Nahid Tabassum bonds with Shazia Omar, the yogini, writer and the activist, to help us find a calm space within through yoga and centre us in times of upheaval and turbulence. 

“As a child, I practised martial arts. I think this prepared me for the energetic practice of yoga. I first started my training in yoga during college, in the USA, in pilates, which included first aid and nutrition and anatomy. And I also taught Pilates in London for a year,” the gipsy heart starts off with. 

The promoter of positive living, Shazia Omar, is a certified Ashtanga instructor and has been teaching yoga and pilates since 2005. For her classes, she often mixes elements of pilates, kriya, kundalini, pranayama and meditation. “Initially, I started with vinyasa flow then moved into ashtanga. Gradually, I moved deeper into yoga which became a part of my passion and lifestyle,” she adds up. 

Shazia helps us characterise yoga through its three integral parts. Asanas- the physical exercises, pranayamas– the breathing exercises or the stretching of prana, the vital energy of our body, and dhyana- meditation are the three aspects that together make up the constitute of yoga. “When we do these three, we can align our mind, body and spirit and in a balanced way so we can be healthy,” she explains as she stretches out the elements of yoga. 

Going towards its root and presence, Shazia lays evidence of the ancient days, when people recognised the power of being connected to our own bodies. “In the bloom of yoga and self-healing, people knew what to eat and were naturally inclined towards total body awareness. However, due to lack of scientific evidence in the past, the control of our body was rather handed over to doctors, scientists and medicines until the true power of self-healing and natural ways came forward with adequate scientific validation,” she says. 

In recent times, the pharmaceutical industry is booming in Bangladesh and all around the world, feeding on people’s fixation on drugs and procedures rather than the natural and herbal ways. Even though the potential of yoga is scientifically recognised worldwide, Shazia feels people are either oblivious and indolent to embrace yoga and its benefits wholeheartedly. 

“If somebody feels that a particular form of yoga is straining or not suitable for their needs, I suggest trying the different kinds and practising them when time and in health. When done religiously, it has the power to combat health problems such, heart problems, diabetes, obesity, underweight and so on without being dependent on medicines,” she claims. 

Since the physical classes have been cancelled for the pandemic, Shazia is adapting to online classes and making tutorial videos to benefit everyone with the power of yoga. ‘Anybody who practises yoga for three consecutive weeks knows for themselves how real the benefits of yoga is!” she stresses. Keeping that in concern, the instructor has designed a 21-day beginner yoga challenge for her viewers on Youtube to get started by enacting the regime ceremoniously for three weeks. 

“A Lot of people have reached out to me through comments, emails and messages to share their appreciation towards the tutorials that I have posted online and also shared specific problems so I can share routines customised to their needs,” she says as she shares the feedback of her online audience.

To guide the mind, body and spirit during quarantine, Shazia performs yoga, pranayama (breathing) and dhyana (meditation) every day for a half-hour each. “Alongside physical exercise, meditation also helps us connect with our inner guru, our higher self, so we find deep peace and happiness,” she adds. 

“I believe fear and isolation is the reason for depression during the lockdown. The goal of meditation is to help us calm the fluctuations of the mind (citta vritti nirodha – thought waves calm). This helps us balance our emotional state,” she further suggests.  

Alongside her other contents, the Youtuber is also recording an ongoing journal/playlist on yoga chikitsa-  healing with yoga, a personalised playlist of regular yoga sessions focusing on each day of being quarantined. Her playlist talks about different aspects of yoga followed by asanas and breathing exercises. She even advises everyone to perform yoga in a family to spread positive energy around you. 

“I think people who turn to yoga are seekers, who solicit the equilibrium of health and tranquillity from the practice of performing yoga and breathing exercises. We discover ourselves as we discover yoga,” she reveals as she wraps up.