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Fitness is all about posing

Fitness is all about posing
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Do you know what one of the top fitness trends for the year is? An American Sports survey says yoga. Three practioners tell Preeti Zachariah the secret of its enduring popularity.

Fitness is a little like fashion. While the basic point of both is to look slimmer, feel better and be more confident, both are subject to seasonal vagaries. From a youthful Jane Fonda shimmying her pert leotard-clad behind as she took you through various aerobic dance routines to the power plate that claims that cellulite can be vibrated away, from flirty girl fitness routines like belly dancing and cardio strip tease to workout tapes by the formidable Jillian Michaels that promise to shred you down in thirty days (also shreds your knees and back, I must add), from low carb-high protein diets (Atkins, South Beach) and low fat diets (Ornish, volumetrics) to the simply outlandish ones ( Grapefruit diet, General Motors Diet) and more balanced outlooks to nutrition (Weight Watchers, Mediterranean), from the rise of the amateur athlete to a variety of easily available fitness apps and the growth of functional training, the realm of fitness is a constantly evolving one. The latest survey by the American Sports, which predicts that the top trends for 2015 include HIIT, body weight training, functional fitness and training for older adults, has also included in that list, an Indian import — yoga.

Yoga’s been around for over 5,000 years, predating written history but perhaps the most significant record of the practice was that compiled by the scholar Patanjali where he outlines eight aspects of the system, called the eight limbs of yoga, that are admittedly a little draconian, dictating pretty much every aspect of a yoga practioner’s life. Most yoga classes today focus on the 3rd, 4th and 5th limb only, which includes asana (physical exercise), pranayama (breathing technique) and pratyahara (meditation). Yoga purists, who know that the sheer physicality of the practice is only one aspect of it, refuse to see it as a workout routine and they are right but it is undeniably a great way to get in shape — Madonna, Jennifer Aniston, Kareena Kapoor, among others, tout yoga as the path to their toned arms and fabulous booties.

The new-age yogi is a far cry from the loincloth clad hermit of yore but Spandex, luxury retreats, plush studios and branded mats doesn’t necessarily dilute the core of what yoga is — a union of the mind and the body, a practice that leaves you so much better for having committed to it. Which is perhaps, despite the fitness fads that have come and gone over the years, yoga has persisted.

Yoga practitioner and teacher, Deepika Mehta, responsible for Aishwarya Rai’s toned look in Dhoom, says, “I think yoga is definitely becoming more popular every year, as other than being a spiritual practice and a moving meditation, it works on every element of fitness for the body like stamina, muscle conditioning, weight loss and core strength,” she says.

What also helps is yoga’s inherent inclusivity. Rotund elderly ladies omming in a park, marathoners throwing in a few yoga derived stretches after a long run, injured athletes recouping from an injury, PYTs in bright tank tops and brighter mats squeezing in an hour of exercise — all of them benefit from their practice. As Pattabhi Jois, founder of Ashtanga yoga (the type that Madonna does by the way, go figure) says, “Yoga is for everyone… except the lazy.”

Leena Kinger, a city-based teacher and practitioner, says that yoga helped her recover from a serious injury. “I was forced to bed rest and could do only yoga. I got deeper into the practice, got certified and began teaching by the time I was 22-23 years old. I do not see it as a workout — for me it is all about how one can control the mind through the body. When one is in a firm, comfortable posture, you are not affected by the dualities of the mind.”

Yet there are others, who cannot help but marvel at the changes it has brought about in their body. Vinay Kumar Jesta, who practices and teaches yoga in Bangalore, says, “Yoga paired with mindful eating helped me lose almost 13-14 kilos in a relatively short period of time.”

Over the years, yoga has reinvented itself, offering a mind-boggling range of derivations of the original classical practice. Hot yoga, strala, iron yoga, power yoga, hammock yoga, acro-yoga and aqua-yoga rub shoulders with the classical forms of yoga such as Sivananda, Ashtanga, Iyengar and Krishnamacharya and there are takers for both.

“The popularity of different new age styles will increase in yoga but as people try out these styles, there will be an equal amount of people wanting to learn the more traditional styles of yoga,” says Deepika.

Vinay who practices both classical as well as the more new-age acro yoga agrees, “Acro-yoga isn’t a substitute for my practice, it is in addition to it. Traditional yoga is all about looking inwards, acro-yoga which is performed with a partner and combines the elements of yoga with acrobatics, teaches us to be compassionate, trust another person, induces an element of playfulness to the practice. It also checks your strength, balance and focus.”

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Printable version | Jun 24, 2018 9:43:18 PM | http://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/fitness/fitness-is-all-about-posing/article6808551.ece