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Back from the brink with yoga, acupuncture & meditation

- Shilpa Jasani

Super successful, business tycoon, dollar billionaire, private jets and Rolls-Royces – this is what the world knows of Dhananjay Datar, owner of Al Adil Trading. But there is an unknown side of him that grappled with his internal demons – depression, anxiety and suicidal tendencies.

In a candid interview with Yoga & Wellness magazine, Datar reminisces about his struggle with mental illness and how he was able to overcome the condition completely.

Recounting the first time he suffered from depression, Datar said: “Many years ago, my wife, one-year-old son and myself were returning from Satara (in India), when our car collided with a truck and all the doors got auto-locked. The impact was severe and we were unconscious. Passersby helped us and we were hospitalized. But somewhere, this incident created a lot of fear within me and even after coming back to Dubai, this deep rooted fear resulted in me losing a lot of weight. Within a year, I lost 16 kilos and all of a sudden, I started getting panic attacks. Shaky hands, sweating all over and having an unnamed and constant fear of ‘what’s to happen?’, gripped me.

“Medical reports revealed no unusual symptoms and according to the doctors, everything was normal. I met a psychologist, but no use. On a visit to India some months later, psychiatrist Dr. Rajiv Anand explained: ‘The medication will offer 30-35% relief, the balance 65% relief will come from meditation.’

One American doctor, Dr. Raymond taught me yoga and meditation and within 2 weeks, I was feeling much better. Another outcome of improved health was increased work efficiency and growth in our business.”

All was well for some years and business was growing, when Datar was struck with another bout of depression, this time more severe, lasting for 5 miserable years. He recounted: “Coming from a poor background, making money was the most important goal in my life then. I would work long hours, was smoking, neglected meal times often eating lunch after 4 pm – all perfect recipes for stomach pain and acute acidity. Gastroenterologists advised endoscopy (which incidentally was done 11 times) and then predictably, began the next round of medications. Nothing seemed to work. I also tried ayurveda, homeopathy, flower remedy, pujas in the house, praying at temples, visiting medicants at 4 am, waiting 5-6 hours in queues in the hope of finding a cure, wearing amulets – name it, and I tried it. After nine years, I was back to square one!! I suffered immensely so much so, that I was ready to follow even the most bizarre treatment.”

This time the quantum of his depression was substantially higher and lasted much longer. “The physical pain was excruciating and I was constantly depressed and did not want to live. I would hardly go to office, only one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening. Rest of the time, I would be at home, watching television disconsolately. By now, I was sure, that I would never be pain free, ever. Completely demotivated, I reduced my business activities (there were 3 Al Adil shops then – in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah), and thoughts of ending my life constantly crept in. I would visit the doctor every day; such that I would be his first patient every morning. The doctor constantly told me, that he had done everything in his power to help and there was nothing more that he could do. During every visit to the doctor, I would be crying. I was that depressed. He then referred me to a psychologist in Jumeirah and on my first visit to her clinic, I was weeping, and telling her that I do not want to live.”

“The 76-year-old doctor was herself an accident survivor, having undergone 7-8 surgeries, with scores of stitches on her body. ‘In spite of my hardships, I want to live this beautiful life God has given me, why then are you so disheartened by the pain and suffering?’, she questioned and reasoned. ‘Think of your family- your wife and children. They are still young and you have a responsibility towards them.’ This statement made me stop in my tracks and rethink my life’s journey.”

On a hunch, Datar tried out acupuncture treatment in India, and miraculously, he was cured of his acidity within 15 days! “I was advised meditation and yoga to help my other health conditions like back pain and digestive issues. Depression and anxiety exist together and are caused due to chemical imbalances in the brain. Meditation will help in maintaining this balance. There’s still such a stigma around talking about mental illnesses, like anxiety and depression, that many people keep their suffering a secret. Depression isn’t just a mental disorder, but can cause physical symptoms like pain, fatigue, and appetite changes.”

Miracle cure with yoga, acupuncture and meditation

“Yoga, acupuncture and meditation have completely rejuvenated my life and have increased my confidence manifold, such that even our business has grown exponentially in the last 10 years.” Today, Al Adil has 43 retail outlets and a constantly expanding business. His life story now is what dreams are made of – every new store is launched open by a prominent Bollywood film actress. The silver jubilee of Al Adil Trading was celebrated aboard a Royal Jet Airways Boeing 737, where he gifted his wife Vandana, the key of a $2 million Rolls-Royce Phantom, one of the only 17 in the world! There is so much optimism now and constant talk of expansions, including into Kuwait and Europe.

