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Meet Pranidhi Varshney of Yoga Shala West in West LA

Today we’d like to introduce you to Pranidhi Varshney.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Pranidhi. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I started practicing yoga casually while I was in high school, continued in college, and then began immersing myself more deeply in the practice after I graduated. The practice grounded me through my move to LA and I started teaching soon after I arrived. I spent a few years teaching in several different environments including schools, a treatment center for eating disorders, yoga studios, and a couple of local Ys. The experience of teaching in so many different places gave me the opportunity to hone my voice and revealed to me that I had something unique to offer. I felt I could fulfill a need in the LA yoga community. So, after about a year of prep work and lot of good fortune, I opened Yoga Shala West in 2015. We’ve been going strong for over four years now and we hope to keep growing and deepening our community for many more years to come. I also became a mother in 2018, which has been fundamentally transformative.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I’ve come to see challenges as essential for growth. Our financial model is unique. We don’t have a set fee for our monthly members. Instead, we offer a sliding scale, as making regular yoga practice financially accessible is one of the primary missions of the shala. I thought breaking even financially would be my main challenge, but that hasn’t been the case. I’m not making heaps of money but we are able to keep our doors open without worrying. A supportive partner also helps tremendously. The challenge I was surprised by was some of the push back I received in the early years from other teachers, some who used to be friends of mine, who were running things in a more conventional way. On a personal level, that was difficult to deal with, but I’ve also learned to let that stuff go. In more recent years, the most pressing challenge is splitting my time and energetic resources between my daughter and the shala. Being a mother is a non-stop job. I’m blessed to have a lot of help in that regard as well, which is what allows me to keep teaching. We’ve also cultivated a very understanding and self-sufficient community, so I don’t have to worry about arriving late or leaving early. These little things make a big difference in my ability to balance practice, motherhood, and running the shala.

Please tell us about Yoga Shala West.
We teach ashtanga yoga, which is a method of yoga that is traditionally taught one on one in a group setting. The focus is on aligning breath and movement so that we can drop into a subtler awareness. What makes the shala unique is our emphasis on relationship and community. As a teacher, my role is to adapt the method to fit each student’s unique circumstance, and ultimately empower each student to cultivate a loving and authentic relationship with themselves. I’m proud of our diverse student base, which is partly due to our flexible fee structure. I think students feel at home at the shala. Like they can shed the layers we all tend to build up as we move through our days.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I’m constantly learning and evolving but I can’t say I wish I would have done anything differently. I’ve had great advisors who’ve helped me maintain my integrity during times of struggle. We’ve lost students along the way for various reasons and I do my best to learn from those experiences. I’ve made mistakes and I know I’ll continue to do so, but I trust that the community will hold me tenderly through those times.

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