Nationally certified instructor Alpa Bhatia shared the mental and physical benefits of yoga with a group of 400 senior members of Life at UCF (Learning Institute for Elders) in her talk, “The Healing Power of Yoga.” She began her presentation by telling the group that “you are the new face of yoga.”
Each Friday at 9 a.m., Bhatia can be found sharing her passion for yoga as she instructs a therapeutic class at UCF Pegasus Health geared toward helping those with heart disease, hypertension, arthritis, asthma, pain management and diabetes.
“Each person has something to gain from the practice of yoga, regardless of age or health condition,” said Bhatia. “And you don’t have to fold yourself into a pretzel or even get on the floor to reap the benefits. Simply sitting in a chair with your feet flat on the ground and carefully twisting from side to side will massage your internal organs and increase blood flow, which naturally heals the body. Deep breathing, a key element of yoga, also produces benefits beyond measure. In essence, yoga is about connecting to your own body and achieving balance.”
A life-long student of the practice, Bhatia learned yoga at a very early age from her uncle, Dr. Chimanlal Ravel. After retiring at the age of 60, he devoted his life to the teachings of Swami Vivekana—credited with the rise of Hinduism as a major world religion during the late 19th century, as well as brining yoga to the Western world. During his studies, Bhaitia’s uncle provided free medical care to his community and shared his knowledge and passion for yoga along the way. Dr. Ravel later became known as the “Gandahi” of his region.
After years of working in the business world, Bhatia redirected her focus to follow in her uncle’s footsteps and share healing power of yoga. Today she spends much of her time teaching yoga and providing free classes in underserved areas. Recently, she began lecturing about yoga at The Burnett Honors College at UCF.
“Every day we deal with so many things that bring stress and suffering into our lives. But when you get on a yoga mat or sit in a chair to practice the poses, you’re reconnecting with yourself. The focus needed to connect the mind and body strengthens and equalizes the nervous system. Over time, the benefits can range from lowering anxiety and achieving better sleep to reducing blood pressure and prolonging memory,” she said.
There are so many different types of yoga that many don’t know where to begin. For those just starting out, Bhatia recommends finding a gentle yoga class that focuses on your unique needs. Even if you find yourself in a class that’s beyond your physical capabilities, she suggests that everyone follow their own bodies.
“While we live in a society that values comfort—from our lumbar car seats to plush beds—we do need to push ourselves a bit. Yoga teaches us that it’s okay to be a little uncomfortable, but just not to the point of pain. Listen to your body and do what works for you,” Bhatia said.
While yoga does not replace the care necessary for managing chronic medical conditions, it often helps participants restore some of their lost mobility, learn to better control anxiety and stress, and generally feel better. Before beginning any new exercise program, please consult with your physician.
For more information about Bhatia’s therapeutic yoga class, visit UCFPegasusHealth.org/yoga.