She is the oldest woman yoga master

She is the oldest woman yoga master

Bending it like Beckham, doing delicate manoeuvres with the body turning and twisting as if she is a boneless creature and performing a headstand! These may well sound like a daily routine for a top class gymnast from China or Russia.

Wait and take a breath as these astounding feats are done by a 93-year-old V Nanammal of Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, a yoga instructor. 

The yoga instructor is vibrant as ever and proves that age really is just a number. Nanammal considers her hundreds of yoga students to be her own children. The nonagenarian has been practising yoga since she was 10 years and could be perhaps the country's oldest woman yoga teacher. 

Born in a middle-class agricultural family at Coimbatore at Jaminkaliyapuram, Nanammal won a contest for the “Silambattam” (a weapon-based Indian martial art from Tamil Nadu) at district level when she was just 14. 

After that she started learning yoga from her grandfather at her home town Coimbatore after seeing some boys and girls learning the ancient Indian exercise and was hooked on ever since. “I also learnt yoga even from my father- in-law after getting married to a Sidha doctor. Those days yoga was considered only as the village exercise,” she says.

The Coimbatore-based great-grandmother also credits yoga for her good health. She does not take medication or had no health problems till now. “I still live strong and healthy due to my love for the exercise and I neither visited a hospital nor used any medicine till now,” Nanammal said.

The woman, who has two sons and three daughters, teaches yoga every day for at least 100 students at her house. She claims her students “feel great” after the yoga sessions. Her students, usually a lot younger than her, also include two women in their 70s, some 60 year olds and the youngest is a girl of six.

The yoga instructor has even developed a legion of admiring students that consistently attend her classes. They’ve even taken to calling themselves “paethees,” (granddaughters in Tamil)  after their inspiring teacher who, they say, can still do asanas that they struggle with. “I’m 55, she calls me a youngster. 

I aspire to achieve her fitness,” said student Meenakshi. “She can do things we still struggle to do even after several years,” said another student.

What makes her truly amazing is that she can support her whole body on her hands. She begins each class with about a dozen asanas and ends with a guided  relaxation exercises accompanied by meditation. “I’m inspired to bring yoga into others’ lives along with helping  people unearth new talents,” the nonagenarian said.

“My mother can do all the difficult asanas, including the painful “peacock” asana where the body is held in a horizontal position by the strength of the arms alone,” Nanammal's son V Balakrishnan, who is also a yoga instructor, said.

He said his mother can also demonstrate a complicated raised “lotus”, “bridge” and a headstand with ease. Now, she is waiting for another accolade to add to her list as her name was sent to the Indian Yoga Federation to declare her the country’s oldest yoga teacher. 

According to him, Tao Porchon-Lynch, 93, from the United States is at present the world’s oldest Yoga teacher. Nanammal never wears pants or special yoga dresses for classes or demonstration. 

“I wear only our tradition sari. Still I can do more than 50 asanas,” she claimed. The effects of aging have not crept on Nanammal. She said she can even read tiny letters from magazines and has a positive attitude towards life. The woman, who practises daily for an hour in the morning, said: “As far as my body is concerned, it keeps me flexible. I will stiffen up terribly if I didn’t do it.” 

“I do yoga before I go to bed and I do yoga with my students when I get up in the morning,”she said. “I’m up every morning at 4.30 and I usually go to bed early in the night,” she added.

Her diet includes only pulses and cereals and she avoids rice and non-vegetarian food items. Nanammal's technique even caught the attention of the Indian Yoga Master Federation whose chairman invited the yogi to lead classes at various colleges in the region. “She is not only instructing, she is practising,” said Federation Chairman S Krupakar Murali. 

Murali, who frequently travels to several countries, said though he has several years of yoga experience, he has never seen a person doing the difficult halasana likes Nanammal. 

The woman has won several gold medals and trophies at national level, including the first prize for the national event for yoga in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. She feels that lack of financial support by the government is one of the major reasons for not many not coming forward to promote and learn this age-old art form.

“She had rejected offers from several yoga federations across the world as she does not know English” said Nanammal's younger son V Ellusami. Recently, Nanammal attempted world record by teaching a few yoga moves to more than 20,000 students at Coimbatore.

She said that her latest move was to create awareness among women, mainly girl students, about yoga techniques by going to various educational institutions to solve several health-related problems especially after marriage.

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