By Zu Anjalika Kamis Gunnulfsen

“Yikes, I’ve been doing yoga for the past one year now, Anjalika. Why don’t I still get the lithe, limber body of Tara Stiles?” quipped one of my students, Rita. She is eighteen years old and an ardent fan of yoga — having discovered this ancient art while vacationing in India nearly 2 years ago.

Anyway, this is not the first time I’m faced with such questions and I very well know it is not going to be the last. I have always had the same answer for students, friends and acquaintances with somewhat similar concerns, and usually my explanation would be at length. Whether they are aiming for a calmer mind or eyeing the flexibility of a ballerina, yoga has a whole smorgasbord of benefits — for kids and adults alike.

At the physical level, yoga has been shown to improve one’s posture, balance and flexibility. It also helps to strengthen the bones and increase the muscle strength; and this is truly imperative, especially in the growing years of a child.

On the health front, yoga offers tonnes of perks like decreased inflammation and improved symptoms associated with chronic health conditions, and much more —  that is also the reason one can achieve one’s fullest health potential when yoga is practised from a young age.

Of course, my personal favourite would be the mental benefits of yoga, which do wonders for our total well-being. After all, there is indeed a saying: “to be healthy as a whole, mental wellness plays a role”. Yoga helps eliminate stress, anxiety, and also depression. In the current world situation, where stress has become part and parcel of life, yoga is indeed something that needs to be incorporated into our daily lives.

Yoga Kids are rising

With all these being said, it is not a wonder why yoga is an essential part of many people’s lives. The number of people taking up this beautiful art is rising from year to year and growing from strength to strength. MAYI Yoga Academy’s Super Yoga Kids has gained so much recognition for the last 5 years, with an increased number of kids every year. Parents everywhere have started to understand the benefits of holistic living and importance of starting young.

However, there is something all yoga enthusiasts should be aware of — yoga affects people in different ways most often than not. No two persons will have similar results from practising yoga.

Understanding the diversity of benefits

Let us take the case of six-year-old twins, Felie and Felix. Both have been practising yoga for the last 8 months. When I first knew them, I could not figure out who was who. They were very similar in many ways — active, friendly and bright. They could could not be ‘twin-ier’ than what they already were. However, these days, there is something about these two boys that sets them apart in more ways than one. While Felix develops an amazing new flexibility, Felie develops other skills like a mental capacity that is becoming so amazing. Previously, he had problems memorising his two times table, but now Felie breezes through it with no problem whatsoever — and he is into his five times table now!

Another example would be Trisha and Mylie, who are friends. Both started doing yoga with the hope of having tight and taut bodies. They both attend classes three times a week. While Trisha is tall and lanky, Mylie is petite and voluptuous. Two years down the road, while Trisha manages to be what she wanted, Mylie still remains the same physically, but of course with an amazing new energy and flexibility.

In terms of benefits, yoga does not have a one-size-fits-all solution. Individuals will see a variety of benefits within themselves. It is truly important to never compare ourselves with others. We are all different in sizes, shapes, energies, and of course, as we go deeper,… genetic levels. While yoga does help to elongate and tone the muscles, a person of a round physical make should not expect to achieve a lean and lithe body in no time; or if she should even at all.

Personally, I love all the mental benefits I have reaped from yoga. Learning and memorising has become a lot easier. My mind is calmer and clearer, especially when making decisions.

Physically, I am much more flexible and my arms are way more toned than what they used to be. Many have sworn that yoga helps in the tightening of their tummy. In all honesty, my tummy is still somewhat jiggly, however, I can testify to the added core strength. These days, my posture is way better and have long said goodbye to backaches and back sores.

Just last week, I met up with a couple whom I have not met for about two years. They picked up yoga together before getting married, for more holistic living. They have been practising for the last 5 years. Upon meeting up, she excitedly told me about a new lease of energy she discovered within herself. She now sleeps eight hours a day, runs a successful bakery, manages two kids under five years old, runs her home and on top of all that, sneaks in an hour of yoga routine daily — seven days a week.   He, on the other hand, enjoys his calmer mind and clearer thoughts, of which he is extremely grateful for, which is necessary when you are running an internationally-acclaimed advertising agency. Well, theirs is definitely yoga-matrimony made in heaven. Can’t ask for a better complement.

Even between my two sons, Magnus and Eirik, I can see that both benefit from yoga differently. While my younger one, Eirik, five, becomes lots more flexible than his already-pretty-flexible self, six-year-old Magnus’ memory and mental capacity seems to be increasing well. They both do yoga three times a week — a combination of both hatha and mind yoga.

I can go on and on about how yoga affects people differently, but my point is really not to go around comparing. Just concentrate on your own little and big evolvements. Go deeper and seek what has indeed shifted in your emotional and physical being. The next time you catch yourself comparing, just quietly tell yourself: “Different Strokes for Yoga Folks!”