Downward Dogma: A Yogi’s tale from the Maldives

Maldives Promotion House – Our minds and bodies take a lot of punishment over the course of a lifetime. By making an effort to maintain a healthy lifestyle both mentally and physically, we can help prepare ourselves to take on whatever comes our way. Rajanish Govind, resident yogi at Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru, has dedicated his life to the practice of yoga in order to achieve this goal. A former pharmacist with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, Govind turned to yoga professionally during a quest for mental satisfaction—and he hasn’t looked back. Here he imparts what he’s learned not only about the physical practice of yoga, but about the lifestyle it helps create.

Q: How did you come to practice yoga?
A: I started to practice yoga when I was 15 years old. I was inspired by Yogi Guru Mani Swami at Sadguru Yogashram in Palakkad, Kerala, India, where I ultimately received a diploma in yoga and completed my Yoga Teacher Training Course.

Q: What do you feel are some of the most significant benefits of yoga?
A: Practising yoga helps to increase the body’s flexibility while also increasing lubrication of joints, tendons and ligaments. Yoga is instrumental in helping to release toxins from the body. Through synchronization of the breath and body movements, it helps develop inner awareness by relaxing the mind and releasing mental, emotional and muscular stress.

Q: Balance seems to play a key part, both physically and mentally—how can guests relate this principle to the rest of their lives?
A: Due to busier modern lifestyles, stress is a more dominating factor now than it was before, and that causes a lot of imbalance in life. Practising yoga, meditation and breathing exercises helps to bring back balance. It is recommended that yoga be adopted as a lifestyle; when included as part of a daily routine, it can really help anyone to achieve a sense of well-being.

Q: Can you share some tips for taking what guests learn in your classes and incorporating it into their everyday routines?
A: My yoga sessions tend to be therapy-based; however, yoga practices may vary according to a guest’s own body comforts. Typically, I suggest that the guest practice some specific postures and breathing related to any specific health issues he or she may suffer from. I would then recommend that they practise those on a daily basis for better health results.

Q: What is the most important thing that both beginners and those well versed in the discipline should keep in mind?
A: I always suggest that guests focus on more synchronized breathing (Ujjayi Breath) during the yoga poses. It helps to boost detoxification, lung expansion and creates a deeper awareness within.

Q: What is the difference between yoga and other regular physical exercises?
A: There are a number of differences. First, one can practise yoga at any age. Other physical exercises, on the other hand, have certain age limitations. Practising yoga also helps to cure various health ailments that other physical exercises may not. It helps to loosen all the muscles and joints and increase flexibility, while other forms of exercise often have the opposite effect. Yoga develops inner awareness, and a lot of other activities don’t have such merits. Physical exercises also tend to develop lactic acid, while yoga helps to eliminate it. And finally, the postures used in yoga stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to calm body and mind; physical exercises stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, which has opposite result.

Q: What drew you to yoga initially, and what keeps you coming back?
A: My lack of concentration on my studies led me to practise yoga, and my interest in spirituality helped me to learn its philosophies. My whole inspiration was my yogi guru and his selfless service to society. Working as a pharmacist, I found myself lacking in mental satisfaction. I then turned to yoga as a profession so that I would have the opportunity to interact with different people every day, which makes my job more interesting. Helping people with the healing power of yoga gives me happiness and satisfaction.

Q: Are there any new trends that you are particularly interested in or excited about sharing?
A: I usually do not depend on any particular type or style of yoga practice. I am more interested in Vinyasa Flow and intensive hatha yoga practices, or a combination of both depending on the guest’s comfort level. I do include Thai yoga stretches as they help improve flexibility in order to attain various different yoga poses.

Q: What is your best advice for the modern yoga student?
A: If you are looking for a fitness programme, yoga is the best. Be sure to practise yoga safely under the guidance of an experienced teacher and with proper breathing techniques that focus on awareness of the body. You’ll soon find that yoga and meditation help to bring about more positive thoughts and confidence.

Written by Jennifer Sanchez for Four Seasons Magazine

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