Bend It Like Dina, The Yoga Acharya You Need To Know About
Yoga Acharya Dina Khimasia, 60, thinks we are all as young as our mind and body is flexible. Chitra Nair meets the lifelong believer in Yoga.
While present-day fitness experts and gurus have developed countless exercises for leading a healthy lifestyle, Yoga remains one of the most effective and powerful practices that impact our physical, mental and spiritual health. Yoga Acharya, Dina Khimasia, 60, is an advocate of Yoga for everyone, especially elders, “Yoga disciplines you, brings energy in you and as we get older, we need that energy even more to give us that power and oomph to want to get up and seize the day.”
Dina’s roots are Indian but she was born in Kenya. She began attending classes on meditation in Nairobi at the young age of 10 and that was her introduction to simple stretches that helped her feel more flexible and active. Dina went to boarding school in England at 13 and found that while swimming and horse riding were the focus areas, there was no attention on right breathing techniques or stretching. She continued meditation on her own which helped her stay focused through school. Dina went on to work for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and flew around the world.
Only 23 then, she made the best use of her travel by attending different yoga classes, bought books and read through them when ever she had a few hours to herself.
“Though I loved my job, the variable shifts, irregular schedules, fast paced life all brewed new friends in the form of stress, anger and fatigue. I knew I had to take charge. That’s when I began my stint with yoga. I worked tirelessly for 7 days and the 4 days that we got as off days, I signed up for yoga classes and saw how it slowly helped bring a sense of calm and balance to my otherwise erratic lifestyle.”
Dina moved on to become a supervisor at the Heathrow airport, London and handled a team of 80 staff under extreme grueling hours. “I had to wake up at 4 am every morning, get the snow out of my way, warm up the car and myself and drive 45 minutes to work daily. The physical and mental stress was overwhelming to say the least. The only magic that gave me strength was continuing to practice yoga and meditation. I noticed my thinking was different, my lifestyle changed for the better, stress levels reduced and days were more organized and productive. I passed on the learnings to my staff to help them cope with their days and make the best of every moment.”
A Lifetime With Yoga
“Although there are many strength exercises that help you reduce extra fat, there is no other fitness regimen as enduring as Yoga. Regular practice also helps to reduce lactic acid build up in muscles,” says Dina, who has learnt different forms of Yoga right from Yin yoga, Restorative yoga, Hatha yoga, Vinyasa yoga and Ashtanga yoga. She firmly believes yoga and meditation together work wonders on one’s mind, body and soul. With such immense love and respect for Yoga and meditation, Dina realized she wanted to dive deeper into the world of Yoga.
“I chose not to get married and wanted to spend all my time doing what I really love which is the world of Yoga. I decided to move lock, stock and barrel to India in 2004 though my entire family, relatives and foundation still stayed strong in England. And Bangalore looked like the place I wanted to live in given the weather, people and trees around.”
Dina has written extensively on yoga, about breathing techniques, asanas and calming the mind using meditation. She has edited books and talks for Chinmaya Mission and Isha Foundation. Recently, she did the four-week intensive residential course at The International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, Trivandrum and got certified as an International Yoga Acharya. She also learnt chair yoga, yoga during pregnancy, yoga therapy for people with Cancer, Parkinson’s, Lung problems and Multiple Sclerosis during a recent Australia visit. Dina teaches Yoga to 40 students of different age groups at the India Social Institute in Benson Town, Bangalore, thrice a week. She also visits seniors with severe health issues to conduct personalized Yoga classes in their homes that focus on specific requirements. A writer at heart, she is working on a book on yoga especially for people with ailments, the scientific benefit of each asana and how it helps heals the body. Another book in the works is on simple Pranayama.
Age No Bar, Truly
Dina’s oldest student is 82 who moved from Japan to Bangalore. “She reached out to me when she was 75 and could barely walk. I have been teaching her yoga for seven years now and there has been a phenomenal difference in her health. She plays cards and her mind is still very sharp, she goes out three times a week. Her hearing was bad and by practicing the right mudras her hearing has now gotten much better. She loves dressing up, going out, meeting friends and living life to the fullest. She continues to come to class regularly thrice a week and is a huge inspiration to everyone who attends.”
Another inspiring senior in Dina’s life is her own mother who is 83 and an ardent fan of Chair Suryanamaskar. She is awake without an alarm every morning at 6 AM and does Pranayama, mudras and Chair Suryanamaskar every single day.
An advocate of Pranayama and the right asanas for senior citizens, Dina says, “With the right techniques of breathing your lungs get stronger and in turn your heart too gets better. Especially for seniors it is very important to continue doing the right way of forward and backward bending asanas. Otherwise the body gets stiff and the circulation of blood and oxygen in the body depletes leading to various illnesses.”
Laughter is another priceless therapy Dina swears by. A popular asana in her class is called ‘cycling laughter’ where her students pedal away on an imaginary cycle in the air and laugh their heart out. Her advice to everyone is yoga thrice a week, 40 mins walk thrice a week and eating healthy. Dina’s aim is inspiring others through her practice and healing the world with all that she learns. We say more power to you Dina! Roll out that mat and show us how it’s done!