By Rupa Seenaraine
With the sprouting of newer lifestyle trends aimed at promoting greater well-being, Agnela Patil is reintroducing yoga and its abundant rewards, and is urging Guyanese to give it a whirl.
The former Yoga Ambassador to Guyana, who was contracted to teach yoga here through the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), recently opened her Namaste Yoga and Ayurveda Centre, in which she is offering a Zen environment for beginners and avid students. It has created an atmosphere wherein people can adopt yoga as part of their lifestyle, with coaching sessions being provided on how to improve their posture, form and focus. In recent time, the practice has become increasingly popular in Guyana, with the pandemic triggering persons to find different ways of being active.
Patil, who hails from the State of Goa in India, had initially studied in the field of engineering, but later switched to yoga – explaining that that is where she found her passion.
Thereafter, she passed the examination of the Quality Council of India for yoga professionals. These examinations have recently been renamed Yoga Certification Board (YCB) Examinations by the Ministry of AYUSH.
During her stint in Guyana as a yoga teacher, she recalled conceptualising the idea of Namaste Yoga, but was a little hesitant to do so. However, she returned to Guyana during the COVID-19 pandemic, and decided to tap into her plans.
“I left Guyana not long after the advent of the COVID-19 virus here, and soon after, the Indian Government made a decision to put a hold on yoga teachers posted around the world. While away, I was still in contact with Guyanese yoga students and friends who used to do yoga at the Swami Vivekananda Cultural Centre. These classes were conducted virtually. Many of them encouraged me to return to Guyana, and this country, which I loved, I returned,” she told Guyana Times in an interview.
Located at Lot 3, Area CC, Temple Street, Ogle on the East Coast of Demerara, the Centre has been flooded with positive responses from the public, prompting Patil to consider extending these services to other parts of Guyana. She noted that this is favourable, since yoga aids with a range of health issues. Among them are lower risk of heart diseases, a healthy weight, stronger bones, improved sense of balance, anxiety relief, reduced chronic back and neck pain, lowered stress level, increased flexibility, lower blood pressure and sugar levels in diabetics, and improve lung capacity.
She added that anyone can get started if they wish to take the classes, since it does not require a specific level of flexibility or strength.
“Yoga is not for asanas (postures) only; yoga is an exercise-and-wellbeing regimen. It is not a mere exercise; yoga is not only meant for the flexible. It is not associated with the idea of the supernatural, or linked with miracles.
“Similarly, it is not true that yoga ranks low as a cardiovascular workout. Yoga is a science; that is, it is a technique that leads us to consciously connect with ourselves and with life.”
She added, “As yoga is a science, there is no dogma or belief system attached to it. Yoga simply tells us to do a certain practice and then to feel the effect of that practice. Example, if we breathe slowly in a relaxed manner, our heart rate will slow down; and if we focus the mind, we will develop mental peace and deep insight. Anyone with or without the various health issues can get involved in yoga.”
All classes run for one-hour sessions. Apart from Patil, the team of teachers includes Sushma Yenge who served in Iceland as a yoga ambassador. She has been assisting with face-to-face classes, while Tanya Gupta and Rudresh Kumar Singh, who worked in Guatemala and Bahrain respectively, are part of the online classes.
Apart from yoga, the Centre will also be introducing ayurvedic products to the Guyanese populace. These products are manufactured by a 75-year-old manufacturer and approved by the Government Analyst Food and Drug Department.
“The Ayurveda products are mostly plant-based, with no side effects, and are used to treat various illnesses. This will complement yoga, which helps to deal with anxiety, stress, physical fitness, mental health, and other lifestyle diseases,” she outlined.