Reddy Set Yoga is a mobile yoga studio in Chicago, IL that is bringing yoga and wellness programs to kids and adults through schools programs, nonprofits, and in the workplace. Their classes and workshops incorporate meditation, mindfulness and nutrition education. Shruthi Reddy, the founder, who has the unique distinction of being a lawyer-turned-yoga instructor shares her journey with us.
Like many other first generation Indian-Americans, while growing up I was strong in science and entered college thinking I would go to medical school as my parents wanted. After being exposed to electives like Political Science, International Relations and South Asian Policy with Prof. Stephen Cohen, I knew I wanted a much broader education. So law school was the next best thing. Plus, I had a strong belief in justice and had always enjoyed debating and writing, so law school made sense. My parents were upset because I had always excelled at science, and back in India, many thought of lawyers as being corrupt and doctors as the helpers of humanity. It was the right decision for me however, because I loved law school and the broader view of the world I got from reading cases and legal opinions.
My change from law to yoga didn’t happen overnight; it was a journey. Though I loved my law school education, practicing law was very different. I left corporate law in search of doing something more “meaningful.” I joined a for-profit think tank in DC, and soon after, become the Executive Director of a non-profit agency. Even though it wasn’t corporate law, it was still a high profile, high-stress job in it’s own right.
Unknown to me, I had developed severe food sensitivities and some nutrient imbalances. As a result, I became very ill and lost my voice for three months. Doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong and the continued health issues led to my depression. Not being able to speak made it nearly impossible to do my job and made it difficult to do everyday things that we take for granted. I was prescribed various pharmaceutical drugs by well-intentioned doctors. I always got every side-effect listed and became even more ill.
Then 9/11 happened and I lost a good friend from high school in the tragedy. This deepened my depression. I moved back to Chicago, IL to be with my family so they could help navigate treatment options. We sought out integrative doctors and found some MD’s who took a more holistic approach. I began practicing yoga and changed my diet to accommodate my food sensitivities. We also added nutritional supplements and slowly got me off of all medications.
My healing process became my inspiration to share yoga and nutritional therapies with others who were suffering. I started to observe that more and more of my friends’ kids were being diagnosed with ADHD, sensory integration issues, asthma, and other health issues that I knew yoga could improve. It became clear to me that society was stressed out and kids were carrying the stress of society. That seemed backwards and I wanted to do something to help kids. I feel that stress is a public health issue and it spreads like a disease. So I became a certified yoga instructor, added a Children’s Specialty and started Reddy Set Yoga.
The video below explains the initial aims of Reddy Set Yoga from when it was first started. Since then, it has evolved to address the needs of all ages, including nutritional therapies, while growing organically, with no definitive plans to scale:
My parents are incredibly loving and strong, but like many South Asian immigrants, at the time, they were unfamiliar with how to address mental health challenges. If anyone had a physical ailment, they were on top of getting the answers . But when I said, “I’m depressed” they felt lost and responded with, “okay, but don’t be depressed. Just be happy.” We have all evolved since, and learned how important it is to keep healthy routines to maintain a balanced mind and body.
I was honored that Patti Tripathi of Saris to Suits asked me to be the March 2016 role model in the calendar. My work with empowering women and girls with health and wellness through Reddy Set Yoga made me the only role model who is a licensed attorney and a certified yoga instructor.
In my first year of law school, I was moved by a case that discussed battered immigrant women’s syndrome as part of the defense argument to a murder charge. There were very few South Asian female attorneys at the time. Once I graduated, I was regularly approached by South Asians seeking help for a relative who was in an abusive relationship, and often in a green card marriage with the abuser controlling the immigration papers. I sought help from friends who were immigration attorneys and learned what was required for the abused to self-petition under the Violence Against Women Act. I then did the 40 hour Domestic Violence Volunteer Training through Apna Ghar and worked on a documentary about battered immigrant women. I continue to work on causes that empower women and girls.
I believe that yoga is about MINDFULNESS and has the power to bring global health and peace to all, while building cultural bridges connecting communities. A record number of 177 member countries of the United Nations approved a resolution proposed by the Indian Government to establish June 21st as International Day of Yoga to help people “discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and nature.”
When I first heard about the resolution, I felt called to do something for my city Chicago, which has struggled with issues of violence. Reddy Set Yoga partnered with Eye On India Festival Chicago and the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago with support from the Government of India and the City of Chicago to create FREE family-friendly programs for the public on this special day. We put together this in just one month!
I had also noticed that many Indian Yoga schools were working with the Consulate to do programs that seemed to draw mostly Indians. I think yoga is like Chinese food in America. Meaning that yoga is practiced a certain way in India and, in some cases, has ties to Hindusim but the West has made yoga its own. I wanted to create programs that would be accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds and that is exactly what we have done.
Reddy Set Yoga is all set to celebrate the first annual International Day of Yoga on Sunday June 21, 2015 in Chicago. The event will consist of FREE family friendly programs from dawn to dusk, as well as a ceremonial celebration at the Daley Plaza on Monday June 22. The sessions for the event will involve asanas (poses), pranayama (breathing-work), meditation, mantra (sanskrit chanting), mindfulness, discussion and Q & A. All sessions will be appropriate for all levels including beginners. Breakfast snacks provided by Whole Foods.