost her when I was 8, my father is to take credit for shaping me this way. Any movement that I had done this far, even if only as hobbies, was thanks to my father's encouragement and confidence in us. He always wanted us to be multi-dimensional, shining, compassionate beings with deep self-responsibility. Once I studied & practiced design with all I had and still decided that it was not what I wanted to pursue, we had healthy conversations, the last decisions from which were left to me.
Today, my dad is the third partner in Vanarshala, so, that explains how much support I have from my family. My brother is an equestrian - a horse rider, teacher & consultant. While both sports have their own challenges of being off-beat, with guidance in entrepreneurship and public relations from our father, we are both doing rather well.
For Kriti ADD/Vanargiri defines her core values as a person and her belief in life.
"My practice is the direct manifestation of my own spirit and the wholesome philosophy of this art form makes fertile ground for my spirit to grow in. Our practice is in pursuit of a Strong Body, Strong Mind, Strong Spirit."
Strong Body to ensure self-sufficiency, be of positive help for others, be more capable to enjoy all the elements of life, the challenges of nature and to express oneself with efficiency and grace because grace, I believe, is strength with rhythm.\
Strong Mind to take personal responsibility, that too, with poise. To have high self-esteem, the strength of character to take independent decisions, to be well-informed through observation, perception and most importantly, to be capable of reflection - of self and of society. It also means to be calculative, while being creative.
Strong Spirit because with a healthy balance of Strong Body and Strong Mind, the Spirit soars. We smile to sleep knowing who we are, not confused about our existence, our identity, feeling more alive in every moment and knowing better how to enjoy this wonderful experience that life is. The practice makes one feel connected with the 'whole' as thoughts begin to align automatically through the meditative aspects of movement and as the mind continuously humbles through difficulty, repetition, and achievement.
Kriti says historically, Parkour/ADD/Vanargiri were street arts - in the sense that they exist best in the natural environment, whose inherent challenges make the practitioner resilient and more creative. Out on the streets, in the forests, on the rocks or the roofs, one has unexpected physical difficulties, puzzles to solve with the mind and conversations/negotiations with the society. The more exposure one has to these situations, the more unique and adaptive it makes the practitioner, which is always the larger motive of this practice itself. While Vanarshala acknowledges and respects this aspect very much, as serious practitioners and coaches, it was very important to have a space of our own, where a practitioner has the freedom of time, peace of mind, space to explore without being questioned and certain basic progressions built out for smooth growth.
"The Shala is also that place where movement practitioners and coaches from different disciplines belong together and not only grow as individuals but collectively help grow these professions to that strength where everyone involved gets paid well enough to live good quality life and earns them the respect from the society which every practitioner is due for, as this discipline demands a lot from the heart, mind, and soul."
In this hard, busy city, the Shala is an oasis, it is a slice of nature, thanks to its semi-remote location, which is still very much accessible as a nearby-getaway.
When asked about a message she wants to give to her readers, she replies Design Your Life. To empower our-self to do this, there are just a few things that we need to always stay mindful of:-
As humans, we tend to make patterns. It is part of our in-built intelligence and this has helped us evolve to who we are. However, an even bigger part of our unique intelligence is the ability to be creative, to be able to imagine and create things that have either never been done before by us or perhaps never been done before at all! The patterns we create individually, in groups & as a society can get easily detrimental to our growth if not constantly questioned and challenged. This is because all 3 aspects of our being - the mind, the body & the soul, have been uniquely designed for the exact purpose of being creative.
The human body is such a complex machine that is literally, designed for movement. If you sit in silence and observe the many ways people are moving their bodies across the world, you realize how much potential this design has, and how extremely under-used it is in this sedentary lifestyle. So, MOVE. Just move. Find what interests you and aspire to move your body in a million different ways! This will make you very, very happy, for sure.
This is a superpower. Just like the body is designed to move and grow in infinite ways, our mind is infinitely elastic through dreaming. Buddha said, 'the mind is everything. What you think, you become.' And this is absolutely true for dreams, too. I'd say 'What you dream, it becomes.' Early in my life, I noticed the power of soulful dreaming, and over years, practiced being consciously connected with my dreams, even if they acted like fireflies - flashing one moment, gone another - whether it was to be able to woo my biggest crush as a teenager :) or now designing my entire life around Vanarshala, as you all witness it. I see dreams as glimpses of our intuition and have experienced that there is nothing more truthful than intuition, itself, in our entire lives. They come from a place deep within, are signs of divinity and purify us again and again. Dream non-stop, dream wild, dream loud, keep your dreams close, keep them honest, innocent, insane and keep chasing them. Not with madness or aggression, but with love, care and strength of character. Use the expansive ability of your mind to create your own life of your dreams because if there's one thing nature has blessed us equally with, it's the power of imagination and the ability to dream fascinating realities.
Do find time to visit Vanarshala's official Instagram page and see the post-dated 3rd March 2020. You'll know what I'm talking about :)
OTHERS > SELF
While the entire pursuit of Inspire Crew and of my own life with Vanarshala are stories of SELF-love, SELF-care and the quest for gratifying the SELF, the 'others' play the biggest role in this. It is yet another mysterious beauty of life, that is being there for others, we find our-self. This is massively cliched by now, but as true as it ever was. However, as ever-giving women, as compassionate and passionate people, as people concerned with the cruelty and unfairness we see around us every single day, we must also practice balancing this act. I find the balance between OTHERS and SELF by channelizing all my superpowers equally to both through, not meditation, but meditative processes. I find these meditative processes by consciously immersing myself in simple, everyday things. So, while my practice is an act of improving my SELF, I try to keep my mind full of softness and gentleness to stay available for others and not inflate my own ego through achievements. Or when I dream, I devote enough time to dream of a better world in general, as well as in particular for myself and for my loved ones. As a follow-up, I regularly check-in with all dreams and stay as energetic and creative as I possibly can to enable me to take actual actions in all directions. By doing so, I have a trail behind me of countless ways in which I have made myself grow and made a good difference to many lives - humans, plants and animals. Both these sides, keep the other growing. I constantly re-check my work-life balance and always find immersive experiences in both to ensure that I'm living as meaningfully and feeling as fulfilled as I can in my current circumstance.
This blog is a part of International women's Day, 2020. Inspire Crew wants to tell everyone that every day could be a women's day. Society should be encouraged to listen to what women and girls had to say. We should make everyone comfortable with their strength and weaknesses. Women were never weak but their upbringing made them weak. In today's world, those who have managed to overcome and fight stigmas are known to be great but we should know that we don't need to dress up to bring a change but to focus on how to encourage more women to be who they are and work on it to make a better version of themselves.
All pictures belong to Vanarshala.
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