Yoga and Wellness interviewed Dr. Vishwas Chhabra, the founder of Sitfit Yoga, to learn from his experiences about the benefits of yoga for mental well-being.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (USA), depression occurs due to a combination of genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors. Commonly used treatments include participation in psychotherapy, taking antidepressants, or a combination of both. Many people are apprehensive about the side effects of antidepressants, while some may not have access to psychotherapy. More recently, researchers are studying the efficacy of complementary treatments like yoga, to counter the effects of depression. Yoga encompasses a four-pronged approach to wellness - physical exercises (asana), breathing techniques (pranayama), meditation (dhyana) and relaxation (shav asana). Different studies by institutions in the U.S. and the Netherlands, which were presented at the American Psychological Association's annual convention, have shown that meditation and yoga do seem to have measureable effects on the symptoms of depression and general well-being.
Yoga and Wellness interviewed Dr. Vishwas Chhabra, the founder of Sitfit Yoga, to learn from his experiences about the benefits of yoga for mental well-being. “Depression is often described as a situation of non-connection with the body and surroundings, while I say that depression is a negative connection. There are different kinds of depression and in varying intensities. Low energy, gloominess and despondency are classic symptoms of depression. Yoga helps to reduce the fluctuations of the mind (chitt nirodha). In the Yog Sutras of Patanjali, a comfortable, steady posture will promote a centering of the mind, ending duality of thoughts. For example, the Bhujangasan activates the nervous system, which in turn impacts the hypothalamus, energizing the practitioner. Or the Surya Namasker (sun salutation), which uses every part of the body, activates the individual.”
A doctor of Ayurvedic medicine, Dr. Vishwas was attracted to the potential of healing that yoga offered and he was employed by Prime Medical Center as the first yoga therapist in UAE. “After a 6-year stint with Prime, I met the renowned rheumatologist Dr. Humeira Badsha and presented my research paper at the APLAR Congress of Rheumatology 2008 in Japan. During the early days of my career, I became interested in yoga for healing. I remember observing people with marked improvements in their outlook on life and their health after practicing yoga and that sparked my interest. In my opinion, every person aspiring to teach yoga to others should have some knowledge of human physiology, either through education or working in medical clinics, to ensure that the right yoga practices are taught, especially to people with medical complaints,” explains Dr. Vishwas. “It is commonly known that Bhujangasan is good for people with backaches, but one also needs to first understand the cause of his backache –whether it’s a dislocated disc or muscle or ligament strain. Only then can he or she identify the yogic exercise that will improve the condition. Becoming a yoga teacher with a 100-hour or 200-hour course will not necessarily make someone an expert. The criteria for becoming a yoga teacher needs to be refined further.”
Dr. Vishwas, author of ‘Yoga Anywhere, Anytime & for Anybody’ has conducted over 400 corporate workplace wellness programmes in the UAE and other Middle East countries such as Oman and Bahrain. “During my workshops, I tell people that everyone goes through depression every day – the bouts of depression may be small or big. It’s how one manages these situations that determines one’s mental or physical health. Every thought affects every cell in the body, and therefore a disturbing negative thought will disturb the external as well as the internal body.”
The postures or asanas that help a person with depression are Bhujangasana, the bridge pose, Mayurasana, and Shavasana (the corpse pose to re-energize the body). Among the breathing exercises that help are Brahmari Pranayam, Anulom-vilom, Surya Bhedam (to activate the mind) or Chandra Bhedam (to calm the mind).
Armed with a Masters degree in marketing, and working experience with Amul India, Tanu arrived in UAE 21 years ago. Suffering from multiple health issues like heavy asthma, hypo-thyroidism and PCOD, Tanu was unable to start a family post-marriage. In 2004, while on a visit to India, she met the (now) renowned yoga guru Baba Ramdev, who advised breathing exercises (pranayama) and within three months she was miraculously cured of her hypo-thyroidism. The pranayama recommended to her were Ujjayi, Kapalbhati and Anulom-Vilom Pranayam. After taking heavy doses of anti-thyroid medicines for 6-7 years, she has been hypo-thyroid free for over 15 years. Explains Tanu: “I have firm faith in complementary systems of healing and that has helped me manage certain health issues. Even my asthma has largely subsided and I was able to start a family."
But the story does not end here. Her first pregnancy was ectopic and was extremely critical before giving birth to a baby girl. Coinciding with her second pregnancy, there was a large lymph node in her throat and a second emergency situation arose, before her younger daughter was born in 2008. Tanu has always been challenged with multiple health concerns and currently suffers from psoriasis, dislocated discs, tennis elbow, rheumatoid arthritis and obesity. “I met Dr. Vishwas 6-7 years ago when I was suffering with lower back pain. The depth of his understanding has helped in overcoming my back issues and to cope with my other health conditions. Though I usually have a positive outlook, there were times when I would feel low and anxious. Doing yoga has helped me immensely.”Tanu
I have been practicing yoga for 10+ years, and I must say it has helped me maintain high energy levels. Coming from a business development background, there are many anxious moments that one deal with, and I feel the yoga and meditation has helped me remain calmer. When I compare people in the same age group as myself, I realize that my energy levels are much higher. Having said that I would say yoga is more preventive than reactive, and it helps internal strengthening along with the external.Samir, 48
In 2009, while working as a Project Architect in Design Consultancy in Dubai, that I suffered from severe lower back pain which created muscle spasms. Work and deadlines to complete project was always at the priority and in doing this, I completely neglected myself. The routine was a sedentary lifestyle with long hours of work in a seating posture. As a result, my health deteriorated so much that it would take me almost half an hour to get out of bed every morning. This situation continued for 3 months. Medications would not make much difference, as they merely gave temporary relief. The unbearable pain now started affecting my work too.
It was during this time that I met and consulted Dr Vishwas Chabbra (Sit Fit Yoga). The first meeting was all about right posture which I had not practiced for several years. He offered many tips on lifestyle changes and then sessions on yoga. Believe me, this gave me a lot of relief and from then till date, yoga has transformed my life completely. After starting yoga sessions with Dr Vishwas, my back pain disappeared and gave me a lot of relief.
Well-being is all about being healthy not just emotionally, mentally but also physically. In today’s contemporary life style I would strongly suggest that Yoga, as a system of mental and physical wellbeing, should be practiced regularly. It helps vastly improve overall fitness, weight loss, reduce stress and boosts energy. Every yoga session is an experience of rejuvenating the mind. Today I strongly recommend to my colleagues to practice yoga for health and well-being. ‘Practice to feel the difference’.Dr. Bhakti More, Associate Professor, School of Design & Architecture