‘Yoga just doesn’t boost physical fitness, but gives inner peace too’

A personal account of the journey from depression to contentment

By Surendra Panwar
Published: Friday 21 June 2019
Yoga unites you with your soul and provides inner peace. Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images Photo: Getty Images

I have been practicing Yoga since the age of nine and learnt it at Delhi’s Vishvaytan Yohasharam. I could do all that yoga teacher Ramdev can. Now, I am almost as old as Ramdev himself and still not much behind him as far as stressing my bones and joints are concerned. In my mid-50s I can flaunt my physical fitness as much superior to most of my peers.

But all that turned out to be a myth when almost a year ago I felt unbearable pain in all my joints. It felt like someone was chopping my bones with a sharp knife. I often wondered that how could this happen to me. My doctor initially treated it as some kind of viral infection because I did not have any history of joint pains.

I was prescribed high doses of antibiotics and pain killers, but that did not turn out to be of much help. After 10 days I went for blood tests and I was diagnosed with early rheumatoid arthritis. Following this I was put on multiple medicines.

All of sudden I lost my confidence. It took just a moment for the hubris arrogance and the feeling of being fitter than others to come crashing down. Few days later, I was scared to step out of my home. My room became my world. I stopped going to office, became scared of talking to everyone.

Even my friends and family members, I lost interest in everything — TV, newspapers and even in Yoga.

Things became worse when I was scared to even meet my doctor. Every time I met her I felt my heart would burst out of fear. I was gradually sensing that I was completely besieged by depression. My doctor told me that I needed to see a psychiatrist.

Now things were getting complicated for me. It was as if I was turning into a melancholic personality and taking pride in my loneliness. I began treating my room as a paradise, a world where only I mattered. Even sunrays sneaking through curtains would disturb me.

After having lived through all this for three months I looked back at what my lifestyle was before I got sick and realised that as far as I was travelling I was in great spirit, but the moment the work forced me to remain holed up in my office, listening to negative barbs that the colleagues normally hurl at each other and spending the whole day bending over the laptop pondering over nonsensical posts on social media sites, I started finding a change in my body and moods.

It was much more than what a sedentary lifestyle, which affected my stomach first. The first symptom was irregular bowel movement and loss of appetite. I lost 10 kg out of my 66 kg frame. All that pride of being a yogi and regular meditator had disappeared and what was left was a desire to perish as early as possible or a feeble instinct that I could still recover.

This was the first time I did not laugh at the likes of Deepika Padukone, whom I always jeered at for faking depression to attain attention. This also exploded my myth that blindly following yoga without changing your lifestyle or wrong notions about meditation was not going to help me.

The first thing I realised was that traditional way of meditation which lays emphasis on emptying your mind to get relaxed only gives you temporary relief and keeps you aloof from the world which ultimately makes you allergic to everybody and anything your mind does not entertain. I sensed that free flow of thoughts through your mind without getting attached to them will surely give one the courage to face the world and better manage your complexities or your life.

Anyway, soon I decided to start my new journey. The first thing I did was resign from the job which I had stopped enjoying and joined a new organisation which was relatively calm. My former colleagues with whom I never harboured any grouse also helped me by offering me independent assignments, which kind of took the pressure off my mind.

The new office offered me a fresh fragrance of life. I started travelling in beautiful terrains of Meghalaya and forests of Chhattisgarh, made films and documentaries which gave me immense pleasure. A chronic bachelor in me finally fell in love with a beautiful Khasi woman.  Slowly but surely my life was coming back to track. 

Recently, I read a research that depression and anxiety are the main triggers for all types of arthritis. This opened my eyes. I realised that all the physical exercises are meaningless unless you have inner peace. And I vouch for this from my experience.

Now coming back to yoga, people need to understand that it is not just a booster for your physical health but also unites you with your soul and provides inner peace. Unfortunately, we follow the first part without looking at the way our life is heading and train our minds accordingly.

The lessons I learnt from this were that we must not give up, we must change our jobs the moment we realise we are not enjoying them anymore, we must not mistake our dreams for materialistic successes, we must be in touch with nature and finally we must be minimalists.

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