Rated one of the top 5 yoga gurus in India, Suneel Singh is a firm believer in the many health and mental benefits of yoga. In a chat with ParentCircle, he talks about his journey and what inspired him to take up yoga professionally. He also explains how we can encourage children to practice this traditional form of exercise and gives us a few tips to stay healthy.
1) When did you first start practising yoga? Tell us about your journey.
My journey with yoga began when I was 10 years of age. It was my grandfather who first got me interested in practising yoga. After my graduation, I did my yoga teacher training in 1985 from Mantalai, Jammu & Kashmir, as a disciple of the late Guru Swami Dhirender. I obtained a first class and won a gold medal too. After completing my training, I returned to Delhi. Unfortunately, at that time, there wasn’t much awareness about yoga. However, as time went on, people began to understand the importance and benefits of yoga and recognised me as a professional yoga teacher.
2) How did yoga become such an integral part of your life? Did anything influence you?
I studied at the sports college in Lucknow where I was captain of the Under 19 central zone cricket team. While in college, I suffered a lower back injury that bothered me a lot. My grandfather advised me to practice yoga regularly and to train professionally. I began to practise yoga along with training in Kashmir and as time went on, my injury healed. From that moment on, I was inspired to take up yoga as a professional career.
3) Can you share some of your achievements?
In my yatra, now spanning 32 years, I have written 8 books on yoga, produced 4 DVDs, conducted about 3000 shows for about 29 television channels and written over 2000 articles. One of my most notable achievements for me personally was in 2016 when I conducted a yoga workshop with Shilpa Shetty in Dubai for 9000 people. What appealed to me most was, people from 115 countries belonging to different faiths chanted ‘Om’ together near the Burj Khalifa. This was one of my proudest moments.
4) Who were some of your biggest inspirations?
There have been many but, my grandfather, no doubt, remains my biggest inspiration. I am also grateful to my sports coach in college Mr Arun B, who taught me the important lesson of discipline in life. My guru has also been an enormous inspiration. Personally, I feel that my experiences have inspired me greatly.
5) Any particular anecdotes with children that you would like to share with us?
Once, during a yoga session, I was in the peacock posture, which is a rather difficult pose. A child wanted to know if I could dance like a peacock while in that asana! Children sometimes ask such funny questions in all their innocence. To me they are like another form of God.
6) In your experience, how do children react to the concept of yoga?
Unfortunately, in the place where an art form or concept has originated, people don’t recognise its importance. But, after the Prime Minister took the initiative to promote International Yoga Day, there has been a tremendous change. Parents are now aware that this is an integral part of the Indian culture. In my experience, I have had parents bring along their children to yoga sessions. Initially, they are most uninterested. But, as time progressed, they became eager to join in and to perform asanas with their parents. Children are also now conscious about the various advantages of practising yoga. In fact, I am often asked how yoga can, for instance, help increase height. Once they are exposed to yoga, they are interested to learn various asanas and even perform the sun salutation or Surya Namaskar, breathing exercises or paranayama.
7) What is the ideal age for children to start practising yoga?
Anyone between the age of 8 and 80 years can practice yoga. An 8-year-old child can understand, learn and perform easily. We can make yoga fun and exciting by having sessions like laughter therapy or even making them chant in gibberish! Children tend to prefer particular poses; for instance, they find the balancing pose, or tree pose, interesting. Instead of conducting serious sessions, we must have sessions that encourage them to join in and enjoy them.
8) Can you give us a few health tips for parents and children?
Here are some essential tips that both parents and children can follow:
- Drink 2 glasses of milk every day.
- Practice yoga for a minimum of 40 minutes, four times a week.
- Drink a minimum of 8 to10 glasses of water every day.
- Take a sunbath for 20 minutes every day for four months. This helps with any Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D helps in the absorption of calcium, magnesium and phosphorous, which is present in milk.
- Have 1 teaspoon of honey with 1 teaspoon of amla powder on an empty stomach. Both have several medicinal properties.
- Have 4 almonds every day.
- Eat seasonal fruits. For example, guavas, the seasonal fruit in winter, is rich in Vitamin C. Blood tends to thicken in cold climates. Vitamin C helps to thin blood and reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Bananas are also a high source of energy. Their high potassium content helps lower high blood pressure.
9) Can you give us a few routines that parents and children can practice together?
Parents and children can chant the ‘Om’ mantra together every day for 5 to 10 minutes. This enables vibration in the brain and activates the thyroid gland, which in fact even helps boost confidence and can also help with issues like stammering. It is a wonderful way for parents to de-stress and relax.
10) For a healthy start to the new year, can you give us some wellness tips?
- Once a week, adults should fast to detoxify their bodies. Children can fast for half a day; they could skip dinner to enable the process.
- Practice pranayama every day for 5 or 10 minutes. Even if you have a busy schedule, set aside some time.
- Practice some form of physical exercise outside. Be one with nature.
- Hug a tree! This removes negative energies and enables love without expectation, unlike all our other relationships.
Follow yoga guru Suneel Singh on his website.
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