Two months after the unexpected demise of her beloved brother, Sharadha Manickawasagar decided to enrol in a yoga class. It was a trying time for her family and her. She was feeling depressed and couldn’t focus on anything. But once she started attending her yoga class regularly, things began to change for the better and [...]


Balm for body and mind

With the International Day of Yoga falling on June 21, Chandani Kirinde talks to followers of a growing trend

Two months after the unexpected demise of her beloved brother, Sharadha Manickawasagar decided to enrol in a yoga class. It was a trying time for her family and her. She was feeling depressed and couldn’t focus on anything. But once she started attending her yoga class regularly, things began to change for the better and she was able to refocus on her life.

Totally focused: The group at one of their sessions. Pix by M.A. Pushpa Kumara

That was eight years ago and since then Sharadha has been a  regular at the Anand Yoga Centre in Colombo where under the guidance of Yoga Master Nigam Ranjanji, she  and many others have learnt the immense benefits of the centuries- old practice  founded in ancient India.

“My brother was the youngest in the family and his demise was a terrible thing for me. I was really feeling depressed. I started having high blood pressure at about the same time. Then I started the yoga class and things began to improve.   Regular breathing exercises also helped me come off my pressure medication,” Sharadha said.

For Arunika Wickremasinghe who has been a student at the class for about six years, it was a journey of self-discovery and now yoga has become a way of life for her.

“I was an aggressive person but now I am calmer and see life with a different perspective,”’ she said.

The positive change that the yoga learners have experienced is no surprise to their teacher Nigamji.  Having learnt yoga from Yogacharya Guruji Arun Kumar in the Southern Indian city of Chennai, he imparts his decade-old experience as a yoga teacher so as to enhance the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of his students.

“A healthy body and peace of mind is what students of yoga strive to achieve.  These are the two basic things every human being should have.  Without them you cannot enjoy a normal life,” Nigamji said.

The Anand Yoga Centre opened in 2010 and since then Nigamji has taught yoga to a wide mix of students ranging from corporate sector employees, homemakers, sports enthusiasts, military personnel, members of the clergy and even the Sri Lanka women’s cricket team. “Yoga helped them get the flexibility needed in sport and helped prevent injuries. Yoga is a must practice for sports personnel,” he said.

Anjalika Chitrasena is a yoga enthusiast who has been attending Nigamji’s class for the past eight years. “I am very proud to say I am learning yoga. I have had lots of benefits from doing yoga, especially peace of mind. It has helped me with my work at my dancing school and Nigamji is an inspiration to all of us. He is more like a friend now,” Anjalika said.

Nigamji: Introducing yoga to many Lankans

Daughter of legendary dancers Chitrasena and Vajira, Anjalika’s work includes teaching dancing to mentally challenged children and into their curriculum she has introduced some basic yoga techniques as well as new component- laughter.   “Nigamji has introduced laughter as part of the yoga class and I have taught that to my students.  Now they won’t let me finish the class without the laughter session,” Anjalika said.

Laughter clubs are popular in India and introducing it to yoga enlivens the classes and the laughter exercise has great benefits, Nigamji said. “Laughter rejuvenates the body and helps in blood circulation, stimulates the mind and definitely has a positive impact as has been scientifically and medically proven.”

Nirmala Ramachandran, another of Nigamji’s students said yoga has benefited her physical health as well as calmed her mind. “I am a calmer and more active person since I started the classes. Nigamji really motivates us to do better and improve ourselves,” she said.

The role of the yoga teacher is to teach the physical exercises but it is also important to build a rapport with the students at an emotional level, Nigamji believes. “Different people come with different temperaments. It is important for the teacher to be aware of these aspects and then bond with each of the students, ” Nigamji said.

Sharadha de Saram, a regular at Nigamji’s class says that the teaching skills of the guruji play a big role in how one progresses in learning yoga.

“Yoga is something everyone should learn especially in our country so that there will be less conflict and people will learn to approach problems with a calm and open mind. It would be a good idea if yoga was introduced to Parliamentarians and officials too,” she said.

Nigamji endorses that yoga helps people to have a more holistic and open approach to life. “Those who are rigid in mind will also have rigid bodies. Yoga helps people to become flexible,” he added.

Interest in yoga in Sri Lanka is on the increase. ““Since the inception of the International Day of Yoga (June 21) in 2014, interest among Sri Lankans to learn yoga is greater. There is more awareness now,” he said.

He emphasizes that yoga has nothing to do with a particular religion. “Anyone from any religion can practise yoga without any conflict with their religious beliefs,” he said.

Come, join this mega yoga event
A mega public event will be held to celebrate International Day of Yoga, on Saturday, June 23 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. at the Independence Square park.  The Ministry of Culture, Tata Motors and yoga institutes including Astanka Yoga Mandir, Sethsada Yoga Nikethanaya, Hatha Yoga Centre, Aum Kriya Babaji Yoga Aranyam, National Youth Services Council Sri Lanka, Institute of Human Excellence, Brahma Kumari Raja Yoga Centre, The Art of Living, AAYUSH, My Yoga Lounge, Sakthi Anand Yoga School (Batticaloa) are partnering in this activity.

June 21  was declared “International Day of Yoga” in 2014 after the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution sponsored by India. The resolution was supported by more than 170 countries, with Sri Lanka being one of the first co-sponsors.

A number of events are being held throughout the island for the International Day of Yoga with local yoga instructors conducting an islandwide campaign “Yoga for Youth…Yoga for All” with universities and other institutions, conducting Yoga lectures, workshops and demonstrations.

The public is invited to participate and practise yoga, pranayama and meditation to rejuvenate body, mind and soul. Participation in the event is free. For registration please and for further details contact the Indian Cultural Centre on tel: 2684698.

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