Purvi Harish, 17, senior, Deep Run High School. Winner, first place, youth division, 2013 Mid-Atlantic Yoga Asana Competition
Born on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day, Purvi says, “I have a lot of love inside of me. I also love chocolate!”
In a nutshell, what is your life story?
“We are an inter-cultural family. My mom married my step dad three years ago. … He has embraced my family and our Indian culture.”
“Meena, my sister, is younger but taller, so a lot of people think she’s my big sister.”
Purvi’s mother is Indu Gowda, who started practicing Bikram yoga in 2003. Meena, 15, began in 2010. They travel to India about once every two years.
“Part of my mom’s family comes from a big village in the country outside Bangalore. The people there are really down to earth.… They grow sugar cane, rice, mangoes, wheat, coconuts, and all kinds of vegetables. They all work together in the fields. … They are not caught up in what we are caught up in, in the West. They live very simply.”
During their most recent trip, Purvi’s family spent a week at a meditation and yoga retreat. They also visited an orphanage. “My mom got a whole bunch of blankets for the children. … I met all these little kids, so small, big smiles, trying to speak some English, saying hi and surrounding us with such happy, good spirits. They didn’t have that much. Still they were so happy. I wish I could be like that.”
Music is also a spark for Purvi. She likes alternative rock, including No Doubt, Cold Play, Phil Collins and Aerosmith. “‘Dream On’ is my song!” Purvi says.
Among her heroes are Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. “I respect Malala [Yousafzai] the young Pakistani girl who was shot. … People who fight to help so many different people.” Purvi also loves the fighter Mulan from the Walt Disney movie.
Purvi will graduate this spring and go on to college. She wants to study anthropology.
How did you first learn about Bikram Yoga Richmond?
“My mom made me go to yoga. No choice!” Purvis says. That was when she was 12, and it wasn’t always easy. “When I was 13, I was really dreading going to yoga. It was a chore. … Competition was the spark that ignited me. … All that hard work for the single moment, the light that shines on you on stage, it is your time.”
What do you do when you’re not doing yoga?
“This year, I joined the wrestling team at my school. … My great-grandfather was a really good wrestler. That fact made me want to join the wrestling team.”
“I was the only girl on the team. I lasted three weeks! I’m still shocked that I tried it. Yoga helped me face my fears, everything I’m scared of, to help me feel invincible.”
Purvi is also active in the newly formed yoga club at her high school. Longtime Bikram yogi Andy Penland, who teaches Latin at Deep Run, is the club’s sponsor. Purvi’s fellow student Carley Whitt, who also practices at BYR, came up with the idea for the club.
On Jan. 16, Purvi participated in a yoga demonstration and seminar for Deep Run’s yoga club at the school gym, led by Garland Hume.
“The students in the yoga club were like, ‘I never thought men did yoga! I never thought yoga was so cool!’ ” Purvi says.
How has Bikram yoga changed your life?
“I face my fears by doing the yoga competition. In preparation for the competition, you are looking at yourself in the mirror. Yoga practice forces me to see myself every day, connecting with myself, facing what I’m insecure about.”
“Being myself. Asking a question.That people won’t take me seriously. Doing a speaking presentation at school.”
“I have a bucket list of things I want to do this year to help me face my fears. Joining the wrestling team was one. Yoga competition was another big one. Going to the prom is another. Getting out of my comfort zone.”
“I am making progress. … Pranayama breathing helps bring me back to myself, centering me, making me aware that I can do this.”