Smt Swarnalatha Venkataraman is a Yoga practitioner, guide and a therapist, who specializes in pre-natal Yoga and Yoga Nidra. She conducts pre-natal Yoga sessions, and also coaches other Yoga teachers in conducting pre-natal Yoga classes. She regularly conducts Yoga sessions for her students in India and other countries like the USA, UK, Dubai and Singapore. On this International Yoga Day, she shares her views on pre-natal Yoga, Yoga therapy and related aspects.
Smt Swarnalatha spoke to SamvadaWorld on the occasion of the World Yoga Day 2021 and answered questions on her journey in Yoga, Pre-natal Yoga, Yoga Nidra, and Yoga therapy. Below is the interview.
Please tell us about your journey with Yoga
I have been practising Yoga with various teachers in Chennai and Bangalore, since my childhood days. Sometime in 2012, one of my Yoga teachers said that I was ready to teach. I was a part of a successful real estate development firm, and was not looking for a career in Yoga. I was interested only in the practice of Yoga. But my teacher inspired me to consider spreading the knowledge I had acquired, for the benefit of others, and that’s how I embarked on my teaching journey.
I loved the new dimension and the feeling of strength, clarity and peace that came with teaching. Above all, I derived maximum satisfaction while teaching. It unfolded many amazing transformations, and I began to feel that this should reach many. From then on, there was no looking back. Things fell in place at appropriate times and showed me the path ahead.
By practising Yogaasanas, everyone experiences various benefits on various levels, this includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. I think the practice of Yoga transforms one’s approach to life as a whole.– Smt Swarnalatha Venkataraman
I have completed teachers’ training courses in Hatha Yoga, pre-natal Yoga, Yin Yoga, Yoga Nidra, Yoga for children with special needs, Yoga therapy, Mantras, etc and have been teaching regularly for the past 7 years. Am also happy to train Yoga teachers in pre-natal Yoga at different Yoga studios. I am expanding my knowledge horizon continuously by learning about Yoga philosophy, Ayurveda and Samskrtam from Yoga Gurus and experts in the field.
You have students from all over India and many other countries. According to you, what are the key benefits of Yoga?
Yoga is a journey which leads everyone in the path of spirituality. In order to move higher up spiritually, we need to transcend many layers. The most basic of the various stages of spiritual evolution, is the practice of Asanas. I am very happy to share whatever little I have understood as Asana-practice with my students. By practising Yogaasanas, everyone experiences various benefits on various levels, this includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. I think the practice of Yoga transforms one’s approach to life as a whole. The incremental change that I am able to bring in my students is very important to me – it could be physical, psychological or spiritual.
Many expecting mothers have enjoyed your Yoga classes. Please tell us about the benefits of pre-natal Yoga and your experience so far.
Practising Yogaasanas in general has immense benefits. Pre-natal Yoga has multifold benefits for both the expecting mother and the child. Generally, it is said that that no one can tell you what to expect during pregnancy, it is a unique experience in every mother’s life. Every woman undergoes a lot of changes during pregnancy – physically, psychologically, emotionally. Practising Yoga during pregnancy helps a mother to understand the changes her body and mind are undergoing and helps her to connect well with her foetus in the womb. Many health issues which arise during pregnancy can be addressed through Asana practice.
The kind of lifestyle we are leading today is sedentary, and we lack physical activity. Yoga can fill that void. When it comes to first pregnancy especially, a woman will have many questions about the process of child birth and it is common to feel anxious. To overcome anxiety and to have a desirable lifestyle during pregnancy, Asana practice helps immensely. Apart from Asanas, breathing techniques, Pranayama practice, meditation etc. help a lot during pregnancy. Overall, the kind of energy built during pre-natal Yoga sessions will go a long way, and I have seen people carrying that energy for a couple of months even after delivery.
Pregnancy and delivery during the pandemic were challenging for many mothers, how do you think Yoga has helped deal with anxiety issues etc?
It has been over a year since the onset of the pandemic and people from all walks of life are experiencing anxiety related issues. This has added to the existing anxiety which is natural to a pregnant woman. How to commute to the hospital, get admitted, will the process be smooth, who will be allowed to stay with the mother in the hospital etc. – these are some of the concerns faced by expecting mothers during the pandemic. In the recent past, one of my students asked me, “What if I tested positive? If I tested positive at the time of labour, how will they treat my child and me?”
