In 1979, four young women from Sweden decided to embark on a 10-week trip across Sri Lanka. While galavanting along the east coast of the emerald isle, they stumbled upon a sign board that read ‘Ashram’. Curious, they entered and found out that it was a yoga guru’s home where he let guests stay with him, his wife and his young child as he taught them yoga. What followed was a week-long stay at this modest house where the girls did yoga at sunrise and sunset, had vegetarian food and slept on mats laid out on the concrete floor.
That is how Susanne Pulverer, IKEA India CEO, then around 20 years old, her two sisters and a friend were properly introduced to yoga. “It gave me the foundation. Some of the postures that I learned then are still with me,” says Pulverer.
If not in that nondescript ashram in Sri Lanka, she says she would have eventually found yoga when she came to India as head of purchasing function for IKEA South Asia in 2007. When she returned to Sweden after that stint, she looked for ways to continue her practice and came across a yoga studio that she keeps going back to even now whenever she is visiting home. Yoga, she says, is becoming increasingly popular in Europe because people have found its benefits following which yoga studios have mushroomed across the continent.
She also found solace in yoga guru Bikram Choudhury’s hot yoga—something she still turns to. “That is very effective and has become the saviour of my life because it gives me so much energy and I feel so good. It is a combination of physical and mental exercise,” she says. In addition to hot yoga, she likes to practise more physical kinds of yoga like Ashtanga and Hatha yoga with some meditation in the beginning.
Pulverer unwinds by focusing on her health and wellbeing.
Having grown up in the countryside of south Sweden close to Copenhagen, Pulverer says she loved going on runs with her dog, horseback riding and knew every path in the forest as she trekked around. Her first career as a physiotherapist, spread across four years in her 20s, also grounded her interest in wellbeing. When she found yoga, it fit into that equation seamlessly.
Running a tight ship at IKEA India means that her days are long. Yoga, she says, is the best way to recharge as it gives her the calmness and energy back. Up at 5:30 am every day of the week, barring one rest day, Pulverer tries to either do yoga or go running, which she does as a complementary exercise, for an hour before her work day begins. “I saw the benefit of doing it in the beginning of the day as you get the benefit the whole day. If you do it in the evening, it is a very nice feeling but you go to sleep and it does not stay with you,” she explains. It is also the time when you can process your thoughts, think about the day and about the bigger question that you have to address, Pulverer adds.
Since she has recently shifted base to India and moved to Bengaluru, she is using apps like Yoga Studio and Asana Rebel to guide her sessions but plans to get a teacher soon.
Her mind, however, keeps wandering off to her first brush with yoga in Sri Lanka. “Sometimes, you just come across something and it depends on if you choose to take the opportunity that shows up for you. If you are curious, you say, ‘Let’s try’, like we did. It was great for us,” she concludes.