#YogaDay: उम्र को मात देते हैं इस 98 साल की योगा टीचर के आसन
Nanammal folds her hands and chants matha, pitha, guru, deivam… I repeat after her. We are on the terrace of her house in Ganapathy, near Coimbatore, basking in the warm rays of the morning sun.
“Stand straight. Raise your hands above your head, bend forward, and touch your toes; don’t bend your knees,” the instructions come thick and fast from 98-year-old Nanammal, possibly the oldest yoga instructor in India. She is teaching padahastasana (hand-to-foot pose).
Next is paschimottanasana (seated forward bend). I sit down, stretch my legs forward, bend my head, and struggle to hold my toes with the thumb, index and middle finger, without bending my knees. She moves effortlessly on to sarvangasana (shoulder stand). As she lifts her legs high and balances her entire body on her shoulders, I am dumbstruck. I attempt it, somewhat clumsily, and get an encouraging pat from the endearing paati.
There is no sign of fatigue as she chats with her students. Each morning, she teaches them how to bend, stretch and master some of the most difficult yoga poses like kandharasana (bridge) or sirshasana (headstand).
“She has good eyesight, hearing, and memory because of her regular practice of sirshasana. It protects one from an attack of paralysis. She has taught over 10 lakh students, of whom 10,000 are teaching yoga now,” adds V Balakrishnan, Nanammal’s son. He runs Ozone Yoga centre, where she too teaches. Some of her students have won gold medals at international yoga competitions in China, Australia, the UK, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
Recently, she was honoured with the Nari Shakti Puraskar Award, which she received from the President on International Women’s Day, and also attended the lunch hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the winners. “In Delhi, she also gave a demo for Maneka Gandhi, Union Minister for Women and Child Development. Soon, there was an audience of 300 people,” says Balakrishnan.
Nanammal has also been awarded the Karnataka Government’s Yoga Ratna Award. While receiving it, she performed in front of a 20,000-strong audience. She wakes up at 5.00 in the morning, a routine she’s been following ever since she was 10. After brushing her teeth with a neem stick, she does yoga, and then has breakfast, which is always a bowl of satthu maavu kanji (porridge) made from a mix of millets like ragi, kambu, kudiraivaali, saamai and wheat. And, a helping of poriyal made with vaazhaithandu (banana stem) or peerkangai (ridge gourd). “Every day, we change the vegetable. During summer months, it is always vegetables with a high water content. Everyone in my family, young and old, has this kanji for breakfast. On some days, to add variety, we add grated coconut, elaichi powder and jaggery to the mix. Children love it,” says the yoga expert.
Lunch is always keerai (greens) and rice. “Moringa leaves are very good. Earlier, elders used to bring a bag full of greens from the farm for lunch. We still try and have keerai every day,” says Balakrishnan, as he serves us thaen thanni, a drink made with honey and warm water.
As the granny takes a sip, I ask about her association with yoga. “My grandparents introduced me to it,” she says, savouring her drink. “They would work all day at the farm in a village near Coimbatore. When they returned in the evening, they would bathe, and start doing the asanas on a mat. As a kid, I would join them,” she remembers. Nanammal says she has never suffered any serious health issues, and credits it to her daily yoga ritual and healthy eating. “I have never visited a hospital in my lifetime. I don’t know how coffee or tea tastes. The hot beverage I drink is sukku coffee made with a mix of powdered dry roasted coriander seeds, jeera, sukku (dry ginger) and panang kalkandu (palmyra jaggery).”
It’s with visible pride that the lady says that her family—a total of 36 members, including her daughters, sons, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren—teaches yoga. Balakrishnan says there is no end to learning in yoga. “It is believed that there are over 84 lakh yoga postures, of which what is left now are about 1,000 asanas,” he explains.
Nanammal performs over 50 asanas, including some of the difficult ones, but life is simple. “We eat three meals a day; we brush our teeth, and bathe every day. Similarly, yoga.” \
At the Ozone Yoga centre, Balakrishnan offers a two-year teacher training course, a diploma in yoga and Naturopathy, certified by Bharat Sevak Samaj of the Government of India. Chitra Prabhakar, a homemaker, says, “I enrolled to recover from joint aches, backache and health issues. Now, I practise regularly. I want to share the benefits with others,” she says. Another student, N Ashok Kumar, who suffered from problems like varicose veins, blood pressure and diabetes, took to yoga and is happy with the outcome. “I even managed to go on a padayaatra to Palani, covering over 100 km. I want to be a yoga teacher,” he says.