“My advice to everyone is to do meditation everyday – even 10 minutes is enough. People feel bored and therefore neglect this miracle cure. However, if one is able to meditate 15 minutes, thrice a day, that will bring immense benefits. These days everyone is facing stress, which brings mental and physical problems. This is where meditation can help you.”

Stress is caused by multiple triggers, with financial problems leading the rest. Datar offers sound financial advice: “Markets are always volatile, going through cyclical ups and downs.  When people were worrying about global recession, we made a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis report and made appropriate changes in strategy. We implemented judicious cost cutting and focused attention on profit making transactions only. Though we are financially strong, we ensure proper savings and secure the company first. I take risk in business, but never in my savings. Most people put their money in shares or equity markets, but I prefer fixed 5% returns.”

Grateful to have got his life back, Datar spends 90 minutes every day in maintaining his health. He practices yoga and meditation for 45 minutes every morning and walks for 45 minutes, joined by his wife and sons. Acupuncture and annual visits to nature cure and detox centers like Jindal, India have contributed to his fit frame, wearing his age (56 years) well. “Earlier when I did not have money, I always thought that money was everything.  Now, I realize that if you compromise your health to gain wealth, all the riches in the world are of no use. My advice to young people is that invest in your health too, and that will contribute to bringing in the wealth.”

Flying high yet completely grounded, Datar added that nature cure and detox centres through nutritional and lifestyle changes have helped him overcome

his diabetes and high blood pressure symptoms and now the dosage of his medications have been reduced to half.

Datar’s yoga instructor Anusiya Singh says: “For digestive problems twisting poses including matsyasana, kati chakrasan, markatasan are very beneficial. For back issues bhujangasan, dhanurasan, shalvasan and the boat pose are useful. Stretching poses help relieving blood pressure issues, while bhramari pranayama and bhasrika are very beneficial for depression and anxiety. Any person doing bhramari pranayam 21 times every day, can overcome depression within a week. My father would stammer in his childhood. Yoga helped him overcome his stammering problem.”

Research on yoga suggests:

American Psychological Association documents yoga’s psychological benefits in reducing stress, relieving anxiety, depression, insomnia and post-traumatic stress disorder.

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NIH) lists benefits of yoga for general wellness by relieving stress, improving mental/emotional health, menopause symptoms, help people quit smoking, lose weight, manage symptoms of chronic diseases.

Johns Hopkins Medicine noted that yoga brought better joint health for those with arthritis “The evidence is showing that yoga really helps change people at every level,” says Stanford University health psychologist and yoga instructor Kelly McGonigal, PhD.

Yoga is found to be beneficial for depression, schizophrenia (when done alongside drug therapy), ADHD and problems with sleep (Yoga and Mental Health, Huffington Post). American College of Physicians recommends yoga for first-line treatment of chronic low-back pain.

Harvard Medical School lists yoga practice as a relatively low-risk, high-yield approach to improving overall health, stating that some studies have found yoga to help ‘improve lipid profiles in healthy patients as well as patients with known coronary artery disease, lowered excessive blood sugar levels in people with non-insulin dependent diabetes and reduced their need for medications’.

Yoga is actually an 8-pronged approach to wellness, but the most commonly used tools are physical exercise that involves different body poses (asana), breathing techniques (pranayama) and meditation (dhyana).

Datar and his wife Vandana practice yoga daily

Celebrities who also struggled with mental conditions:
Many people use yoga therapy to manage:
  • mental/ emotional problems like stress, anxiety or depression
  • conditions and disorders, such as ongoing low back pain
  • conditions and disorders, such as ongoing low back pain
  • symptoms of chronic or long-term pain
  • symptoms of chronic or long-term pain

Takeaway:

  • Lifestyle and nutrition are very important. Eat home cooked food.
  • Eat meals at regular times
  • Meditate at least for 10 minutes daily
  • One can meditate wherever you are at home, in office, even on a flight
  • Go for a walk and do yoga every day

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