Shalyni Paiyappilly

Shalyni Paiyappilly is a Founding Friend, psychotherapist, yoga and meditation instructor, sound healer, and singer. We caught up with Shalyni this month and discussed the importance of creativity, art, healing, and opening new channels of communication while staying connected in a time of physical distance. 

Photo Credit: Michael Synder 

Shalyni, what drew you to Fotografiska? 

I remember when the building itself was under construction, and I kept walking by thinking, “I can’t wait to go in there.” Then a friend of mine who was involved with Fotografiska told me I would enjoy being a Founding Friend, so I joined, and I attended one of the founding events at City Winery for Albert Watson. I have loved connecting with the other folks at Fotografiska; I really appreciate how you can view photographers’ and artists’ different perceptions of things by seeing it through their lens. I can’t wait to take advantage of my membership again when you reopen.

There are such various aspects to your career and life – tell us a little about yourself:

I’m a full time psychotherapist and have a creative side that I cannot let go of. New York has allowed me to cultivate all that I am. In 2010 I moved to upstate New York to serve at Americorps at a healthcare program. Within 6 months of my term, I connected with photographers there and re-engaged in modeling. In 2012 I moved to New York City, continued modeling, explored my creative work, expanded my spiritual & artistic networks, furthered my education, and obtained a Coaching Certificate from NYU and a Masters in Social Work from Fordham University. Through all my years in New York, my spirituality has deeply grown which has allowed me to help empower people towards positive change and inner peace. Aside from my career in mental health, I am a yoga and meditation instructor, sound healer and a trained singer. 

How have you been able to connect with clients while we are not able to see each other in a physical space? Was creating a connection virtually difficult? 

My therapy work has been able to shift quite easily to virtual sessions, and in fact, many of my clients prefer it. Not everyone has been able to connect virtually due to a lack of private space or being online too much already, so unfortunately I’ve had to take breaks with some clients, which I understand. I’m so grateful I have a job and be able to help people at this time.

There have been more challenges with regards to my work in sound healing, meditation, and yoga. Offering online wellness classes involves more technical equipment which can be expensive and confusing, but I am progressing in this as times goes on. With yoga, it’s important that students explore poses safely and it is my job to make sure that happens. But with conducting classes virtually sometimes people don’t appear on camera or they don’t feel like sharing input which prevents me from fully assisting them. Additionally, the energetic experience that usually is felt during in-person classes does not translate online.

What sort of techniques have helped you and your clients feel safe, be more authentic on camera, and feel some of the energy they are used to finding in person in the room? 

I’ve learned through trial and error and I have realized that by giving my clients space and time they are able to freely express themselves and truly feel cared for. In all of my sessions I am always mindful of my own body language and about creating a genuine safe space. Also, I find that sharing gratitude work, mindfulness practices, smiling, and using humor helps my clients to feel even more at ease during these times.

Photo Credit: Michael Synder 

The last several months have been an anxiety-inducing time for so many. How do you help people cope?

During my sessions, I always strive to conduct myself with respect, engage in empathetic listening, and to always exude a non-judgmental presence so that my clients can freely express their mind. It’s obviously not been an easy time for anyone. Many of my clients have found that the precautions they have been taking during the pandemic have made them feel isolated. In these cases, I assist them to explore tools that will help them cope in an optimal way. I also encourage them to reflect on the people in their own communities who are taking positive actions, engaging in BIPOC advocacy work, and who are extending human kindness.

What brings you the most artistic inspiration and creative joy?

My biggest creative joy is singing. Ever since I was a little girl, that was my first dream. With that said, I am grateful that my direction went into human service and advocacy work, which has been transformative and humbling both professionally and personally. In my youth I really enjoyed performing on stage but my expression was self-centered. But now when I share my singing it’s about expressing my soul and connecting even deeper with my spirituality. It is a true joy whenever I share my voice to help people feel their own inner peace. I feel like it is my true calling. 

Thank you so much, Shalyni. We can’t wait to see you back at Fotografiska soon.

Same here. I look forward to returning and to joining your Friday Mindfulness sessions!

Thank you, Shalyni, for being a member of Fotografiska New York and taking the time to speak with us. To learn more about Shalyni and get in touch, visit her website.

We’ll be hosting a Member Spotlight every month and would love to hear from you. Please contact us at to be featured.