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Recently turned 50, Srinivas Uppaluri is a perfect example of 'age no bar' when it comes to doing what he is passionate about. Then be it his work, a game of golf, daily yoga practice, or regular fitness routine – Srinivas makes sure that he puts in his 100% to all this. One look at Srinivas makes you think that perhaps life begins at 50.
“Yoga helped me discover skills and capabilities I never knew I had. You almost become a channel for the most surprising things that flow through you.” These are the words of Srinivas Uppaluri, management consultant and executive coach, who attributes his achievement in every aspect of life to his regular yoga practice. He doesn't let anything come in the way of his routine, not even his hectic work and travel schedule. Srinivas tries to do at least five sessions of yoga per week, which includes 12 sets of Sun Salutation, Padma Sadhana, a few yoga stretches and power exercises, meditation and Sudarshan Kriya. He adds to this routine a regular game of golf, walking and a bit of cycling and swimming, saying that yoga helps complement his fitness activity. He is also extremely particular about his diet. In a brief chit-chat, Srinivas shares more about the importance of yoga in his life.
Q1. Some practitioners believe that yoga means asanas (body postures) while others speak about practising yoga off the mat. What, according to you, is yoga?
Srinivas - I would not put any clear definition to it but for me, yoga is being aware and all these practices are directed towards that. Yoga asanas help you become more aware of your body, Sudarshan Kriya and meditation help you become aware of your thoughts and your breath. All these help me be a witness to my own emotions, to my capabilities and experiences. If you look at phase I and phase II of my life, phase I has been more of physical training and yoga to be strong and fit at the body level. In phase II, all these practices are now helping me more towards watching life as an outsider and therefore, I'm able to handle emotions and situations better. Phase II has been yoga for internal journey.
Q2. As a consultant and executive coach, how does yoga help you contribute better to your work?
Srinivas - As I said, yoga keeps me increasingly aware in every aspect of life. I'm able to stay focused and centered, thanks to my yoga practices, and I think I'm better able to contribute to every situation without getting emotionally involved in it. I'm letting it happen yet I'm giving it my 100% - it's a combination of both.
Q3. What about maintatining work-life balance?
Srinivas - For me, work and personal life are not separate because I'm working on something that I'm passionate about, on issues and problems I'm passionate about. My reading (which is also a hobby) forms a part of my work. I like collecting a lot of books. I also teach occasionally and write on those subjects. Whatever I'm doing, I give my 100% to it. Even when I'm traveling for work, I find a golf game on the weekend. I try not to miss the game. I think this balance naturally comes more by making sadhana (yoga and spiritual practices) the center of your life. Earlier, my work used to be the main center and sadhana used to be done whenever convenient. Now, sadhana has become the center of my life and everything else revolves around it. So I think the balance automatically flows.
Q4. You are a frequent flyer and are constantly traveling around for work. Usually, frequent flyers share common complaints such as jet lag, digestive ailments, back ache, and fatigue. What has been your experience? Has yoga helped you cope with constant travel?
Srinivas - One good thing about yoga is that you can even do it in a small hotel room! Other activities such as taking a walk or jog depend on the weather outside, the availability of a gym, etc., but yoga can be done anywhere if you are carrying a mat. In fact, even hotels these days would give you a mat if you ask for it. That's why I recommend a lot of people to do yoga. While traveling, even if I have 20 minutes or half an hour, a few rounds of Sun Salutation or Padma Sadhana are still good. You stretch yourself out. If I have to catch a flight at 7:30 a.m., I wake up at 4 a.m., do a few yoga stretches, do Sudarshan Kriya, take a shower and then only I leave for the airport. Yoga is always part of my travel and this helps. When I come back home in the evening after work, I do a few rounds of Sun Salutation, so you can balance it the way you want. You don't always need to do all the yoga practices at a stretch if you don't have the time. But you should somehow still find time for it.
Q5. Today the corporate sector is opening up to techniques and workshops for improving productivity, team work and stress relief. Companies are turning to yoga and meditation for the same. What are your views on this trend?
Srinivas - I think it's a good move as long as they are guided well on this path. I feel there is a lot of misunderstanding about yoga practices. People are doing them looking for quick benefits. It's a wonderful initiative by companies but I think expectations have to be moderated. You need to understand that yoga is for the long term; it's not like I can do meditation for two days and I will immeditately get something out of it. Yoga is best done with some guidance and more as a 'let go' rather than 'what am I going to get out of it'. Most of the companies today are into short-term benefits but still it's a good start.
Q6. We hear you have a passion for golfing. Could you tell us something about it? Has yoga also helped improve your game in any way?
Srinivas - Now that's a difficult one (laughs). I grew up playing sport so any kind of sport is a very nice experience. The best thing about golf is to be outdoors, it's a lot of dedication and many hours of hard work. I'm not a professional but I still like to play well. It's quite fascinating; every time you are looking forward to going back to the game again and again, although you might have had a bad round previously. It requires some technique to be good at it, some amount of fitness, especially around your shoulders, waist, and hamstrings, and so a lot of my yoga practice goes to strengthen these areas. The game also involves a lot of yoga principles such as being in the present moment, believing in yourself, being sincere and focused, and relates to every aspect of my life. The moment I have self-doubt, it reflects in the game, the moment I'm hesitant, it reflects in the game, the moment I'm completely centered, I get amazed by the brilliant shot that has been created. So it represents everything about what yoga and meditation is. Golfing started off as leisure at first, it still is, but I think I have put in a lot of hard work into it.