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Padma Shri winner Wai Lana revolutionising yoga in USA


Himani Kumar Sanagaram

Her  colorful “ Haku Fresh Flower Head Lei” or Hawaiian  crown of flowers is what sets her apart from the rest of the pack. Recent Padma Shri winner Wai Lana is a woman of Chinese origin woman, who introduced Yoga to China and has made it mainstream in the United States.

Showing off her Hawaiian origin, this daughter of Chinese immigrants in the US has achieved great heights by her sheer hard work and is conspicuous in her colorful clothing and yogic postures be it TV, DVD, or YouTube videos. Wai Lana is only one of two Chinese nationals to win the prestigious Padma award in its 62-year history.

“I’m very humbled and don’t feel deserving. I’ve just been trying my best to share the gift of yoga with the Chinese people and the rest of the world. My real reward is seeing so many people experiencing the many benefits that yoga has to offer,” Wai Lana said of the award in a press release

Yoga has been popular in America  for many years and was first introduced in United States by Swami Vivekanada, who came to the country in  1893 to attend the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago. Later it was made popular by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda, Yogi Bhajan etc.

Wai Lana, whose actual name is Zhang Huilan in Chinese  credits the Chinese leadership to her successful Yoga TV programs in China.

“Chinese leaders understood the value of yoga long before it became popular in the United States,” Wai Lana said.

“Mother of Yoga” as she is called has been broadcasting  the Yoga TV series “Wai Lana Yoga”  for over 17 years ago on PBS in the United States. She has inspired many American and Chinese youth to take up Yoga. Her videos are mostly shot in natural locations- by the sea or trees in a forest.

Her popular song “Namaste” has been well received and the video was releases worldwide on the International Day of Yoga on June 21 last year, when it was celebrated for the first time.  International Yoga Day was internationally recognized by the United Nations General Assembly on Dec. 11, 2014. In the song, her sweet melancholy voice captures the peace and joy that yoga gives as she joins people all over the world from Poland, Hawaii, India, Canada etc. to unite in peace and practice Yoga.

At a time, when even many young Indians both in India and United States are renouncing their culture and religious practices, for western culture, Wai Lana bridges the gap between the east and the west

Her hard work is endearing as can be seen in videos. She is truly a modern yogi and one can hardly doubt if she is of Chinese origin. Her programs started airing on CCTV in China in 1985 and in America in 1998 and then in many other countries.

Wai Lana has also worked on a “Little Yogis” DVD for kids and has launched various healthy food products and yoga gear related to Ayurvedic cures. Her website sells various healthy products related to yoga and shares information on meditation, lifestyle, yoga sound meditation techniques and recipes. She has really spread the art of Yoga to United States and China as well as other countries.

Himani Kumar Sanagaram is freelance journalist based in Chicago. She covered Headley’s trial from Chicago from 2010-2012. She is also a former foreign correspondent with Press Trust of India.

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Yoga Face-toning May Compete With Fillers, Face-lifts

"The jury is still out on whether or not facial yoga is effective in reversing the signs of aging," he said in an email.

Yoga face toning is an effective way of reducing the signs of ageing. VOA
  • Yoga face toning may take over botox and face lifting procedures.
  • 27 participants noted changes in their faces after weeks of this experiment.
  • It is still a matter of discussion if this method can reverse ageing or not.

In his toolbox of Botox, fillers and plastic surgery, cosmetic dermatologist Dr Murad Alam has added a new, low-cost, noninvasive anti-ageing treatment: facial yoga.

Dermatologists measured improvements in the appearance of the faces of a small group of middle-aged women after they did half an hour of daily face-toning exercises for eight weeks, followed by alternate-day exercises for another 12 weeks.

Facial exercises are healthier than surgeries. Pixabay
Facial exercises are healthier than surgeries. Pixabay

The results surprised lead author Alam, vice chair and professor of dermatology at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

“In fact, the results were stronger than I expected,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s really a win-win for patients.”

Participants included 27 women between 40 and 65, though only 16 completed the full course. It began with two 90-minute muscle-resistant facial exercise-training sessions led by co-author Gary Sikorski of Happy Face Yoga in Providence, Rhode Island.

Participants learned to perform cheek pushups and eye-bag removers, among other exercises. Then they practised at home.

Improvements noted

Dermatologists looking at unmarked before-and-after photos saw improvements in upper cheek and lower cheek fullness, and they estimated the average age of women who stuck with the program as significantly younger at the end than at the start.

Face yoga is a healthier substitute to surgical procedures. Pixabay
Face yoga is a healthier substitute for surgical procedures. Pixabay

The average estimated age dropped almost three years, from nearly 51 years to 48 years.

Participants also rated themselves as more satisfied with the appearance of their faces at the study’s end, Alam and colleagues reported in JAMA Dermatology.

“Now there is some evidence that facial exercises may improve facial appearance and reduce some visible signs of ageing,” Alam said. “Assuming the findings are confirmed in a larger study, individuals now have a low-cost, non-toxic way of looking younger or augmenting other cosmetic or anti-ageing treatments they may be seeking.”

The exercises enlarge and strengthen facial muscles to firm and tone the face, giving it a younger appearance, he said.

Happy Face sells instructional worksheets — promising smoother skin, firmed cheeks and raised eyelids — for $19.95. DVDs cost $24.95.

Some skepticism

But not all dermatologists are rushing to promote the videos or the exercises.

Dr John Chi, a plastic surgeon and professor at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, said the study raises more questions than it answers.

“The jury is still out on whether or not facial yoga is effective in reversing the signs of ageing,” he said in an email.

Chi, who was not involved with the study, said he would recommend facial yoga to patients who found it relaxing and enjoyable but not for the purpose of facial rejuvenation.

“While the premise of facial exercises to improve the facial appearance or reverse signs of ageing is an appealing one, there is little evidence to suggest that there is any benefit in this regard,” he said.

Chi said facial yoga had not been rigorously examined in peer-reviewed scientific studies. Asked whether procedures such as face-lifts, Botox and fillers had been rigorously examined in peer-reviewed studies, he replied: “Great question. Attempts to do so have been made in the scientific literature with variable levels of scientific rigour.”

Alam agrees that his study raises additional research questions, such as whether the exercises would work for men and how much time people need to commit to doing the exercises for them to be optimally effective. He would like to see a larger study. VOA