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Photo: Nathan G./Mint
Photo: Nathan G./Mint

Yoga, yoga everywhere

At beaches, on roads, in parksyoga mania has taken over the country

The spotlight is on India as it has taken upon itself the role of ensuring the success of the first official International Day of Yoga on 21 June. For the past month, preparations have been on in full swing.

As a precursor to the big day, yoga guru Baba Ramdev held a well-attended two-day camp at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi.

Meanwhile, as a result of all the focus and attention, yoga is enjoying a spike in popularity in urban centres.

New-age studios such as Mumbai’s Full Circle Yoga and Yoga 101 and Bengaluru’s 1000 Yoga and Total Yoga engage the metrosexual urbanite for whom fitness is an important lifestyle aspect. Gym chains, including Fitness First and Gold’s Gym, have adapted to the changing needs of their customers and now offer regular yoga classes for the benefit of their members.

“Everyone has different needs from yoga—fitness, relaxation, health, etc. I think that the positive shift towards yoga is largely because it has become so popular in the West, where it was seen as a solution to their complicated lifestyles. Now that urban India has similarly complex lifestyles, yoga seems to have the answers," says Pratik Thakker, who runs 136.1 Yoga Studio in Chennai, as a franchise partner.

The urban Indian yoga teacher is proactive enough to take yoga all the way home to her client. Kalpana Mehta, a freelance yoga teacher in Mumbai, not only conducts classes at studios, gyms and yoga schools, but also at people’s homes. “Most times, it’s either multiple members or the entire family, children included, who practise yoga with me," she says. Her oldest student is 83 years old.

And trainers such as Abhishek Sharma are getting innovative and creating their own special brand of yoga that derives from the principles of yoga and includes other exercises as well. Sharma says anyone who has not done some kind of basic exercise before will not be able to attend his sessions, which are often held at Marine Drive and Bandra’s popular Carter Road and Bandstand along the beach in Mumbai.

Fitness brands such as Reebok have also sensed the revival of interest in yoga in India and its master trainers conduct free weekly sessions at several of its stores across the country. “We have made conscious efforts over the past few years to promote yoga as a fitness form," says Somdeb Basu, brand director, Reebok India.

In recent months, even the corporate world has turned to yoga to ensure it has a healthy and fit workforce. Bengaluru-based Total Yoga has conducted workshops on desktop yoga—asanas and yoga movements that can be done while at your workstation or desk—with several information technology companies, including Dell.

Yoga is also growing as an alternative therapy, with yoga teachers being approached to address problems ranging from a slipped disc to clinical depression. Vandana Yadav of Full Circle Yoga says, “Slipped disc is one of the most common problems people come to fix at a yoga class. Other issues, such as helping cancer survivors or treating depression and hypertension, require special attention though."

Yoga 101 founder Rinku Suri, who struggled with hormonal imbalances since her thyroid gland was removed at the age of 16, says, “It was only after I started yoga that I was able to address the thyroid issues. It worked so wonderfully well for me that I went on to study yoga extensively." She now teaches yoga.

There is no denying that the International Day of Yoga has acted as a catalyst and has got people in urban India talking about yoga. Now, we need to see if the mania stays strong.

Preeti Zachariah contributed to this story.

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