Yoga Is For Everyone – Saswati Barman

Around 8 years ago, in 2011, I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. I was on medication for a while and although it made me feel better, it was clear that I was becoming completely dependent on it. The effects of the medicine were temporary and I would go back to feeling depressed from time to time. 

Moreover, I didn’t like the way the medicines made me feel. All the physical and emotional changes were new to me and I didn’t know how to cope with these side effects and at times felt absolutely helpless. I tried everything possible to make myself feel better, from reading self-help books to even counseling, but nothing seemed to help.  

A Turning Point 

A year later, in 2012, I enrolled for a week-long meditation course, which was conducted by Art of Living. This was a turning point in my life. Having tried all the options, I could tell that the effect of meditation and yoga sessions was something else. It made me feel so much better that by the end of the workshop I had already made up my mind that I will never stop practicing Yoga thereafter. 

I kept the promise I made to myself and enrolled in Yoga classes. This is how my practice grew deeper and along with it, I also became more and more aware of my feelings and emotions. Soon, I stopped my medications and till today I have not touched any of the medicines again. 

I had started advocating Yoga as a practice to my friends and colleagues and spoke about its various benefits. Of course, they also noticed the life-altering change it had on me. We constantly tend to change and evolve once we set forth on this transformative adventure. 

Transformative Journey  

At first, the fact that Yoga could help me cope with the symptoms of anxiety inspired me to begin this journey and continue with the practice. Then at one point, my Yoga practice was quite rigorous as my goal was to lose weight. The focus had shifted to physical goals as with regular practice, I had also begun to notice the changes asana practice had on my body. For some time, losing weight and getting into shape had become my goal. 

But the change is constant and so is the awareness that the practice brings with it. The more I practiced, the more I became aware of its deep-rooted effect on my lifestyle. Soon, weight loss became the least of my concerns and being and feeling healthy became my priority.

“Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” –The Bhagavad Gita

If I were to mention the most important lessons or realizations that I have learned in this journey so far, then I would choose two. The first lesson that Yoga has taught me is to be comfortable in my own skin and free myself from the competitive and judgemental mindset. I stopped judging myself and others and became content and happy from within. 

The other important realization was to understand that  Yoga is for everyone, irrespective of their age, gender, disability, body types, etc. I experienced the slow and constant healing effects and realized that everyone can and should benefit from this holistic practice. I thus decided to become a Yoga teacher.  

Life After TTC

Never in my life had I thought of becoming a Yoga teacher. But here I am, having completed my TTC and embracing all opportunities that come my way to spread the love of Yoga. For almost 9 years, I was involved with Shishu Sarothi, a not for profit organization for people with disabilities; but I had played a very different role there. It is only after my Yoga TTC that I started teaching Yoga to children with disabilities at Shishu Sarothi under Ayush Mission project, Assam. It has been an entirely new experience considering that I do not have any formal education on teaching children with disabilities as such. 

However, my deep interest and belief in Yoga and its benefits led me to believe that a lot can be done for people with disabilities. Initially, I did struggle in coming up with lesson plans for the students, but with the help of our resident special educators, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists, I came up with a very interesting lesson plan. 

“True Yoga is not about the shape of your body, but the shape of your life. …Yoga is designed for a vast and profound purpose, and for it to be truly called Yoga, its essence must be embodied.” Aadil Palkhivala 

Now, my class not only includes asanas, but it also has various mindfulness activities and tools, which I believe helps the students with disabilities to cope with their inner feelings and emotions with a deep-rooted understanding of their abilities.

Teaching Yoga to children with disabilities not only gives me immense joy but also brings out my innate nature to accept challenges and bring out the best in every situation. 

Though it has been only a few months since I started teaching children with disabilities, I am already seeing some positive results. I have also been receiving very encouraging feedback from the parents and others, which has further inspired me to take this project to greater heights and use this as an opportunity to show the world that Yoga is truly a universal phenomenon, regardless of one’s background or physical and mental limitations. 

Daily Commitment 

Having certified in Hatha Yoga and choosing to mainly practice this style of Yoga, the yoga asanas I teach my students are mostly in this form. Besides teaching children with disabilities I also take regular Yoga classes for others. But teaching kids with disabilities is very close to my heart and also keeps me on the go, as I have to constantly learn and unlearn to see each child as a whole person and not just a person with a disability.    

I think as teachers, most of you may agree that taking quality time out for daily personal practice can be really challenging. Initially, I too struggled to be regular with daily practice but now I have stopped berating myself for not being able to give enough time for my personal practice and instead just go with the flow. 

“Teach what is inside you, not as it applies to you, to yourself, but as it applies to the other.” T.Krishnamacharya

Regular practice also brings with it the innate qualities of a Yogi, which is self-awareness at the physical, mental and spiritual level and awareness about the environment and surroundings at large. Thus slowly, the Yogic mindset begins to reflect in other aspects of our life, such as food habits, sleeping, and other lifestyle choices, thought processes and attitudes, how we choose to react to a given situation, etc.            

Join the Tribe

It is a great time to pursue a teacher training course in Yoga as there is much awareness about Yoga across the globe. However, I feel that it is very important to practice Yoga for a couple of years before pursuing a Yoga TTC because learning, practicing and teaching Yoga is much more than performing asanas and improving the flexibility of the body. 

Regular practice also helps us understand if we are really ready to take up teaching Yoga as a profession or not as teaching as a profession in itself comes with a lot of responsibility. It is also important to understand which form or style of Yoga one wants to pursue as there are so many different styles of Yoga and today, there are certification courses available for each style. 

Regardless of which style you choose to practice, my personal suggestion would be to do a TTC at an ashram setting. This gives one an insight into the yogic lifestyle which becomes a part of us when we come back to our world and helps us live with awareness and grow as human beings.

“The world needs you. It needs that special thing you’ve been dreaming about since you were little.” Marie Forleo

Though Yoga has its origin in India, there are very few yoga teachers here who specialize in or are interested in teaching Yoga to people with disabilities. I am of the belief that if we create more awareness about the positive effects Yoga has on people with disabilities, more and more people will come forward to join this growing family of Yogis and Yoginis. Namaste! 

Saswati Barman, 

Founder: PRANA Yoga, Guwahati, Assam

Hatha Yoga Teacher

Specializes in teaching children with disabilities. 

Instagram @saswatibarman 

Also Read: https://www.juruyoga.com/10-reasons-why-millennials-need-yoga/

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