Six months ago, Jignesh Parekh was driving home to Shivaji Park from his office in Govandi when he realized that just a regular day at work had left him with an aching back, a mild headache and a feeling of exhaustion.
The 53-year-old general manager at an engineering company decided to call his cousin, a yoga instructor, for advice. The next day, at 6.30 am, he attended his first session. “By the end of the hour, for the first time in many months, I felt ready to face a long day,” he said.
Mumbai’s traffic and pollution — an exclusive Hindustan Times report published on Monday and ongoing follow-ups have revealed that air pollution levels across the city are nearly five times higher than acceptable levels, and that a quarter of the water samples collected are unfit for consumption — followed by nine to 10 hours at a desk had left Parekh tired and unfit.
“I don’t have any health problems, but I didn’t want to wait for any,” said Parekh, who now does an hour of yoga at home three times a week, focusing on breathing exercises to strengthen his lungs and combat stress, asanas to strengthen his lower back for the long hours at work, and meditation to calm his mind and prepare for the hectic day ahead.
“I realised the stress I felt was affecting my work, my concentration and making me feel lethargic,” he said.
One of the main reasons he opted for yoga, he said, was because it doesn’t have side effects. “At my age, I didn’t want to experiment with cardio workouts or jogging, given the risk of wear and tear. So instead I got a trained person to teach me exactly how to do the asanas, because they have to be done very specifically.”
It’s an ideal fitness regimen for stressed-out Mumbaiites looking to stay healthy and slow down and rejuvenate their minds and bodies.
“Yoga offers holistic solutions,” said Juhu-based classical yoga instructor Gunjan Patel. “It can help youngsters worried about exams, careers or work, middle-aged women with family problems and weight issues and senior citizens with stiff joints or weak lungs.”
Fashion designer and Juhu resident Naheed Calcuttawalla, 26, would go a step further; she has been practicing yoga for a year and said it has helped her go beyond physical fitness, to a state of holistic well-being.
A trained ballerina and professional dancer in her youth, Calcuttawalla had assumed she was fit enough, but then work became increasingly hectic and she spent five years with no physical exercise. Combine with her higher stress levels and, she suspects, rising pollution levels, she developed respiratory problems.
“Now, my yoga routine four times a week keeps me going,” she said. “The idea of running on a treadmill turns me off. But yoga is so restful, effective and rejuvenating.”
Repeating the suryanamaskar over and over, she said, can also serve as a cardio workout. “I’m not that old, so the city doesn’t drain me,” she said. “But yoga helps me stay alert, confident and in tune with my body.”