‘The only thing that helped me was yoga’

A young doctor takes to teaching yoga online, during the COVID-19 lockdown, to help people ease their stress

Dr Charu Arora, 34, lives and works in Mumbai as a director with a health tech company. In early March, she decided to quit her job and move to Goa to teach yoga, hoping to tie up with hotels and independent yoga studios. “I knew I was not going to make a lot of money, but I don’t need a lot, and I was happy if I could sustain myself,” she says. When the coronavirus lockdown struck, Arora took back her resignation, and has now begun to look at plan B with yoga.

Her first move was to go online, to YouTube (Yoga Heals), Instagram (@yogaheals2020), and Facebook (Facebook.com/YogaHealswithDoctor) where she has begun to teach people the basics of yoga: how to eat mindfully, how a daily practice can help with anxiety, even asanas for high blood pressure. As a doctor, people are more inclined to trust her with serious medical conditions, she says.

She found this especially with her first job that was with Myyogateacher.com, a website and app started by an IIT Kanpur graduate, to link Indian teachers with international students. “My yoga teacher, Rohan Shroff, had suggested that I apply even though I was not very confident because I had just completed my training.” But, she says, as she began to work with people who had an injury or health condition, developing a practice for them was intuitive, because she understood anatomy and physiology. “Some of the students told me me they’d selected me because I was a doctor.”

Arora began practising yoga about five years ago, after a personal setback that led to a stress build-up and serious GI tract issues. At first, she dabbled in it when in Bengaluru, during her years in med tech there, but when she moved to Mumbai, she slowly began to explore its deeper aspects to help her out of a “dark place”. After some time, “It drew me inwards and my dependence on people came down,” she says.

Last year, she was diagnosed with a few more health problems, and decided to take a deep dive by enrolling in a 200-hour (the minimum, usually covered in about 26 days) teachers’ training programme at The Yoga Institute’s Goa chapter, at Chorao. “We learnt asana, pranayama, and meditation of course, but also anatomy, yogic philosophy, and other yogic practices such as reflection and gratitude,” she says, adding that a sattvik diet changed her lifestyle when she came back to the city.

Taking her background in Medicine and her yoga practice a step further, she recently co-authored a proposal with a classmate, Dr Saswati Das, in answer to the Government of India’s Department of Science and Technology’s call for a yoga and meditation intervention suitable to fight COVID-19. “The purpose is to improve immunity, lung function, and mental health; develop a protocol, and conduct a pilot study of 100 COVID-19 patients,” she says, adding that she is keeping her fingers crossed about getting the project.

Irrespective, Charu’s idea is, “to share my experience of yoga with as many as possible, and help people benefit in the same way I have. I feel yoga healed me to the point that I feel stronger, happier, and more in control of my life.”

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