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From Ironman to Wellness Guru: A Conversation with Atmantan’s Nikhil Kapur



Yoga day

Increasingly, we have seen fitness gain prominence amongst society, but for Nikhil Kapur, it has been a way of life for the longest time.

As the Co-Founder and Director of Atmantan Wellness Centre, he is someone who is extremely passionate about health and fitness, bringing real-life experience to wellness as a whole. A 5-time Ironman tri-athlete and a certified sports nutritionist, he isn’t just in the business of wellness; he’s truly passionate about it, as is clearly evident from our conversation ahead of World Yoga Day, excerpts of which are below.

Where did the idea of a retreat or a holistic center if you may call it come to life?

So, actually, you see, when my wife and I, we met in business school, we exchanged a lot of ideas and at some point of time, we said that if life gives us an opportunity, we would like to be entrepreneurs.

We discussed a lot of ideas, but for some reason, which makes sense today, the calling was always towards alternative medicine. What we saw was that with the way the way the economy was growing, and with the way consumer behaviour was changing, we realised that people would want to travel and improve their health, vis-a-vis travel and then come back and say that “we need another holiday”.

This kind of trying to improve your well-being has become exceedingly powerful, especially in the last decade, and especially in the aftermath of the pandemic. When we conceptualised this, we said that there should be a place where individuals can go and take care of their holistic health and doing this should be a celebration, it should not feel like a punishment. They should have a very skilled team of professionals looking after them. It should be a non-judgmental place where the person completely embraces the program and is only focused on themselves.

So that is how the concept was discussed. Post MBA, somewhere around 2004-2005 after we felt we had picked up good experience, we said, “let’s give this a shot”. From there on, we went into selecting the perfect piece of land, and then we had a very, very challenging period of construction. And now, we are eight years young. It’s been an incredible journey.

In your opinion, what is the perspective of people who come to Atmantan, and what sets it apart from others?

I think the key differentiator for us is the philosophy.

You see, you might have a lot of places which will offer the same therapies or the same services, but the manner in which we have an understanding of physiology, many aspects of the mind, how we work towards making cognitive changes, and creating habits that last a lifetime set us apart.

This entire understanding and this entire approach is completely unique in not just India, but internationally as well. So many of our clients are affluent global travellers, and they have been for retreats overseas as well. They keep coming back to us because of the outcome which they get, which is absolutely unmatched. This is thanks to our integrated approach, with the kind of team we have, which is passionate at scale, the way we deliver the program, how the entire environment comes together, and helps the individual meet their objective is absolutely unique.

Life is extremely complex, especially with the way we are living life right now. We are all in the fast lane and we’ve kind of overcomplicated our lives and this puts a lot of stress on us. Everyone is going through something different, as a result of which one science is not suitable for everything. That is why you need to have a holistic approach to help you work with many sciences and modalities, and see what works best for an individual. That’s how we basically structure a program. Our understanding is quite evolved, and we keep getting better as time passes by. And that is what really differentiates us to any property whether in India or overseas.

So how do you align yourself if you are meditating or doing yoga? What has been your journey so far?

My journey with yoga has been incredible. I started doing yoga in 2005, and yoga has helped and come to my rescue in different phases.

The first few years was about intensive yoga, that really helped me improve my level of fitness. The next phase of yoga was where I was using yoga as a means of recovering and relaxation because I was doing a lot of TriSports. But the other part which is extremely important is the rest and sleep response, which in a lot of people has become lazy.

I love to try a lot of things myself and I realised within one of the analyses that my parasympathetic nervous system is not as responsive as it should be, which basically means that I’m slightly prone to stress, which a lot of people are. So, I’ve been doing a lot of Pranayam practice, both in the morning as well as for a few minutes before I sleep. This has really helped me improve my level of stress.

We notice a lot of people, especially post pandemic, call us for emotional healing. People are going through a lot of stuff, chronic stress, bereavement, grief, and a lot of people are also trying to discover their purpose in life. Yoga is a fabulous science of improving your awareness.

In fact, if you look at it, Yoga is a complete science. If you look at the eight limbs philosophy of yoga, right from laying a foundation of how one should live their life by what values they should incorporate. If you look at Yama and Niyama, which evolves to Pranayama and Asana, and then it eventually goes to Samadhi, which basically means that our mind is so sorted that nothing disturbs it.

The eight limbs of Yoga

This is how life is actually meant to be lived. We are all in the very, very fast lane, over stressing ourselves. But once in a while, it’s good for us to embrace yoga, at a pace in which life is meant to be lived.

Right. I think we’ve forgotten how to pause. That brings me to my next question. Among the C-Suite, especially after the pandemic, I have seen them get overly stressed. What advice would you like to give them?

I completely hear you. In fact, we have a lot of industry leaders who come to Atmantan. They take time out to align themselves with their health, and of course with their business as well. But they take that two or three weeks out annually, so that they go back refreshed.

Everybody needs to do it for their health. It’s something like in an F1 race, you have the pitstop. Similarly, in life, you need to have a wellness pitstop, which is what centres like Atmantan do. It really helps you disconnect with the constant stressors and life that we live, to be able to realign ourselves with what we want to do in the future, and what are the kinds of choices which we should be making so that we are even more successful in life both professionally and personally.

One must take time out to focus on themselves. In fact, there was a time when I used to do an annual retreat, but it used to be only for seven days. For the last three years, after seeing other industry leaders coming to us for a longer duration, I am now doing three-week retreats annually, which is my time to spend with myself focus on myself and look at the way ahead for the organisation and what I want to do in life, both professionally and personally. There is an awareness which is picking up on doing these kinds of annual or biannual retreats by the most senior folks in the industry.

Okay. What is your plan of growing Atmantan? How do you see things panning out? While it is for the people, there has to be a business strategy.

We really believe in what we’re doing. And consumerism around wellness products and services is really rising. So, we have a lot of plans where we want to open more wellness centres, where people can come for the residential retreats.

We’re also trying to build a digital ecosystem where people can continue to consume services and products even when they are not in Atmantan. We’ve got a lot of exciting plans and a lot of opportunities ahead of us. We’re trying to look for like-minded individuals and companies with whom we can partner and grow. So, lots happening, and I’m sure in the coming few months, you will hear about what Atmantan is doing in terms of new projects.