Kanupriya Dhingra and the Story of the Headstand

We all try different workout routines to find that one particular activity that makes us feel the most alive. Dr. Kanupriya Dhingra, currently an Assistant Professor at O.P. Jindal Global University looks back at her journey of finding and perfecting the headstand

Kanupriya's headstand has developed through different stages in life.
Kanupriya's headstand has developed through different stages in life. 

We all try different workout routines to find that one particular activity that makes us feel the most alive. Dr. Kanupriya Dhingra, currently an Assistant Professor at O.P. Jindal Global University looks back at her journey of finding and perfecting the headstand, a practice that helped her tread through the highs and lows of her life.

The headstand proved to be Kanupriya's favorite form of physical activity.
The headstand proved to be Kanupriya's favorite form of physical activity. 

Read on to know about her insightful journey with fitness from one stage of her life to another and the goals she has for the future.

The Beginning

Kanupriya’s journey began when she moved to Delhi for education and realised that there was nobody to tell her to keep doing some physical activity or the other, unlike at home, where her mother kept reminding her. She was also worried about how the history of obesity in her family, and the diseases it brings along, would affect her health if she didn’t take care of it.

Zumba

In 2014, while preparing for her Master’s entrance, and spending a good amount of time at home, Kanupriya gained some weight. After securing an admission, she started working out again. Initially, she would jog around the campus, do yoga, etc. Eventually, she joined a Zumba class and on noticing the kind of rush that it was giving her, she continued with it for about five years.

The First Inversion

Over the years, Kanupriya kept experimenting with different styles.
Over the years, Kanupriya kept experimenting with different styles. 

In 2019, when the Zumba class had a weekly yoga teacher coming in, Kanupriya saw women who were 40-50 years old doing headstands and felt very inspired.

“In September 2019, when I turned myself upside down for the first time, and that first possibility of an inversion happening, made me realize that I was scared of heights. In a very weird way, that fear translated into me practising headstands. It gave me such a rush, similar to the one Zumba gave me in 2014.”

Because she was also doing her fieldwork that involved a lot of travelling, she would barely get the time to attend the Yoga class, so she continued practising on her own.

“But I could not move away from the wall. I have also had spondylitis, so I was scared that it would break my neck, shoulders, etc. And living alone, there would be nobody to care for me if I fell down.”

Distancing the Wall

That’s when Kanupriya’s friend, Sonakshi Dhamija, a certified yoga trainer and expert, prompted her to move away from the wall. Consequently, Kanupriya moved about a foot away, with the assurance of the wall being behind her. When she went to the UK to pursue her Ph.D., Sonakshi pushed her to move further away from the wall.

Experimenting with the wall.
Experimenting with the wall. 
“She asked me what's the worst that could happen. And according to her, ashtanga yoga asks you to challenge yourself. And then, I finally inverted myself away from the wall. Of course, I fell quite a few times, but I kept practising every day.”
No walls, whatsoever.
No walls, whatsoever. 

Physical Activity and Mental Health

Kanupriya says that this was a necessary addition to her routine of research work, reading, writing, etc., and it made her feel much better physically and mentally. 2019 was the peak of fitness for Kanupriya and when the pandemic hit, it fell down very rapidly.

“I stopped working out completely, and that affected my mental health big time. That's when I realised how physical activity was linked to my mental well-being.”

Six months later she resumed practising headstands. What also helped her stay motivated was exchanging notes with her younger brother, who had built a thorough knowledge of all the science behind fitness and shared his research with her.

Engaging in physical activity has helped Kanupriya get through the difficult times.
Engaging in physical activity has helped Kanupriya get through the difficult times. 

When the second wave hit in March, she stopped again. At that time, Kanupriya was in the UK finishing her PhD.

"Writing a thesis, fighting covid, worrying about home- all of it together weakened my body a lot.”

Like for most of us, unhealthy food had always been Kanupriya’s go-to comfort, and that made things even more difficult. Then again after a wrap of 4-5 months during which she successfully completed her Ph.D. and got a new job, SocialBoat’s fitness challenge came about to give her the much-needed external push.

“I have an unhealthy habit of being very competitive, but during this challenge, it turned around for me. I learnt about my bad habit and succeeded in eliminating that. Additionally, what worked for me was that there were no directives related to what the workout is and I was free to design my own workout.”
What Kanupriya's headstand looks like currently.
What Kanupriya's headstand looks like currently. 

Kanupriya, who uses the social media space to keep herself motivated, notes that what helped her consistency was posting pictures and videos of headstands on Instagram as it gave her a sense of answerability to herself.

In addition to her long-standing goal of losing some weight and engaging in strength-training, Kanupriya’s fitness goal for 2022 is to make her fitness routine a permanent part of her daily activities.