Today I am honoured to feature Anuradha Kowtha on the blog as part of my Expert Spotlight segment where I interview experts and mentors on business + entrepreneurship, self care and personal development, and social change and social justice.
Anuradha is a proud American and Brit, and proud of the south Indian heritage from her own immigrant parents. She’s also has a B.S. in Biology, and an M.A. in Rhetoric. She’s an experienced educator, researcher, editor and business owner, and also an accomplished Bharata Natyam dancer and painter. Anuradha guides clients through the work of rediscovering who they are, why they are here and removing the conditioning that keeps them from doing it and writing powerfully about this work from within the fire of her life.
Okay, let’s jump into the questions…
For those who aren’t familiar with you and what you do, would you please share a little about yourself, your work and the story behind how you came to be doing what you do today?
I’d be delighted to share a bit about my story. I was born and raised in the beautiful Sonoran desert of Arizona. My parents placed a high focus on STEM subjects as they were in Computer Science themselves. During my college years, I focused on enzyme research and Biochemistry. When I found research no longer fulfilling, so I switched to teaching high school science. Those 8 years in various classrooms changed my entire perspective. Later, as I transitioned into Rhetoric, I wanted to deepen my dance practice and bring more healing space into my life. I worked with a therapist grounded in patriarchy and studied how colonization changed the very nature of Bharata Natyam and South Asian dance. Alongside that work, I also prepared for my dance debut, one that I had dreamed of since childhood.
It felt like many cycles completed at that point and felt guided to move to the UK. During that time I was meant to pursue a PhD in Dance around identity, yet life had me focus on a fashion design course, meeting my now partner, Peter, and becoming a parent and putting roots down here. And now I’m almost ready to celebrate seven years in business and nine years of marriage.
My work now is mainly on helping people remember their essence and their hardwiring, so they can live the life they were born to lead. In a way, I’m still doing work around reclaiming identity and doing meaningful work.
You speak a lot about how we each have a ‘calling’ – would you mind touching on what you mean by this?
Essentially our calling or purpose is who we are underneath our conditioning. It is aligning with our hardwiring and ways of being. It’s doing our work in the world, in ways that are sustainable and fulfilling. It’s leading a life that provides us meaning and relationships that nourish us.
I’ve also seen you write about the role that liberation plays in our attempts to connect with this ‘calling’. You mention that we become ‘programmed’ or ‘conditioned’ as we live our lives and lose touch with who we are and why we’re here. Would you mind sharing your thoughts on this?
Buckminister Fuller described it best, ‘everyone is born a genius, the process of living de-geniuses them.’ Our conditioning and systemic oppression disconnect us from our original nature. Unfortunately, colonization and capitalism interrupted these inner knowings and disconnected us from ourselves and our ways of being, our relationship with land and the cosmos, and relationships with family and community. Much of the work I do helps people remember who they are, their essence.
Do you have any advice or tips for those who want to dismantle this programming and reconnect with who they are and why they’re here?
As a rule, my preference is to give targeted advice, personalized to the individual and their priorities in a container created around consent. However, there are things that certainly help in this process. My first piece of advice is being honest with yourself and having self awareness around your needs and ways of being. Secondly, finding people, resources, and so on that can support you where you are right now, not where you’d like to be. And lastly, be patience and curiosity. Transformation and the more important aspect, integration, takes time.
You talk a lot about the role that nourishing our bodies and self play here too. Would you share a little about this with our readers and any advice on how they can do this?
I encourage play and nourishment in all varieties. Play and getting our needs met, especially under capitalism and patriarchy are so difficult at times. It’s a point of resistance to allow ourselves to create, to be cared for, to be nourished, to be loved, to have fun before we ‘fix’ systemic oppression. The way we do things is just as important as what we do. Deprivation from fun and play will never bring us out of oppression. Let’s make the way fun and nourishing too!
You are also a trained dancer – do you feel the power of dance be used in rediscovering ourselves, nourishing ourselves, connecting with our calling, and liberation?
I love this question! And the short answer is very much so. To me, true embodiment of our purpose is living our wisdom and integrating it into our ways of being. There is a huge difference between knowledge and embodied wisdom. Dance, especially Bharata Natyam, has a rich history of storytelling and the devadasis were able to support themselves financially as well. When I dance, I feel connected to the earth and to the lineage of dancers and my own ancestors. There’s also a palpable connection with the audience.
For me, the dance is meaningful and brings me so much joy. Many of the pieces from the ways they are performed to the costume and jewelry have also been influenced by colonialism. One of my next projects is to create new choreography, costumes, and music in collaboration with friends and the land. My dream is to make pieces that speak from decolonized perspectives and tell the stories that only I can tell.
I know there have been discussions around the colonisation of yoga and that this is something you’ve studied and written about. Would you mind sharing a little about this with us? And would you have any advice or tips for how one might proceed with decolonising their yoga practice or teachings, if they’ve just read what you’ve written and are thinking “oh my, I have work to do here”?
Yes, I’ve spent time researching colonization in India by the British, specifically around Bharata Natyam. I’m not a yoga expert by any means, but there are qualities of appropriation that cluster around power and money dynamics. My biggest piece of advice is to really slow down and pay attention to the dynamics. Start having conversations and making time and space to hold rich dialogue. In fact, a yoga teacher based in Maine, Moriah Helms, got in touch with me to tithe a portion of their yoga earnings to support my work with Asian and Pacific Island diaspora. Based on that conversation opening, we leaned into to what else was possible. That relationship has been so rich and has lead to co-teaching a course together.
I co-created the Gentle Business Mastermind with Amanda Rootsey and Nicola Newman, where we naturally talk a lot about how we can successfully build profitable businesses but in a gentle, sustainable and socially conscious way. We haven’t yet touched on business in our interview here – so I’d love to ask you, what does gentle business look and feel like for you?
What a great question! I love that you focus on Gentle Business. For me that looks like ways to make my work more sustainable for myself and sustains me, both by creating income and by fulfils me. I think more and more, I’m embracing anti-capitalist ways of being in my business and beyond. Actually, Moriah Helms and I are co-teaching a class, Sowing Post-Capitalist Seeds around the theory and praxis of anti-capitalist ways of being in life, work, and relationships based on our own personal experience and research.
I host a podcast called Dream For Others® where I often talk to people from different backgrounds about how they use their platforms, passions, personal story, strengths and sphere of influence to contribute to creating social, political or environmental change. I’m curious, what is your dream for others, and what are some ways that you try to give back or be of use to others?
I love your concept of dreaming for others! It is beautiful. My dream for others is to stay true to who they are, honor their own ways of being. Once we accept ourselves the way we are, we can live in ways that support us and serve the world, without turning away from the reality.
I try to give back in a variety of ways. Being a spoonie, sometimes my energy varies, but I make it a priority to check in on those close to me via community support. I also try to make my work accessible and consistently giving to causes or direct giving to those I support. My favorite project in the works is a dream project, of finding new ways of capturing the stories I need to tell via dance, movement, and film.
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