From Ashram Toilet Duty to Online Yogi Sensation

Wellness with Shavita

We are delighted to confirm that yogi Shavita from ‘Wellness with Shavita’ has joined the Edible Health team. Over time, she will contribute to our blogging community with short videos that share some lovely, restorative, wellness yoga postures curated especially for the Edible Health family. However, behind the videos is a remarkable woman with an inspiring life journey. We wanted to share just a bit of that journey with you - we hope you enjoy the adventure!

There’s got to be more to life than this 

It was 1996 and Shavita was working full time in London’s banking world. She was brilliant at her job and faced a secure future. But something pulled inside her and said there was more to life than 9 to 5. There were new people, new possibilities, new adventures, and a new freedom beyond the city grind. She was 26 years old and she decided it was time to find out what lay on the other side of Heathrow Airport. She told her friend. The friend agreed that she would come as well. They decided to save furiously for a year and then buy a one-way ticket. 

Down Under - the land of Home & Away and Neighbours 

Where would they go? They were brought up on TV shows like Home & Away and Neighbours. It was always so warm and sunny. The beaches were glorious. That’s the perfect place to start. A year later, in the depths of an Australian winter, the friends found themselves clinging to an oven in Perth on the west coast. It was freezing - this wasn’t part of the picture. They decided they could stay glued to the oven, or get away. They hired a car and headed further north (and therefore warmer) up Western Australia to Broome. Here they saw cheap flights advertised to Bali and they thought, “why not?”. It’s another country to explore. So, off they went for two months. They eventually returned to Australia, continued their adventures, and returned home to England via Singapore and India. It was a brilliant adventure. 

Once you travel, you can’t sit still 

Getting back into the corporate grove proved challenging. She’d tasted that freedom and if anything, it now made her feel trapped back in her Northern hemisphere reality. There was clearly still so much she hadn’t done and experienced. She’d caught the travel bug along with the proverbial ‘itchy feet’! A solution presented itself - an opportunity to return to Australia and work as a financial planner. She anguished over it for some time but ultimately rationalised with herself. Under no circumstances was she going to get to 70 in England and think, what if I’d given a shot to that Australian opportunity? Shavita grew bold. What’s the worst that could happen? It doesn’t work out and she returns to England, right? Hardly a disaster!

Shavita purchased her second one-way international flight.

Life in Melbourne - burning the candle at both ends 

This time Shavita settled on the other side of the country, specifically in Melbourne. She loved her life and had become so successful she was burning out. She’d considered herself invincible and had worked herself to the bone, then trained like an athlete. Always social, she filled any spare time ‘meeting and greeting’ as she used to say, making friend after friend after friend. But she started to get sick. She didn’t recover as well as she once did. Injuries began to flare in her body. She had really no idea about nutrition. She was now 33 years old and too young to be getting so sick so regularly. Shavita decided it was time to get a grip. 

Shavita Meditation

Starting yoga - in India 

Shavita decided to give yoga a go. But, unlike enrolling in a studio or even just going to a local class, she took a very typical Shavita-esque approach. She bought a one-way flight to Kerala, India. The best way to learn yoga, she resolved, was to enroll in a Yoga Teacher training course. Here she entered an ashram and got the shock of her life. In her mind she had anticipated soft, moody lighting, clean lines, beautiful, serene people, lovely individual rooms in which to retreat at the end of a calming day. 

Reception welcomed her and directed her to her dormitory, which she would share with 36 other women. Dorm living? That word had never entered her vocabulary. Perhaps she could pay more for an upgrade? She was looked at in bewilderment. Every day was the same. A 5am wake-up followed immediately by two hours of meditation. A light breakfast followed by Asana practice for two hours. Then karma yoga. This involved allocating everyone a chore, which became their daily dose of karma. 

Karma yoga, and possibly the worst chore in the ashram 

Please, Universe, Shavita remembers thinking. Don’t let my karma chore be the toilets. Whether it was karma, or Murphy’s Law, or just pure bad luck, Shavita found herself on toilet cleaning duty. For those of you who have travelled to India, you know toilets are nothing like the conventional versions in the west. They tend to be, frankly, hideously dirty to the point of vomit-inducing. So imagine an ashram of 200 people. Now imagine them sharing two toilet cubicles only. But whatever you do, don’t imagine what Shavita found herself cleaning day after day. Initially, she found herself retching and almost unable to complete the chore. As days wore on, she realised if she maintained this same attitude each time, she would only ever be miserable. She began to chant her way through the ordeal. After each cleaning session, a queue of people would build up waiting outside. Shavita would exit and every single person waiting would thank her for doing such a chore. They would show their appreciation. 

It taught her that there was no job below her. If she had to, she could do anything. Equally, however, she interpreted that to mean there was no job above her, either. 

 

A place of great learning 

The ashram was a powerful experience. It was one of the hardest things she’s ever done in her life, and one of the best. Shavita learned quickly that yoga is not just about the physical, but more so the mental attitude to life. That said, she became very in-tune with her body and how to listen to it. She remained in India for six months, following different teachers around the country, all the while learning, learning, learning. It was a cleansing process for the body, mind and soul. She was recharged, reinvigorated, and ready for whatever else lay ahead.  

