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Much Ado About Yoga!

Lusana Anika Masrur

Hour-long traffic jams for fifteen-minute journeys, devoted power-failures five times a day, newspapers overflowing with crime and chaos, never-ending bills and assignments and chores! -All the hustle and bustle that is life in Dhaka city. Consumed by the merciless tides of metropolitan city life, every person of very background is inevitably burdened with the stress that accompanies our unhealthy and crowded daily lives. Increasingly however, people are growing conscious of this unwanted phenomenon and trying to break free from its grasp. Gyms and fitness centres have mushroomed all over the city as the movement of the health buffs is on the loose. But for many, pushing weights or doing cardiovascular exercises on a regular basis is just not appealing enough simply because it is not their cup of desi tea.

Offering an Asian flavour for those who are looking for more options, Yoga is increasingly becoming an answer. Originating from holy Hindu men in India centuries ago, it refers to their traditional mental and physical disciplines. In Sanskrit, Yoga means “union” and signifies a union of the mind, body and spirit. Offering a different alternative from Western-prescribed practices, centres offering Yoga and meditation are being introduced in various parts of the city. Like many things Bangladeshi, one must scrutinize the authenticity of these because a significant amount have inexperienced instructors. So before starting, it may be wise to study up on Yoga and inquire for a legitimate place nearby.

A major challenge to its growth in our country is that it is often stereotyped as something restricted only to followers of Hinduism. As Yoga instructor of the renowned Shanti School in Gulshan, Jyoti Biswas explains, “Even though it originated among priests and holy men of India, this concept of health awareness is not based on religion because it knows no boundary in terms of race or faith.” The concept is also misunderstood in other ways. Many associate it with stretching and light, inefficient physical exercise. In actuality, Yoga is about developing a balance in the body by achieving both strength and flexibility. Its various postures are meant to address specific physical benefits. The poses can be done at a high pace to create heat in the body through movement or they can be done slower to increase stamina and improve alignment. Biswas also mentions its convenience and simplicity because it needs no equipment or large spaces.

Left - Right: Yoga class at Dazzle Ltd. And Biswas demonstrating the Dhanurasana for his students.

Unsurprisingly, Yoga has a long list of physical benefits. Biswas says, “Through stress and tension relief, it keeps the mind fresh while at the same time encouraging positive thinking and spiritual connectivity. As such, Yoga is often said to be useful for patients with psychological and sleep disorders. It also enhances focus and self-awareness. Pranayam, a fundamental breathing exercise that teaches one to control inhaling and exhaling, increases oxygen intake into the body and thus promotes blood circulation and reduces blood pressure and risk of other cardio-vascular diseases. Additionally, Yoga has detoxifying qualities that purify blood cells and opens up arteries. Consequently, it is also good for the skin and eyes. It helps patients with slip disc, frozen shoulders, partial paralysis, cervical pains and other physical conditions. And you can take up Yoga anytime regardless of age, shape and health problems because it can cater to specific bodily dynamics. Furthermore, it is an ultimate weight reduction method as it gets rid of excess fat and tones muscles. But you must maintain a balanced diet alongside.”

“Everybody should know of its benefits and keep in mind that when doctors prescribe medicine, it almost always comes with side-effects. With yoga there is none!” he adds. Besides its obvious health benefits, it is about a way of living that preaches respect for one's own body and others. Unlike other forms of sports, Yoga teaches one to compete with one's own body and mind, without the purpose of defeating others. It helps maintaining tranquillity while driving to excel oneself at the same time. One's personal experience with Yoga develops through time and exposure, evolving continuously. Much of this will depend on the instructor and the style in which he or she was trained. There are few genuine centres in Dhaka, the most renowned of which are mentioned below.

The Shanti School of Yoga, situated in road 64 of Gulshan-2 is relatively new but a favourite among enthusiasts. It offers classes at different time slots six days a week. Its instructor, Jyoti Biswas has been doing Yoga since he was five years old and had received formal training from Pune National Institute of Naturopathy. Besides Yoga, he has studied on other forms of Asian Healthcare like hydrotherapy, magnet therapy, steam and sauna bath which he hopes to introduce to his school in the future. The school has about 60 students and the classes are restricted to small numbers in order to maintain close interaction. He recommends that followers do Yoga at least six days a week to stay in form, up to two times a day.

The Dazzle Ltd., located in road 95 behind Pink City in Gulshan-2, has been running for over a decade. Besides Yoga, it houses a gym and an aerobics centre with qualified and experienced trainers to guide one along. It also has a Bollywood Dance Fitness Class for those who require something more out-of-the-ordinary. Dazzle provides separate time slots for women, men and children for those who have reservations and demand special attention. After Ramadan, it also plans to offer co-ed lessons. Classes are available at different times catering to people's preference and convenience six times a week. Its instructors Punam Chowdhury and Dhiman Biswas are both professional, with Dhiman having received formal training in Kolkata.

The oldest of the lot, and founded by Shahid Al Bokhari Mohajadaq in 1983 through research and meditation, the Quantam Method incorporates spiritual peace, health and mental willpower in a scientific manner to cover all aspects of life. “It is a science of living that requires balancing the forces of one's bodily, spiritual and mental dynamics with one's personal, professional and social dynamics,” says Suraiya Rahman, Director Co-ordination of Quantum Foundation in Shantinagar. Today, it has over 35,000 members excluding other associates and provides workshops, seminars and lessons that include Yoga, meditation, a Student Course, the Heart Club, a Psychic Course and an Introductory Course, all free of charge. Headquartered next to Eastern Plus Market in Shantinagar, it has centres and branches all over the country. It also has a meditation resort at Llama in Chittagong Hill Tracts offering the best urban facilities under nature. The self-sustaining, non-profit organisation also carries out various philanthropic projects on the grass-root level.

Other places that offer Yoga whose courses are currently on hold include the Indian High Commission and the Amazon Club in Gulshan-2. The Indian High Commission offers three-month long courses a couple of times a year. Classes are expected to commence from the month of September and those who are interested can visit their website for more information and schedules. Shazia Omar, author of 'Like a Diamond in the Sky' and instructor at Amazon Club is currently on maternity leave but plans to resume her sessions thrice a week from October on Saturdays, Mondays and Wednesdays. To encourage people to pick up Yoga she explains how it is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Shazia says, “We have to live our whole lives in this body. People spend so much time on other minor material things, but sadly this is one thing they neglect.” She adds, “A lot of people come in only after being told by their doctors, whereas taking care of our body is something that ought to be a priority even for those who are healthy, in a society such as ours where there is very little opportunity for physical exercise.”


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