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Coping with Covid — how Yoga helped unlock inner reserves of body and mind

Yoga practitioners highlight on how this ancient system helped them cope with the extraordinary circumstances created by the two waves of Covid-19

This year’s International Yoga Day 2021 has chosen the theme, "Be With Yoga, Be At Home” keeping in mind the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, The focus is on applying the principles  of Yoga to keep oneself safe indoors, work from home, without losing the body-mind balance during extraordinarily traumatic times.

India Narrative takes a peek into what Yoga enthusiasts have been doing in the last one year while facing two major lockdowns. Each individual’s story was different yet they all emphasised on doing Yoga to stay healthy, fit and active and most importantly emotionally balanced.

Prerna Nigam, Mrs Femina 2021 Second Runner-up, Fashion & Lifestyle Blogger and a Fitness enthusiast is based in Delhi.

Nigam’s introduction and love affair with Yoga started in her school days as her parents were Yoga enthusiasts who performed yoga asanas religiously every morning. “I have always been into strength training but the breathing exercises like pranayam, kapalbhati that my father taught me have always been a part of my everyday health ritual. In 2016 I decided to take formal classes from a yoga teacher to learn more about the asanas specifically to achieve my fitness goals. I continued with yoga in parallel to my strength training but once I conceived (last year) I took it up full time.”

Yoga became her automatic choice when she moved to a new place after marriage. “Before finding a new gym/trainer I decided to give yoga a try since I could pursue it at the comfort of my home as well. It is gentle and low impact and offers physical and mental benefits. Practicing the postures, breathing exercises and meditation makes you healthier in body, mind and spirit. Yoga lets you tune in, chill out, shape up — all at the same time,” says Nigam.

Nigam found Yoga a perfect form of exercise to cope with the Coronavirus pandemic. The anxiety and mental challenge caused by restrictions cause sleeplessness and stress. “The posture and asanas of yoga help to reduce muscle tension, joint issues resulting in a relaxed mind while a lot of yoga poses help to manage blood pressure levels and anxiety. Teaching regulating of breath, Yoga makes a person feel relaxed and at peace,” she discloses to India Narrative.

She adds that Yoga helped her great deal during her pregnancy. “Being Covid positive during my pregnancy, I believe that apart from the basic medicines allowed to pregnant ladies it was the inner strength gained through years of Yoga which came to my rescue.”

Also read: Preparations for International Yoga Day now in top gear as India seeks to extend its soft-power

Devoting nearly an hour every day for Yoga, Nigam suggests some asanas she did during her pregnancy. These include Marjariasana (cat stretch); Badhakonasana (butterfly pose); the fish pose or Matsyasana; Anulom vilom Pranayama (alternate nostril breathing technique); and Bhramari Pranayama (bee breath) among others.

She concludes by stressing: “During pandemic, we need yoga more than ever now.”

Rahul Aggarwal, entrepreneur and engineer is the co-founder of i2k2 Networks, a cloud hosting services company. He lives in the National Capital Region.

Aggarwal is a self-confessed workaholic and geek, who loves to devote his fullest when at work or home or play. His enthusiasm for anything and everything is infectious. Despite being occupied in several spheres, he manages to find time to do Yoga.

“I have been practising Yoga now for more than three years under the guidance of Kishan K.B., a trainer. After starting Yoga, I have maintained excellent health during all these years and have gained energy to work more diligently in my professional life,” he shares with India Narrative.

Also read: PM to address 7th International Yoga Day prog on Monday

It was an example that set Aggarwal to take up this ancient Indian practice. His brother-in-law was being coached to do Yoga by Kishan. “I got inspired by my brother-in-law. His fitness level increased tremendously during the practice of Yoga and that got me going. So I too decided to learn from the person he was learning.”

Yoga for Aggarwal has always given him a bright start in the day. Sharing his thoughts fervently he says, “Yoga every morning starts the day with a positive vibes of staying fit. The intense Yogic workout stimulates the being and prepares oneself for the day ahead.”

He finds the Yoga breathing exercises too very beneficial. “Yogic breathing creates a positive mind set and increases the lung capacity tremendously.” Being a city dweller he knows how important it is to keep one’s lungs fit. “Yes, Yoga ensures that you stay away from all the pitfalls of staying in a Metro city.”

Aggarwal does a variety of Yoga exercises throughout the week. Spending nearly an hour or sometimes more, he suggests that a new set of asanas practice daily helps to stimulate varied parts of the body. The asanas he does include, Bhujangasana, Sirsasana, Dhanurasana, Padmasana, Utthita Parsvakonasana, Natarajasana, Halasana and Siddhasana, among others.

On how Yoga has helped during the pandemic, Aggarwal categorically states: “I and my family are still safe and have not been infected by Covid. Yoga has helped to keep my lung capacity and that of my family high and helped us to cope with the stress of staying indoors.”

He prefers to share a simple message on the World Yoga Day 2021 with everyone. “Start now…its never too late. Stay healthy and fit for keeping afloat during the onslaught of the pandemic.”

Rehana Khan, 73 years old, who earlier worked in a hotel and now stays in Noida with her husband, Habib Khan.

Khan’s fitness and pleasant demeanour do not reveal her age at all. Leading a happy retired life with her husband, she speaks with gusto about Yoga.

