Relax and zen out with yoga

yoga asanas conducted by Art of Living as a precursor to the International Yoga Day in Visakhapatnam on June 15, 2016. International Yoga Day is celebrated on June 21.

Waking up in a resort overlooking snow-capped mountains, setting up yoga mats and twisting like a pretzel, followed by suryanamaskar marathons and then hitch-hiking through the hills of a foreign destination — yoga has moved beyond a fitness regimen to evolve as a wellness retreat. Riding high on the evolution of wellness travel are corporates, entrepreneurs and yoga trainers who have made wellness one of the fastest-growing tourism sectors in India.

According to recent estimates by FICCI and Ernst and Young, the wellness industry in India is expected to grow at a CAGR of nearly 12 % for the next five years and projected to touch ₹1.5 trillion by 2020. Worldwide, yoga is estimated to be an $ 80 billion industry. After the UN introduced the International Yoga Day on June 21, 2015, yoga saw a rise in popularity as a fitness regimen.

Yoga retreats

Now, vacationers are seeking a more holistic experience like a yoga retreat to revitalise themselves. Says Visakhapatnam-based yoga trainer Mahua Deb: “More and more people are combining a vacation with a yoga and wellness programme to de-stress.” Deb will be heading to Bali from November 23 to 27 to conduct a yoga and meditation programme. “The retreat will include kriyas, yogasanas, pranayama, guided meditation and treks to a volcano, among other features centred around fitness. The concept of yoga retreats, popular in the metros, has now trickled down to Tier-2 cities such as Visakhapatnam. The Bay Park Wellness Resort in the city has been drawing people from across the country to have a different kind of experience. “Yoga helps to get energy levels up, and the peace and quiet of the retreat works as a great de-stresser,” says Deb, who is a yoga instructor at Bay Park.

S Radhika, an entrepreneur who runs ‘Radisa’ — a cakes and confectionery unit, has witnessed a transformation in her mental and physical health after practising yoga for over a decade. From countering crises to feeling lighter physically, Radhika has learnt many a life’s lessons on the yoga mat.

“It is the most effective self-help regimen for physical as well as mental well-being,” says Radhika, who recently went on a yoga retreat to Rishikesh. Apart from Rishikesh, the other hot destinations of yoga retreat include Isha Yoga in Coimbatore and Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga in Mysore.

A holistic regimen

M N Krishnaveni, a yoga trainer in Yoga Consciousness Trust (YCT), admits that her chronic neck pain subsided and disappeared altogether after she started doing yoga. “My stress levels have considerably come down due to regular practice,” says the yoga trainer, who has a PhD in yoga and has been practising for the past 24 years. According to her, while dedicating a day for yoga has certainly augmented its popularity, not many are serious practitioners. “However, there are many who are seeking to make it a routine,” she adds. At VUDA Park, around 100 to 130 people gather every morning from 5 to 8 am under the aegis of YCT. Retired professor D Venkat Rao, who heads the Vishahapatnam centre of YCT, says that the number has been growing. “Today, we have seven yoga centres in the region that caters to over 10,000 yoga practitioners,” he says.

And indeed, the yogis are mushrooming. Doctors, engineers, teachers, corporate employees and marketing heads are adopting hatha yoga with vigour.

“Hatha yoga is the foundation of advanced yoga practices,” says retired professor Akkur Raman. According to him, if one can sit in Sukhasana for more than three hours, one is said to be a yogi.

“That requires a lot of effort,” says the 73-year-old professor who never misses out on his regular yoga practice.

In recent years, yoga has seen several variations like aqua, hot, cold and beer. While traditional practitioners of yoga have their reasons to fume at these modern modifications, there is no denying the fact that this ancient science has extended its reach, making yoga a brand new currency in the fitness world.

Supporting the statistics, yoga trainers say that the technique of yoga goes beyond just the physical realm, which is one of the main reasons why the world- over yoga has found such a mass following.

“Yoga goes much deeper than just the body. The meditation techniques have helped many to overcome chronic issues of depression, blood pressure and diabetes. It brings about an overall well-being of the mind and body,” says Deb.