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Padma Shri winner Wai Lana revolutionising yoga in USA

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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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What’s Common in Several Bollywood Divas? Find it out Here

Deepika Padukone: If you want to have a svelte figure like Deepika Padukone, then the formula is a mix of cardio, gym, dance and yoga

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What ties Kareena Kapoor Khan, Deepika Padukone, Shilpa Shetty Kundra, Jacqueline Fernandez and Alia Bhatt together? Their love for yoga.

The Bollywood divas credit their fitness level to their yoga routine. IANS takes a look at the stars who took to yoga and inspired many others to follow suit.

* Kareena Kapoor Khan: It is known that Kareena’s fitness journey is a result of yoga, exercise and a strict meal plan. She first stunned one and all with her ‘size-zero’ look in “Tashan”, and continues to set fitness goals with her workout regime. The actress might not be on social media, but images and videos giving a glimpse into how she adds yoga to her regime have surfaced on the social media making one thing clear — she is super-focused on getting fitter each day.

* Shilpa Shetty Kundra: For many, she is the poster girl for yoga. She has yoga DVDs, a YouTube channel of her yoga clips, and a fitness app, where she has a #MindItYogaProgram.

On her love for yoga, Shilpa had told IANS: “One of the very important things that yoga has taught me is to be emotionally secure and stay centered and connected to myself… Yoga helps to align our body’s chakras and strengthen our inner confidence. Once you are emotionally strong, how people perceive you, does not affect your personality. Yoga is the need of the hour.”

* Bipasha Basu: She is a yoga freak, and has several yoga DVDs and videos to prove it. In fact, Bipasha along with husband and actor Karan Singh Grover, gives couple goals by doing couple yoga. She says “he is a true Yogi. My inspiration everyday”.

* Alia Bhatt: She is another celebrity who practices yoga regularly. It is believed that she practices ‘Ashtanga yoga’ at least two times in a week, and also credits yoga for her glowing skin and toned physique.

* Malaika Arora: She has been inspiring everyone for long to add yoga into their lifestyle — and her social media is a testimony to it. “Yoga is a way of life that motivates you, grounds you, tones you mentally and physically, makes you mindful and invokes a feeling of happiness in you,” said Malaika, who co-founded Diva Yoga, and has invested in yoga and wellness startup SARVA.

* Jacqueline Fernandez: She likes to call herself ‘Yogini’, and says yoga is an integral part of her life. The actress holds yoga sessions and uses her social media to share images doing yoga, especially pole yoga.

Deepika Padukone and Kangana Ranaut
Deepika Padukone and Kangana Ranaut. (IANS)

“In the past couple of years, yoga has slowly become an integral part of me, and I am so proud of how far I have come… It has been 10 years in Bollywood and million points to yoga, for being my ultimate stress-buster,” Jacqueline said.

* Kangana Ranaut: Yoga is the secret behind Kangana’s toned figure. The “Queen” star has been practicing yoga for a while now and expressed her love for the ancient Indian art in an interview to a magazine. She said: “Yoga is a gift and I actually think that I have survived due to it. Through meditation, pranayam and yoga postures, I could vent out a lot of restless energy.”

* Deepika Padukone: If you want to have a svelte figure like Deepika Padukone, then the formula is a mix of cardio, gym, dance and yoga.

* Sonam Kapoor: Her fitness mantras include yoga, work out and pilate. Opening up about her struggle to lose weight, Sonam had shared that yoga helped her achieve the goal.

“I pushed myself too hard at spin classes, did power yoga for hours at a stretch, and developed an unhealthy relationship with food. Some weeks, desperate to drop a couple of kilos, I would simply not eat,” she said.

* Mouni Roy: She became an Internet sensation — thanks to her yoga poses. Recently, she posted a series of yoga videos of her trying out various asanas of the fitness regime — setting fitness goals for many.

Other stars who practice yoga regularly include names like Lara Dutta and Bhagyashree.

Also Read- Actor Arjun Kapoor Discusses About Pros, Cons of Stardom

Deepika Mehta, who has trained Alia, Jacqueline, Katrina Kaif, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Deepika, and is associated with Tata Sky’s value added service – Tata Sky Fitness, says yoga makes one’s quality of life better.

Mehta said: “In today’s world finding a mindful practice is very important for people because we have so much distraction, technology and stress. The technique of yoga gives you distance from the stress of your life and helps to calm your body and mind. Yoga is extremely important for a healthy life as it gives you a great sense of health and fitness.” (IANS)