• That’s when I started seeing profound effects on my day to day life. (EyeEm)Source: EyeEm
Adopting the yoga lifestyle off the mat also helped me understand acceptance and how to practice forgiveness, release anger and other negative emotions that didn’t serve me.
By
Praveena Lakshmidurai As told to Elli Jacobs

10 Aug 2020 - 10:00 AM  UPDATED 22 Apr 2021 - 3:06 PM

I first attended formal structured regular yoga classes at age 11 in India, conducted by “Aunty” Nirupama as part of after school extracurricular activities.

“Aunty” was a respected elder in our community and very adept to the yogic teachings. In addition to yoga postures known as asana, she taught us how to meditate, chant mantras in the ancient Sanskrit language of yoga, and we even studied the yogic texts known as the Vedas. So, my knowledge of traditional yoga from an incredibly young age was quite in-depth.

I remember how her yoga classes used to be fun and there were always plenty of laughs. 

I also remember feeling a buzz of innocent happiness for no particular reason after each session.

In my hometown of Chennai as well as the Reliance township in Jamnagar that I grew up in, Yoga wasn’t just a personal practice, rather a form of weekly community catch-up and socialising.

One night a week, whole families would assemble at a different community members home, sit on the floor and together chant bhajans, transcendental devotional songs to our Hindu Gods, accompanied by kirtan, devotion in the form of music.  My father played tabla, a form of Indian drums.

The host family would then offer us prasadam, which is like a mini feast to everyone who attended.

As a family we also practised Raja yoga meditation which we learned on a retreat in Mount Abu, Rajasthan. Every morning we would bathe and go into the prayer room, do our yoga practice, meditate and pray.

All that changed when in 2009 I came to Australia on my own as an international student to do my Master’s in information systems at Central Queensland University. I wanted to further expand my skills as an overseas trained dentist.

I got stuck in the rat race of working while studying and completely stopped practising yoga and meditating.  

I got stuck in the rat race of working while studying and completely stopped practising yoga and meditating. 

Surrounded by my uni mates, life back then was about hanging out and studying till late and bad sleep habits.   

I also didn’t have the company of my family or cultural support and as a migrant, I felt that intensely.  

Mum would often remind me to practice yoga over the phone, but I had "no time" for that. 

It was only three years later, once I developed my social circle that I got in touch with the Indian community in Australia to attend yoga events. 

Then I got married.

Through mutual friends I met my now ex-husband, also of Indian descent but from a different state. We had the big Indian wedding in 2010 in India and in 2012 I gave birth to my son.

By 2017 I realised I was not happy or content in my marriage and we separated.

India is still in many ways a patriarchal society where divorce is a taboo subject. At first my parents were against my divorce but eventually they understood my reasons and supported me. 

I realised that I had to step up for myself and even though society conditions you in a certain way, yoga has such deep roots that it goes beyond the superficial values of cultural expectations and teaches you to understand what is right and wrong and helps you make better decisions in life.   

During a challenging separation and divorce process, I was diagnosed with clinical depression and was given medication.

Throughout this difficult phase in my life I did have the support of my family and friends, but I still felt an emptiness.

I started remembering the times when I was really happy and tried to narrow down when those moments occurred. I realised that a lot of them were when I was travelling to retreats and resorts while doing yoga with my family. 

I turned to yoga again and even registered to do teacher training with the intention of deepening my own practice.

That’s when I started seeing profound effects on my day to day life.

It helped me find inner strength and belief in myself and allowed me to pull myself out of a clinically diagnosed depression. Literally a month later I didn’t need any more medication as my mental health had improved immensely.

On a physical level, yoga helped me gain more energy, greater focus and rather than reacting to situations I learned to respond. All this started to have a positive effect on my sleep and my quality of life overall.  

On a physical level, yoga helped me gain more energy, greater focus and rather than reacting to situations I learned to respond.

Adopting the yoga lifestyle off the mat also helped me understand acceptance and how to practice forgiveness, release anger and other negative emotions that didn’t serve me.

I also went back to Kirtan on Sunday nights held at my local yoga centre in Brisbane which brought back pleasant memories of my childhood. 

Yoga has become my passion. Currently I’m teaching yoga to others to enable them to go on their own spiritual journey of self- discovery and it has been the most fulfilling experience for me till date.

I’m on a transformative journey which works from the inside out. I don’t know where yoga is going to take me, but I just know it will always be a part of my life.

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