“I have been doing Yoga for the last seven to eight years. Only for the last one year I have not been able to attend the Yoga centre in Noida where I used to go in the evening for an one-hour class daily,” she shares with India Narrative.

Despite staying at home, she has not given up doing the routine Yoga workout. “Yes, even though I am at home since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, I continue to do my breathing exercises, Anulom vilom Pranayama; and of course exercising my hands and legs.“

Missing her regular classes, she is looking forward to joining online Yoga classes. “My initial hesitation has gone, and I am waiting to join from July 1,” she reveals while laughing at her reluctance about the virtual classes.

While most women would grudge praising their daughter-in-law, Khan is different. She shares that it was her daughter-in-law who along with Khan's son used to go to Dr. Sumitra’s Yoga Centre, and inspired her to take up Yoga. “She goaded me to come along with her and once I started, I discovered a remarkable change in myself. Earlier my body was stiff as there was no movement or activity as I was staying indoors but doing Yoga I found myself fit with virtually no stiffness. Also through the classes, I made new friends with whom I shared a wonderful time!”

Besides the physical wellbeing Yoga made her feel good emotionally too and made her cheerful.

She too suffered due to the Coronavirus infection. “Whenever my oxygen level dipped I would sit in the open air and do my breathing exercise. That really helped me to cope with the Covid.”

Incidentally, her husband, Habib Khan, a sportsperson, does Yoga regularly. “He supports Yoga as an excellent form of workout to increase one’s stamina, flexibility, strength and giving one emotional balance.”

Ishita Arora, who currently resides with her husband in Mumbai, has done her bachelors and masters in economics and is currently working with a leading asset management firm based in the US.

Again in the case of Arora, it was her childhood experience that made her take to Yoga. “I have been practicing Yoga for the past six to seven years and more regularly since January 2020. My mom used to have a yoga instructor who would come home and take lessons and that’s where I first learnt from.”

Usually one finds youngsters and those from her generation going to the gym for a workout or running in the park. “I am not very fond of rigorous outdoor activities like running and I’m not fond of working out at the gym either. I chose Yoga because I can decide my pace and I don’t need equipment to practice. Yoga isn’t limiting for me in terms of space and time.”

She is quite frank about how tough it was initially when she started doing the Yoga workout. “When I started, it felt like a lot of effort to continue every day. But now that it's been over a year, I look forward to my classes.”

On being asked why this change, she replies: “Yoga has greatly helped me to improve my flexibility and posture. This is important for me as I have a desk job which requires me to sit for long hours at a stretch.  I have also learnt breathing exercises which help with anxiety. Overall, it has significantly impacted my well-being for the better.”

Arora does Yoga three times a week for an hour. “I practice asanas like Bhujang asana, Padahast asana, Trikon asana for flexibility, Vriksh asana for balance and Chaturanga asana and Chakra asana for strength.”

According to her Yoga proved great help during the Covid. “It was a great outlet to expend my energy in a productive fashion. Since I can practice from my home, I do not need to step out and risk infection. It’s helped me stay active which is necessary when all other outdoor activity has completely ceased.”

Now that she herself has got into the groove, she is now encouraging her husband to start practicing with her. “I can see how much it’s helped him with flexibility and strength. I would say it’s definitely worth trying.”

Based on her experience she would like to share with others one thought. “Yes, one size doesn’t fit all but Yoga offers you the flexibility to practice as per your body’s needs.”

Nimit Mehta is the Director of a leading wedding and event management company R2S Events & Weddings. Busy as a bee he has in the last 20 years conceptualised and executed events and destination weddings across the globe.

Mehta who was always into weight training and bodybuilding turned to Yoga only when he was 37. “It was in 2016 when I had reached the pinnacle of my professional life and turned 37 that my family and I started Yoga. A chance meeting with Yoga guru Bharat Yogj made me realize that Yoga was the answer. For the last five years that I learnt the discipline in its true form from the guru himself,” reveals Mehta.

Living a life of intense and long hours of work often late in the night took a toll on Mehta’s body and mind. He found a relief to all these problems in Yoga. “I chose Yoga as I needed a discipline which could give me holistic fitness and spiritual experience along with rejuvenation and re-energising of the mind, body and soul. Besides, I can practice it anywhere and anytime. All it needs is you and the earth below and the sky above,” he explains rather philosophically.

For Mehta there has been a marked difference in his life ever since he turned to Yoga. “It has completely transformed me as a human being in the way I think, feel and act. My family, friends and professional peers admit that I am a different personality in complete contrast to the aggressive version of myself. Now I am calm, composed, focussed, open minded and vibrant with high endurance to the same long and intense hours of work and travel. My capability of thinking, rationalising, logic, envisioning and decision making have significantly improved. I have never felt so fit even in the prime of my youth in all three aspects, emotional, mental and physical.”

Mehta’s Yoga routine is for an hour daily doing Surya Namaskar, Bhastrika, Pranayam, Vajra asanas among other ones.

Restricted to indoors during the lockdown due to Coronavirus, Mehta avers that Yoga helped him immensely. “I didn’t have to worry about staying fit as I could do Yoga at home. In the pandemic it helped me to de-stress and stay fit; helping me to stay calm and composed even in the most trying times and situations especially when I was helping with humanitarian efforts during the second wave.”

Keen to share his mantra with others, Mehta states: “Yoga is the answer to most physical and mental issues. It will change your life.”