Author and yoga guru Ira Trivedi on sexuality in modern India, the #MeToo movement, and why yoga is the best exercise during lockdown.
This International Day of Yoga, well-known yoga expert and bestselling author Ira Trivedi cannot emphasise enough the benefits of practising regular yoga for both adults and children, especially during the coronavirus lockdown.
“It’s really amazing during the lockdown because one doesn’t need much space. All you need is a yoga mat. For most other activities, you usually need a ground, ball, field, gym or treadmill. It’s very important to strengthen our immune system and respiratory system at this time, and yoga can help achieve both of these for both kids and adults,” says the yoga acharya who won the Devi Award in 2015 for dynamism and innovation, and, the same year, led the first international yoga day celebrations in New Delhi that created the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest yoga class in the world.
Named by BBC among its list of the 100 most influential women in the world, Ira is also the founder of Namami Yoga, a not-for-profit organisation that supports underprivileged children and women in India. Namami Yoga does a lot of free yoga classes in the mornings in various public parks. They started in the Lodi Garden and Nehru Park in Delhi, and have also done some in Gurgaon. According to Ira, the response has been great. “When you do yoga in a public space, even people around you get inspired,” she says.
Recently, Ira also curated and launched India’s first online wellness festival called Being Yoga, which had some of India’s best speakers on wellness and health come together and inspire people. The festival also raised money for Covid-19. Ira plans to continue Being Yoga, while choosing various charities and bringing together well-known speakers to come and curate more online festivals around health, wellness, yoga and spirituality.
Apart from this, Ira also has her own yoga app called Ira Yoga meant for people who spend a lot of time on their desk. The app consists of short five-minute yoga asanas for the neck, back, shoulders and eyes – easy for anyone to do anytime. Apart from that, the app also has meditation and breathing modules.
Before her metamorphosis into a yoga guru, Ira authored books such as What Would You Do to Save the World? (Penguin Books, 2006) and There’s No Love on Wall Street (Penguin Books, 2011) and even won the UK Media Award for the best investigative article dealing with bride trafficking in India.
Ira’s landmark book India in Love: Marriage and Sexuality in the 21st Century (Aleph Book Company, 2014) explored how the nation that gave the world the Kama sutra has now become a closed, repressed society with a shockingly high incidence of rape and violence against women. Her biggest finding in this regard was that there has been a huge sexual revolution in India in the recent past, and that sexual relationships and marriage in India have changed more in the past two decades than in the past several centuries.
“The act of sex always remains the same. What changes is how we connect sex to our own individuality. That has changed a lot in the past 20 years in India,” she says.
In 2018, Ira also shared her #MeToo stories about Suhel Seth and Chetan Bhagat (against whom she also filed a defamation case). She says she was compelled to speak up in order to support all the women who had spoken up.
“I knew personally many women who had suffered under their hands, and as a public figure, I felt it was my duty to step up and say that yes, these men are like this, and this is a movement where women are coming up and speaking about their issues. And if women like me who are public voices do not speak up, then I am doing a disgrace to women around me. Because this is a movement, and if women don’t support each other, then who will?” she reasons.
Ira is now bringing together her love for writing and yoga with her new book Om the Yoga Dog: Fun and Easy Asanas for Happy Kids (Puffin, 2020). The idea behind the book came about when Ira was experimenting with interesting ways to teach underprivileged children yoga with her NGO. It was at that point that she observed her own dog doing yoga. So, she decided to teach the kids yoga using a fun dog character called the Yoga Dog.
“We named the dog Om, because it’s a beautiful sound energy. I also thought it would be a nice way to constantly keep repeating ‘Om’ through the day, which is a sacred energy,” she explains.This article was first published in eShe magazine