Shantha Sunderamoorthy, 51
Prevention is better than cure. It’s been four years since I began practising yoga. What started out of fear has transformed my life and made me into a stronger person. I joined AtmaYoga Foundation after reading about it in a newspaper in June 2016. It was a one-day class where we were taught high energy meditation exercises and given a diet chart to follow. I’ve been practising it at home since then. All the members meet for a group meditation on every new moon day.
I took up yoga because my parents and brother had kidney ailments. I have seen how painful dialysis is. I did not want to put myself through it. I had a kidney stone in 2015 and the pain was terrible. To get rid of all this, I started practising a breathing exercise for 20-25 minutes. On leisure days, I practise a set of five techniques for 45 minutes. There’s no fixed time to perform it as it involves no movements. I was particular about simple exercises because of a spinal cord injury I had in the past.
After performing regularly, I feel that my age-related problems have subsided. My kidney problem has been cured. I had a blurry vision and that has been corrected. My thyroid levels are low, blood pressure and diabetes are under control. I was 46 when I started doing these exercises and going through menopause. It turned out to be a smooth ending without severe bleeding or complications. It’s been two years since I had a cough or cold. There are so many bodily changes that I’m unable to select a few. I’ve seen many doctors and practitioners who also attend the meditation session every new moon. My niece started going for yoga after seeing the effect it had on my body. I can confidently say that I can recover quickly from all kinds of illnesses even it it’s the coronavirus.
Manik, Early 40s
Anyone who can breathe can practise yoga. I started my yoga practice when I approached Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in 2014 with health issues. With time, I have overcome irritable bowel syndrome, bronchial asthma, plantar fasciitis (heel pain), proximal hamstring tendinopathy (lower gluteal pain), chronic non-specific lower back pain, and borderline diabetes. The bigger benefits of my practice also reflect in my emotional, social and psychological well-being.
Subsequently, after deriving the health benefits, I consistently practised and studied under the guidance of my teachers at Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Shala and Iyengar Yoga Dipam — all in Chennai. I am a self-motivated, consistent practitioner of yoga. Apart from my practice of asanas, I study and practise other tools of yoga too. I perform my asanas early in the morning. On most days, my first session with a student starts at 6.30 am.
So, I prefer completing my morning practice by 6 am. Presently, I am working with students who are overcoming issues related to chronic non-specific lower back pain, breast cancer recovery, carpal tunnel (numbness and tingling in palm), HIV, PCOD, injuries of soft tissues in sportsmen, and accident survivors. This also includes clinical psychiatric patients and for overall general fitness. Yoga is not a mere workout. It is a life-long practice — an attitude to live life in a manner to break free of our conditioned existence.
Radhika Agarwal, 25
Unbearable menstrual pains and cramps have always been a problem for me. I’ve tried both homeopathy and Ayurveda treatments but nothing worked. I eventually ended up taking anti-inflammatory pills during my menstrual cycle to ease and get relief from the pain. In the beginning of 2018, I started practising yoga. and within six to seven months, I noticed that the pain had become bearable. Now, it’s been over a year since I stopped taking pain-relief tablets. My instructor Vandana Agarwal shares asanas that benefit me — the Balasana and Titli (Butterfly) asana have really helped me.
Yoga has now become a part of everyday life. I practise yoga five or six days a week. Now, my mother and father have joined yoga classes too. My father used to suffer from severe sinus, now, he seems to be doing much better. Pranayama has helped him. My mother used to have shoulder pains; used to feel tired and drowsy in the day. After yoga, she tells me that she feels energetic and that her pains have reduced too! Yoga has made our lives more holistic.
Jayanthi Govindan, 60
A few years ago, when I started having sciatica pain in my leg, I couldn’t sit or stand for a long time and had difficulty in climbing stairs too. This is when my sister, who has been an ardent yoga practitioner for over 15 years suggested that I enrol myself into yoga classes. As per her advice, I signed up at Iyengar Yoga Deepam on Eldams Road. I have been practising Iyengar Yoga for almost a year now. It has not only helped me battle my pain but has made me more active and energetic.
In January 2020, I embarked on a journey to Ahobilam, Andhra Pradesh. It’s a known fact that visiting the temples in Ahobilam involves arduous walking and I was able to go about walking without any problem or breathlessness. I was at ease and I believe yoga helped me. Every asana has a unique function and doing Iyengar Yoga gave me the required mental strength. My husband and I go to yoga classes together and we thoroughly enjoy it. Even now, during the lockdown, we have been attending online yoga sessions through Zoom. He is 65, I am 60 and yoga has made our lives better. It is an art and perhaps the way forward.
Neelima Ghani, 50
Like most Indian kids we would hear stories where people did dhyan and tapasya, and good things happened to them. Because I had a scientific mind, I was sceptical of it. I did not understand what ‘controlling your mind’ meant, how it could be done or how it could be useful. As I got older, I observed that my mind was filling up with a never-ending cycle of random thoughts. Sometimes these thoughts would keep occurring to me when I had anxieties or insecurities. It reached a point when I just needed a minute’s rest. I realised, even when we are sleeping our unconscious mind is still working. Stress impacts physical health and there are so many symptoms that come up and we don’t know how it happened.
I suffer from heart problems and blood pressure. Stress is the real killer here. Even after reading up a lot about meditation and looking at my mother unfailingly mediate, I still had my doubts that meditation would help. This was until a group of my college friends offered to start a spiritual journey. One of them had conducted a two -week course for vipassana and meditation. We discussed how this method scientifically helps deal with random thoughts and manage stress. Another group of friends started group meditations to control the mind. I was still not convinced but because they were friends, I joined the initial sessions. It felt like a pipe dream. In theory, it may sound like it’d work, but in practice it’s nearly impossible.
Meditating helped me segregate my thoughts and get clarity. All it took was for me to take a step back and review my thoughts from the perspective of a third person. It was a mammoth task at first, to even achieve a state of meditation for a few seconds. Even now I can only be in a meditative state for a few minutes in a half an hour session. The clarity has helped me categorise my thoughts, which in turn helped me control stress and blood pressure. I used to get recurring headaches. But ever since I started meditating, these headaches have vanished too. I feel healthy and motivated and my face has begun to glow.
Ramalingam Rajupillai, 68
Around 25 years back, I used to have allergic asthma. When I was at Dharwad, Maharashtra, on official duty, I saw a yoga-related book in a bookstall — replete with photos of yoga postures and step-by-step description. I began practising a limited number of asanas which were related to my ailments. I started getting relief. From then, I latched on to this habit.
Then, five years back, I attended yoga classes by master Annamalai, with my daughter, who is a qualified yoga master with an MSc in yoga. She attended the yoga classes along with me to learn more about different yogas from different masters. Now she is a yoga teacher and conducts yoga classes online as well as personally.
Being a runner and cyclist, yoga is a routine affair for me. I believe that yoga will be helpful in my sporting activities. I mainly do yoga just to maintain my body flexibility and to control BP. Now my breathing problems have completely gone. This may be due to my extensive cycling also. I got relief from my hypertension, allergic asthma, and blood pressure. It improved my agility that is required for cycling. I don't do all the asanas every day. I do some selective asanas at least for an hour. I stretch before I begin practice and end the session with Shavasana as it calms the body and mind. Combined with meditation, one can reap all benefits of yoga.
Inputs by: Naaz Ghani, Roshne Balasubramanian and Vaishali Vijaykumar