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Thursday, March 04, 2021

Book tells how yoga can help in turbulent times

Imagine If: Stories of Ordinary People with Extraordinary Grit, written by Rajvi H Mehta, who studied directly under Iyengar, is a glimpse into how yoga can transform someone who opens himself or herself to it.

By: PTI | New Delhi |
Updated: February 12, 2021 5:26:03 pm
The book, published by Westland, has stories of people with grit and determination who overcame various challenges - amputated limbs, cancer and emotional trauma - with the help of Iyengar Yoga. (Source: Amazon.in | Designed by Gargi Singh)

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a new book brings together yoga guru B K S Iyengar’s inspirational messages and his recommendations on asanas that can help an individual cope with trauma. Imagine If: Stories of Ordinary People with Extraordinary Grit, written by Rajvi H Mehta, who studied directly under Iyengar, is a glimpse into how yoga can transform someone who opens himself or herself to it.

Iyengar, credited with spreading the gospel of yoga across the world, began to practise it as a young boy. He was, in those days, constantly unwell, and his brother-in-law thought yoga would help him cope. Over time, learning from his own experiences, he refined and then redefined what he was taught. A disease-free state was no longer his goal; health, he had come to believe, included well-being of the body, mind, emotions, intellect, consciousness, morality, sociality and conscience.

He was the founder of Iyengar Yoga, which, nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar says, is “probably the most underrated tool for improving quality of life”. The book, published by Westland, has stories of people with grit and determination who overcame various challenges – amputated limbs, cancer and emotional trauma – with the help of Iyengar Yoga. Mehta says Iyengar was born during the influenza pandemic of 1918.

“In fact, his mother suffered from influenza when she was pregnant with him. He was born a sickly child and was incidentally introduced to yoga by his brother-in-law so that he could gain freedom from his never-ending illnesses,” she writes.
On COVID-19, Mehta says it has literally destroyed the health of the world – not just of those afflicted but also of those who have not even been exposed.

“It has generated fear, and the genuine fear of its spread has led to locking down of towns and cities, affecting the world economy. It has led to physical, mental, emotional and economic destruction,” she says. “Our cumulative human strength is not able to contain this virus which travels with total freedom, cutting across all our man-made boundaries,” the author writes.

She says we can curtail the spread of any infection by social isolation but argues whether that is a real, practical solution.
Stressing on immunity, she says it reduces one’s risk of being susceptible to infections. But how to have a strong immune system? “Modern science is aware of the mechanisms of building muscles and the cardiovascular system through exercise, but not the immune system. Vitamins, a healthy diet and a hygienic lifestyle are supposed to help, but there does not seem to be anything at the moment that can specifically help build the immune system,” she says.

Mehta goes on to mention several asanas but says these may not prevent illness, but will surely build one’s ability to withstand illnesses. So how can asanas and pranayama be of help in trying times like this disaster? “Specific postures performed in a specific sequence for a specific period of time alter the breath and our state of mind, bringing clarity and emotional stability,” the author says.

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