Kalaiselvi’s case shows just how far yoga has come in its journey as the ultimate mind-and-body solution. Although it received acclaim when the West adopted its “exotic” appeal, yogahasundergone a transformation.”Increasingly people approach us to battle lifestyle diseases like sinus, lower back pain and diabetes,” said John Peters, a yoga teacher and jury member at the ongoing International Yoga Festival in Puducherry.
Yoga, for its newest converts, is as much a therapeutic solution as a fitness option. Part of that appeal has to do with the proliferation of Cyters that combine modern medicine with traditional solutions like yoga and ayurveda. “We have been successfully treating several patients particularly those with diabetes, hypertension, depression and sleeping disorders,” said Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani, Cyter deputy director at Mahatma Gandhi Medical College cum Research Institute in Puducherry. “The integration of modern science with yoga and musictherapycan provide answers for chronic illnesses related to ageing, environment and improper lifestyle.”
Yoga experts are trying to standarise this ancient form as a therapeutic module. “Yoga practitioners in Kerala have succeeded in treating ailments by integrating yoga with ayurveda,” he said. “In Rishikesh, rejuvenation camps integrate yoga, ayurveda and naturopathy.”
Yoga is not just about the physical regime; it’s the overall package that helps detox the system. Satyabhama Rajagopalan from Chennai’s Asana Andiappan Yoga ResearchCentre,said,”An American whocametolearn yoga initially struggled with the south Indian vegetarian food. After six months of yoga and no-meat meals,shefoundthather brittle nailswerein better shape. Shewastaken abackbecauseshewasn’tlooking for a solution to that.” This therapeutic aspect has started gaining popularity in Europe.
As yoga has spread to other parts of the world, it has led to fusion forms. For instance, Vipassana meditation is the result of integration of yoga with the Buddhist tradition, said Bhavanani. Although yoga has many avatars—from hatha yoga to Bikram ‘hot yoga’ to ashtanga yoga—it’s basic tenet remains unchanged. “Yoga is about the union of mind and body,” said Rajagopalan. “The avatars are different formats researched and perfected by different gurus.” Going international
Yoga has more takers in Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Korea and Singapore than in its birthplace India, says Kancheepuram-born yoga instructor D SUDHAKAR who runs two yoga schools in Hong Kong and Japan. Sudhakar, who started learning yoga from Swami Chandramanda in Kerala at the age of 11, moved to Hong Kong four years ago. He established Vanakkam yoga school in 2011 and opened a branch in Japan.
“The yoga culture, both teaching and practicing, has changed due to influences from various countries. Our focus must be to revive the authentic yoga culture and preserve and popularise the ancient techniques. It is unfortunate that we Indians are yet to realize the significance of our tradition,” Sudhakar, 32, said. His school offers several shortterm programmes. “Of late there is a surge in number of students enrolling for yoga therapy.”
Life’s a bed of nails
John peters is a local celebrity. And he has yoga to thank. The son of a security guard, Peters, 30, had to battle more than just his economic background. Severely disabled from his waist down, Peters’ challenge was not to let his crutches come in the way of life. “Because of my disability I have always craved a challenge that would allow me to fight my condition and come up trumps,” he said.
“Yoga has given me the confidence to do that. When I perform, I don’t remember my disability.” Peters performs the most intricate asanas on a bed of nails, twisting and turning his torso and limbs with unbelievable flexibility. Now a yoga instructor at Udavum Karangal School on the outskirts of Puducherry, he has been feted in reality shows and holds eight Limca records. He is a member of the jury at the ongoing international yoga festival in Puducherry.
“I started practicing yoga when I was five,” he said. “There is no pain and I can do all my work without assistance. Thanks to yoga, my disability is no longer a hindrance.”
An easy-to-learn form that has become popular in the US, especially for stress management and fitness. It is slow-paced, gentle and focuses on breathing and meditation.
Purpose: To introduce beginners to yoga with basic poses and relaxation techniques.
Benefits: Relieves stress, provides physical exercise, improves breathing and flexibility.
Ashtanga is fast-paced and intense, and was perfected by K Pattabhi Jois. It is physically demanding as it involves synchronising breathing with a continuous series of postures.
Purpose: For a light and strong body and a calm mind.
Benefits: Relieves stress, improves coordination, circulation, flexibility and stamina.
Developed by BKS Iyengar, it gained popularity in the west from the 1950s. The emphasis is on breathing, healing and proper alignment of the body. Iyengar yoga utilizes a variety of props to help you perfect each pose.
Purpose: Strengthen muscles, improve physical and mental wellbeing.
Benefits: Good for back and neck pain, asthma, headaches, arthritis.