Asanas, breathing techniques, Pranayama practice, meditation etc. helps a lot during pregnancy and even after delivery. Overall, the kind of energy built during pre-natal Yoga sessions will go a long way.– Smt Swarnalatha Venkataraman
Many complicated questions like these are arising during these times, and no one has clear answers. Pregnancy during the pandemic is no doubt very challenging. Yoga has many relaxation techniques, I spend more time on relaxation techniques in my pre-natal sessions, which help to overcome anxiety issues, to a certain extent. I also focus on Pranayama, deep relaxation sessions etc which have helped many expecting mothers to deal with anxiety.
You also guide your students in Pranayama. Please share with us the benefits of practising Pranayama.
Yoga is like a wholesome package, it includes Asana, Pranayama, Mudra, Bandhas, meditation etc., where we need to practise many things. Due to the unhealthy lifestyle that we have adopted in these times, certain imbalances are seen in our body and mind. Pranayama is like an ocean – it deals with breathing techniques, breathing patterns etc. The two forces of mind and Prana maintain the rhythm of life and consciousness. This is one stage of spiritual evolution. Hatha Yoga is practised in order to initiate a process in the physical body, whereby the Pranic currents and the mental forces which interact which each other, are transformed. So there is a Krama that has to be followed – the practice of Asanas prepares the body to practise Pranayama.
Pranayama is practised to expand the dimensions of Prana within you. Pranayama awakens some of the dormant centres of the brain, improves lung capacity, lowers the respiratory rate, changes the brainwave patterns.– Smt Swarnalatha Venkataraman
There are different dimensions to Pranayama – most people think that Pranayama just refers to breathing exercises – but it is much deeper than that. “Ayama” literally means a dimension, and not control. Pranayama is practised to expand the dimensions of Prana within you. By practising Pranayama correctly, the mind is automatically conquered. However, the positive effects of Pranayama are many – it awakens some of the dormant centres of the brain, improves lung capacity, lowers the respiratory rate, changes the brainwave patterns. These are some of the major benefits of Pranayama that we see.
The practice of Hatha Yoga, Asana and Pranayama are ultimately intended for the development of the quality of human consciousness. It is not confined merely to the mind and the body, the quality of human consciousness as a whole is what is addressed here. Mere improvement in physical health will not suffice, mental health also must improve, and the entire personality must evolve. The psychological and the psychic framework also has to evolve and undergo some processes. These are all the deeper benefits of Pranayama. It has to be adopted as a total transformation in your lifestyle.
You are an expert in Yoga Nidra. How does this help in deep relaxation?
Yoga Nidra is a technique derived from Tantra. Each of us have a conscious and a sub-conscious mind. When you are in your sleep, the sub-conscious mind is active. Yoga Nidra is a state where, neither are you fully awake nor are you fully asleep. It is a state between consciousness and sleep. Talking about the benefits of Yoga Nidra – it opens up the sub-conscious mind, and the tensions, anxieties, fears, phobias bubble up to the surface.
Such fears / anxieties are let go, thereby destressing and relaxing a person. It is a psychosomatic practice where you can heal, concentrate, be more creative with your ideas – you can actually rehearse what you want in your life. If you want to address any particular personality issue in you, you can work yourself through Yoga Nidra and overcome that. In this way, you have many benefits in this deep relaxation practice.
As we adopt unhealthy lifestyle changes, imbalances in the body also increase. We have to innovate / modify whatever has been prescribed in the classical texts, to suit the present-day needs, and address the problems we are undergoing today. This is the basis for Yoga therapy which has been beautifully laid out in Yogasutra.– Smt Swarnalatha Venkataraman
You also conduct Yoga therapy. Please elaborate on this and the therapeutic benefits of Yoga.
As we adopt unhealthy lifestyle changes, imbalances in the body also increase. We have to innovate / modify whatever has been prescribed in the classical texts, to suit the present-day needs, and address the problems we are undergoing today. This is the basis for therapy. This is very beautifully laid out in Yogasutra – there is a model known as the “Vyuha” model of Yogasutra. Any problem that has to be addressed has 4 aspects to it – Heyam, Hetu, Hanam and Upayam. Heyam refers to the symptom; Hetu is the underlying cause of the problem / imbalance. We have to identify the specific aspect of the body which is contributing to the problem or aggravating it. Hanam refers to the final goal. Upayam is the means to achieve the final goal. We have many Upayams in the form of Asanas, Pranayama or it can be through Ayurveda – Ahara, Vihara, Achara and Vichara. This is a general outline of how Yoga works therapeutically. This is a broad framework which is followed and taught by the great Krishnamacharya School and I have been learning certain techniques and practices which can be addressed through Yoga.
So you can do chikitsa for insomina, lower back pain, asthma, migraine, rheumatoid issues, neck pain, osteoarthritis, PCOS, diabetes, anxiety and stress related issues. In this way, many health issues can be addressed through Yoga through a chikitsa-krama.