Sisters Anushka (L) and Akansha (second from left) take a group selfie with participants Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: There was absolute harmony and peace as Bollywood stars and siblings Anushka and Akansha Ranjan spearheaded a yoga masterclass in Dubai on Sunday and drove home the importance of stretching one’s mind and body at one go.

“We are here to celebrate ‘International Yoga Day With Gulf News’. It’s my favourite celebration of the year and I take it very seriously. My heart and soul are into yoga and to see so many guests do yoga in Dubai was an overwhelming moment for me,” said Akansha Ranjan in an interview with Gulf News.

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(L to R) Akansha, yoga instructor Neha Duseja, and Anushka Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Yoga at The Palm

The model and actress has been studying yoga in earnest for over four years and shepherded nearly 100 wellness and health enthusiasts from various nationalities and cultures at an hour-long yoga session held at Hotel Fairmont, The Palm. Headstands by celebrities, influencers, and nimble guests were the mainstay of this event.

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(L to R) Neha Duseja, Akansha Kapoor, Anushka Ranjan Kapoor, and Shweta Subram, MC of the event, after the yoga session Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Both sisters flew into Dubai from Mumbai to take part in this star-studded event attended by the UAE’s corporate and social set along with select Gulf News subscribers.

In the run-up to the International Yoga Day observed annually worldwide on June 21, Gulf News hosted an invites-only wellness event directed at raising awareness about the importance of mental health in today’s trying times.

“It was our privilege to attend an event that promotes yoga, my favourite form of exercise. The energy that I felt in this room tonight was incredible. I enjoyed every minute of it,” said Akansha.

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The event saw hundreds execute complex poses and stretch in uniformity Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

While the younger sibling Akansha, who made her brilliant acting debut in Netflix film ‘Guilty’ which explored the concept of consent, is relatively more experienced in yoga poses than her sister Anushka. But both enjoy the flexibility that a spiritual discipline like yoga founded in India has taught them.

“I am an amateur yogi, but I enjoy doing yoga because I have always been influenced by the teachings of Buddhism. Yoga is like an extended version of that as it involves chanting and breathing … Yoga helps you grow physically, emotionally, mentally, and it gives you so much more peace and calm than any workout,” said Anushka.

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The sisters were mimicking poses executed by Duseja Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Both believe that even 10 minutes of breathing and stretching has transformative qualities. Even during the pandemic, the 28-year-old Akansha Ranjan practiced yoga every day to keep the faith alive.

“Every morning, four friends and I used to do yoga via zoom, and we never skipped a class because we were all trapped in our homes back then and it was important that we move our bodies and keep our minds healthy,” said Akansha, who loves to do a headstand at every given opportunity.

“Come on, a headstand gives you an instant rush of adrenaline and endorphins. Everyone must try it after lots of practice,” said Akansha with a laugh.

‘Mental stretch’

The actors were mimicking the poses executed by season yoga instructor Neha Duseja. The certified trainer, based in Dubai, believes yoga is the ultimate ‘mental stretch’ and is on a perennial mission to make yoga more accessible and practical.

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You don't have to be flexible, you build that with practice, instructor Dueseja (not in picture) says Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

“It was an amazing session. We have raised the bar in yoga with this epic event … Yoga is as simple as ‘inhale’ and ‘exhale’. You don’t have to be flexible, you build that with practice,” said Dueseja after the event.

The event, which saw hundreds execute complex poses and stretch in uniformity, also saw celebrities such as ‘Jalebi Baby’ singer and sensation Shweta Subram stretch their body and mind. The Dubai-based singer, who got the show on the road by introducing the Bollywood talents with aplomb, claims yoga helped her navigate life and its curves with ease.

“Yoga taught me how to use my breath and learn that there’s no such thing as a ‘perfect balance’ in life. It has helped me focus on my own mat and listen to what my body needs. Some days I push harder and some days I take it easy. This session was so energizing,” said Subram.

Dubai-based influencer Farhan Bodi, with over 1 million social media followers and who has just returned from The Cannes Film Festival, told Gulf News that yoga gave her tremendous energy to face a day.

“Yoga calms my mind and makes me more relaxed. You get immense energy after a session of breathing, stretching, and meditation,” said Bodi.

New theme

The United Nations General Assembly declared June 21 as International Day Of Yoga in 2015 and has pinned this year’s theme to ‘Yoga For Humanity’.

Apart from this event organised by Gulf News, there were multiple events held across the city in the run-up to the International Day Of Yoga.

Ursala Fernades, a South African national who took part in the Gulf News event on Sunday, said: "Thank you Gulf News for hosting this great yoga event, complete with Bollywood stars. My friend and I felt like celebrities ourselves. The great yoga instructor and music set a great atmosphere for health and vitality."

“Let’s conquer the world with one deep breath at a time. Yoga has transformed my life and has made me calmer. Yoga has helped me focus and has shown what my body is capable of,” said Ritu Patel, one of the attendees, who has been practicing yoga since childhood.

Her husband Akshay Patel, who mastered the headstand on stage during the session, prioritised this yoga session over his paddle tennis with his mates.

“It was such an invigorating event. We need more of these,” said Patel.