There’s nothing good yoga can’t fix

After the dust settles from a hard day’s work, the urbanite seeks respite from physical and mental exhaustion. But despite the tedious traffic and hassle of driving, the Malaysian chosen form of relaxation seems to be shopping.

But imagine for a moment that Malaysians don’t really love shopping, but only do so because there are no easily found alternatives.

“Where are our parks?” asks popular yoga instructor Mani Sekaran (photo), when Komunitikini meets him at one of his yoga centers at Damansara Jaya.

“Shopping does nothing but to increase the pressure (to earn more to be able consume more to escape the pressure…)” he adds. “We (Malaysians) are on the brink of explosion.

“Just look at our attitudes on the road – we are not a happy society. We are a rather stressed society.”

This is where yoga comes in.

“Yoga is an exercise that relaxes not only psychically, but also mentally. It improves the flexibility of the body, and it can generally improve the quality of life.”

Mani can testify to the impact of doing yoga by his own experience, as he was suffering from gastritis and asthma before he took up yoga, which helped ease, his problems.

Mani is also the president of the Malaysian Yoga Society, which was started sometime in 2004 after he and few fellow trainers realized that there is a misconception about yoga in Malaysia.

“People used to think yoga is all about the asanas, as in the physical movements, but it is mainly about the mind. The concept of yoga is to relax the mind. The movements have evolved over time to compliment that process,” he explains.

And apart from trying to teach yoga the right way, Mani and his allies are trying to take yoga awareness in Malaysia to a new level- by creating a yoga competition.

The International Yoga Competition is not something new in Malaysia, in fact it has been around for around five years now, but it is this year that the competition being held at One Utama shopping complex and on grand scale.

It is not only the competition that is grand, but also the prizes, with top prize being USD 2000.

And we began to wonder, just like how anyone would, how do they actually judge a yoga practitioner and how do they measure the best?

“It’s about the positions that they are able to do, but it is also about the entire process. While in the position, they must be calm and not nervous. Some people tend to rush into the position, but that’s not the proper way either. Entering and exiting the positions are slow processes on their own. All these processes needs to be observed calmly,” he explains eloquently.

But the competition is not for the sake of competition alone, as all the proceeds will be used for charity purposes.

“We used to teach yoga at underprivileged places such as orphanages for free, but there are not many instructors who would go and teach them for free. So this competition will basically raise funds so that we can hire an instructor to teach these underprivileged people. It will be a win-win situation.”

The competition is open all public above the age of 4, and Komunitikini was quick to ask Mani about the fatwa that was issued against yoga several years ago.

“We have had meetings after that with government representatives, and it was made clear that the fatwa refers to prayer elements. Here, we treat yoga purely as a form of exercise and we don’t have incantation or chanting, so it’s still open to all,” he explains.

He also spares some time to remind prospective yoga students to check with Malaysian Yoga Society regarding the qualification of their yoga instructor before enrolling.

“In some yoga centers, I see the classes being conducted with loud music, dancing, and I see the people all hyped up after the sessions. That’s not yoga. Yoga is a very relaxing, laid back, exercise. Some of the instructors attend three-day courses and later start their classes. I advise students to call us up and check their instructor’s qualification, or advise their instructor to come and register with us,” she said.

Mani, and ex-businessman who had been teaching yoga for 14 years now, still goes to India annually to enhance his knowledge about yoga.

The International Yoga Competition will be held at the High Street (Ground Floor) this weekend (9 and 10 July).

Registrations fees are RM15 for children and RM30 for adults.

For more information, one can call 03-2260 5322