Fitness

When Assam’s classical dance meets yoga

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These sisters combine classical dance mudras with yoga, for a fitness workshop that is travelling India and abroad

“In the Natyashastra, from which Bharatanatyam originated, there are 108 karanas. These are very similar to yoga asanas, in terms of the benefits they provide,” says Sangeeta Bhuyan Mehta, who runs the prestigious Guwahati-based Pushpanjali Cultural Academy with her sisters Vanita Bhuyan Nagpal and Simran Bhuyan Raheja. The three are in Chennai today to host the Pushpanjali Holistic Wellness Workshop, devised to increase fitness and mindfulness through elements of classical dance.

The academy was founded by their mother, the late Padmashree awardee, Pushpa Bhuyan, to impart knowledge of the performing arts. However, three years ago, the sisters decided to expand into the area of wellness through the medium of dance and yoga. They have taken the workshop to Delhi, Mumbai, various cities in Assam, Washington (USA) and Malaysia so far, and will be taking it to Los Angeles and London next year.

“We found this way of imparting knowledge of the classical dances to be more beneficial and relevant than a performance which only connoisseurs of dance attend,” says Sangeeta, “We started this by thinking, how can we bring back interest in the classical dance form? And this (dancing with the aim of wellness) is something most people can relate to, as it’s result-oriented.”

Dancer Pushpa Bhuyan was instrumental in popularising Sattriya, the classical dance form of Assam, and had learnt Bharatanatayam at a young age here, at Kalakshetra. It was Pushpa who trained her three daughters. They have now taken the technicalities from Kathak, Bharatanatayam and Sattriya — the mudras, postures, footwork and more — and synergised them with yoga asanas. The result is a module that aims at refocussing the flow of energy inside your body through movement. “It is beneficial for flexibility, stiff knees, dry eyes, headaches, lifestyle issues such as blood pressure, diabetes and more,” says Sangeeta. Gynaecologist Dr Kavya Krishnakumar and yoga practitioner Shanthala T Medappa will be part of the workshop panel.

The targets have not been set idly — Vanita vouches for it personally, revealing how dance has helped her in the past: “I had high blood pressure and borderline diabetes. Thanks to these postures, I have never crossed that borderline, and my blood pressure levels have come down.” Even their 92-year-old father practises these movements.

And that, she adds, is the beauty of the programme: any person, of any age or gender, can perform these movements without prior knowledge of dance or yoga. “The takeback is that you can incorporate these techniques in your day-to-day lives — while sitting at your desk, working, or travelling. Of course, we are not saying this is a complete cure, but it does bring up the energy levels,” she says. And it is only after taking care of ourselves, she adds, that we can take care of our loved ones.

The workshop will be conducted today, at the Hyatt Regency, from 11 am to 1 pm. It is open to walk-ins. Call 9841234535.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 8:19:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/fitness/when-assams-classical-dance-meets-yoga/article29520341.ece

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