Socials for the soul: a peek into a new-age wellness retreat

Four friends in Kochi are encouraging locals to replace that Sunday boozy brunch with an outdoor workout at Aurah Socials

We’ve seen ‘socially distanced’ running and cycling groups, and had our fill of Instagram live sessions and Clubhouse rooms on lockdown fitness and home workout guides. With restrictions now easing, a group in Kochi is now blending these elements together with a bit of the outdoors. The brainchild of 20-somethings Riya Jithu, Ashwini Nandakumar, Hannah Muthoot and Anna Pauly, it came about when they were looking for a social experience that went beyond just dinner and drinks.

(L to R) Anna Pauly, Ashwini Nandakumar, Riya Jithu and Hannah Muthoot | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“We wanted to go for a workout and smoothie bowl. But a Google search revealed no results for Kochi. So, we decided to host our own ‘socials’ and co-founded Aurah Socials,” says Nandakumar. The idea was to get people to step out of their gyms and makeshift fitness studios, aka living rooms, once a month. “You meet like-minded individuals at a scenic location such as the beach, on a pool deck, in a garden, or overlooking the backwaters, get in a group workout [HIIT, pilates, yoga], and end it with a nutritious meal,” explains the 25-year-old, who works at an edtech startup.

Marathons and smoothie bowls

Aurah Socials hosted their first event in April — an invite-only gathering that brought together family and friends at the backwaters. “We wanted to see if people were willing to wake up at 6 am for a wellness event. We overshot our capacity and had over 50 people participate [the social kickstarted with yoga, followed by a breakfast of smoothie bowls and avo toast],” says Jithu, 23, who works at Cosmix, a company that makes superfood mixes.

The start-up network

  • Supporting local brands is a natural extension of the start-up. They have joined hands with the likes of oil and spice brand, Purvina; organic store HORG; kombucha label Crackling & Ko, among others. “We are now keen to collaborate with wellness brands outside of Kerala such as Pahadi Local, Mason & Co, and Cosmix, to name a few,” says Muthoot, 25.

When the second wave hit in May, the team switched to offline events. They raised ₹37,000 at a virtual fundraiser — for non-profit Corona Safe Network (CSN) — that focussed on physical (HIIT) and mental well-being (tapping and meditation), with a cookalong session. This was followed by a fundraiser bake sale in collaboration with artisanal chocolate brand Paul and Mike in June, also for CSN. Post-lockdown, the team picked a 10K run for their August social. “We partnered with personal coach, CrossFit trainer and athlete Kris Jacob [who has been training for six years now]. While most people found the challenge intimidating, by the end nearly 47 completed the run,” says Nandakumar, adding that their events have seen people from the 20s to the late 50s participate. They also follow all Covid-19 protocols. “Everyone must furnish a negative RT-PCR test report. In addition, we host outdoor events to maintain social distancing, and limit entries to a maximum of 50 participants.”

A snapshot from a prior event by Aurah Socials | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

As for future plans, Pauly, 25, says they hope to normalise gatherings that focus on health and fitness. “We’d like to encourage more communities to get together and exercise. We plan to offer our experiences to different cities in Kerala in the coming months,” she concludes.

Tickets from ₹850 onwards. Details for the September social will be announced soon on @aurahsocial on Instagram.

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