Dubai: In September 2015, Abdul Haleem Mohammad Hilal, Jordanian, 65, decided to make a lifestyle change. He was 61 years old at the time and suffering from severe knee and back pain.
“My son advised me to go to a gymnasium and start getting a work out. It helped me lose some weight and tone my body, but it did nothing much to cure my aches and pains. So I thought of giving a shot at doing yoga. I have to say, my life changed after [that],” Hilal said.
"I found a place to do yoga at a place called Yoga Ashram located in Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT). My first session was far from good. I could not even sit on the floor to do Pranayama (the regulation of the breath through certain techniques and exercises). I had to sit on a chair to do it. Besides a few other standing exercises, there was nothing else I could do.”
“I was bad,” he said.
Gradually with regular sessions, Hilal started to notice a change in his body. “It became more flexible and I was able to do my stretches better. I lost 10 kilos in one year and I started to feel better.”
“My knee and back started to get better as well gradually," he added.
Today, yoga is serious business for Hilal. From not being able to sit and do basic postures, he has progressed to being an active yoga teacher at the place where he was introduced to it in the first place.
Return from a stroke
On the occasion of International Day of Yoga celebrated worldwide on June 21, we spoke to another yoga enthusiast who believes her life too changed for the better after incorporating yoga into her life.
Nadiia Butler (34), an Irish expat, suffered a stroke after giving birth to her first child.
“I felt helpless. I was on allopathy medication but, I wanted more. I did not want to depend on medicines to heal my stroke. So I joined yoga classes in Ukraine and I saw a great improvement in my condition,” she said.
“When you do yoga and meditation, the blood flow increases in your body. And when this happens, it improves physical ailments in the body. In the last eight years I have been practicing yoga, my stroke improved, the bags under my eyes improved. My skin started to glow as well. Besides, I managed to knock off 50 kilos in the last eight years while practicing yoga,” Butler added.
Look inside yourself. Look inside your body. When you become aware of what is going wrong – you take the necessary efforts to rectify it.
Yoga instructor and co-founder of Yoga Ashram, Jaya Harikumar, 58, however, warned yogis in UAE not to over-do it and more importantly to do it right. “Yes, yoga can transform one’s life for the good, but what is key is that it should be done right.
“You can overcome any health issue – whether mental or physical with yoga. We all know that. But if you do it wrong, it can reverse what is intended to do in the first place,” said Harikumar.
“Breathing is just as important as mind and body have to be in sync. If they are not in sync, then you are not in the present moment. And if you are suffering from certain physical conditions, there are postures you must avoid,” she said.
For example, if you have high blood pressure (BP) then you should avoid poses that increase your heart rate. “So avoid doing vinyasa yogas in a speedy manner,” said Harikumar.
In case of back pain – whether muscular or skeletal – avoid forward bends – (hasta paada). Also avoid touching your toes or sitting down or going into the pigeon pose. All these poses can cause trouble for the back.
For people with knee pain, sitting in vajrasan or the thunderbolt pose, (a kneeling asana in hatha yoga) can be very painful. Keep your knees on a cushion if you insist on doing the pose. “I would suggest asking a person to sit on sukhasan which is a simple cross-legged sitting asana in hatha yoga.”
For sciatica and spondylitis, make sure you are doing enough stretches. If the stretching is not happening, then it will not heal. Poses to avoid - neck rotation. “Avoid full neck rotation. Also, don’t let your hand hang like in janu shrisasan.”