A crossroads 

When Shavita returned to Australia she realised several things. She needed to commit to living somewhere. She was at a point now where she had been away from England for too long and so slotting back in just wouldn’t be possible. She made her decision, and Melbourne it was. Then came the question of bigger life decisions. She was now 35 years old and she knew she wanted to become a mother. However, she wasn’t creating an environment to make that a reality. She wasn’t staying still enough for long enough to meet someone. She had to change her ways. Within six months of having this epiphany, she had met someone. They both knew it was meant to be. Within 12 months they had flown to his native homeland (and her ancestorial country), India, for a “full blown Bollywood wedding extravaganza” before returning to their new home in Melbourne. Ten days before her 39th birthday, their first baby girl was born.

Shavita Stretch

Motherhood by the book. Literally 

It was a time of very mixed emotions for Shavita, as motherhood so often is. It shook her. She had no idea how hard it would be. She grieved the loss of her past life, when she was free as a bird. She longed for the support and closeness of family, but they were all on the other side of the world. Her friends in Australia were largely still without children of their own. She bought a book on being a mother, and she followed its advice down the line. The book was retired to the shelf some time before daughter number two arrived. Shavita has learned that every stage of motherhood is unique. Each brings its own set of challenges, emotions and learnings. Staying healthy is paramount to dealing with the many curveballs it throws. By that she doesn’t mean fitting into clothes. It’s about staying supple and strong, nimble and conscious. 

You need goals - daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually 

It’s strange to hear it from someone who has spent so much of her life pursuing freedom and adventure. However, Shavita thrives on order and structure, which is probably fitting of a former financial planner. Making goals is key to not only structure, but a sense of achievement. For Shavita, it might look something like this:

  • Daily goal - a walk, or a yoga session 
  • Weekly goal - a catch-up with a girlfriend 
  • Monthly goal - date night 
  • Quarterly goal - getting away on a solo break 
  • Annual goal - a family holiday 

Sticking to them and ensuring each is achieved helps keep her on track. Something that is crucial now she runs her own business. 

Wellness with Shavita  

Following her yoga training, Shavita qualified as a personal trainer,  yoga teacher and pilates instructor in Australia. She began running workshops for mums in her area. Also popular were consultations with people about the life choices they were making - what foods they were or were not eating, how they were moving their bodies, what they were doing to keep their minds positive, sharp, stimulated. So many people just needed common sense advice and someone to care for their wellbeing. 

Coronavirus and stepping up 

When the COVID-19 lockdown was enforced in Australia, Shavita knew a lot of the mums in her network would feel vulnerable. These social activities were lifelines in a way - an opportunity to share advice and knowledge, or to just be a shoulder for someone. For ten years, Shavita had grown with these women and they’d all been present to see each other’s babies grow as well. Lockdown built a wall around all of this, and cut them off from one another. 

Shavita sensed that as their friend but mostly as their yoga teacher, she had to step up. She felt responsible for these women, and she knew how much many of them depended on her classes. So one day, she went into Facebook and declared she would do a no-cost Facebook Live yoga session. She had positively zero idea how to do it, but she knew she needed at least ten people. More than 100 showed up. Word of mouth grew. Shavita focused on developing her technical skills, upgrading her camera and computer equipment, and dedicating herself to regular classes. Organically and in just a few weeks, she was hosting thousands of followers from around the world. It’s no longer her local community - it’s a global family. She now connects with good friends down the road as well as childhood mates back in London, who tune in early morning to follow her end-of-day class. Throughout the pandemic lockdown all her classes were free - she has only just recently uploaded a voluntary donation button. 

She regularly receives messages from followers, to which she personally responds every single time. She hears from people dealing with chemotherapy who seek solace in her classes as well as people on the frontline who are desperate for time out. They write and thank her, and that is her biggest reward. Not being very tech savvy she knows that things can go wrong every now and again - the microphone might fail or she might cut herself out of frame a little. But everyone is forgiving. She’s realised people who come to her don’t seek perfection, they seek connection. And it’s changed her life, once again.

Through that global community Shavita met the Edible Health team. It quickly became apparent how much she had in common with what we are trying to do for people’s health, and how we all very much put people first. It’s been a wonderful connection and we’re so delighted to have Shavita’s grounding, calming presence in these videos. We hope you get as much from her yoga classes as we do!

As with all exercise programs, when using our yoga videos, you need to use common sense. To reduce and avoid injury, you will want to check with your doctor before beginning any fitness program. By performing any fitness exercises, you are performing them at your own risk. Edible Health and Wellness with Shavita will not be responsible or liable for any injury or harm you sustain as a result of our fitness program, DVD, online fitness videos, or information shared on our website and all social media outlets and channels including the Edible Health Youtube channel, facebook and instagram This includes emails, videos and text. Thanks for your understanding.