Interview: ‘Proud to be one of the pioneers to introduce yoga in sports’

Written by: Maitreyee Boruah
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On the occasion of the International Yoga Day, observed across the globe on June 21 (Tuesday), OneIndia spoke to Dr SN Omkar, a well-known yoga exponent from Bengaluru. The yoga guru is also a scientist and currently works as the chief research scientist at the department of aerospace engineering in the prestigious Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru.

Omkar, who taught yoga to sporting legends like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and PT Usha, tells us why yoga has nothing to do with religion. Read the full interview here:

Yoga Guru

OneIndia: Tell us about your journey in the world of yoga...

SN Omkar: I have been practicing and teaching yoga for the last four decades. My passion for yoga started during my school days. Those days awareness about yoga was not much. It was not so popular.

Out of sheer curiosity, I got attracted to yoga. Since then I have been conducting yoga classes--both for general health benefits and therapeutic needs of my pupils. I not only teach asana and pranayama, but also other tenets of yoga as formulated by sage Patanjali in his "Yoga Sutras of Patanjali".

OneIndia: You are a scientist with the prestigious IISc also. How do you relate both yoga and science? How scientific is yoga?

SN Omkar: Modern science is limited by our perception. In that context, yoga is not a science but a supra-science extending beyond the realms of normal perception. My background in science helps me to take a pragmatic view of yoga.

Similarly, yoga calms my mind and gives me clarity and thus helps me in my scientific pursuits. Because of my background in both yoga and science, I have set up yoga and biomechanics laboratory in the department of aerospace engineering, IISc. 

OneIndia: What do you have to say about the controversy surrounding the chanting of "Om" and "Suryanamaskara asana"?

SN Omkar: "Om" is a sacred word. It becomes sacred only when we understand the deeper significance of the word. However, not chanting "Om" is not an obstacle to the practice of yoga.

In fact, the Ashtanga yoga (founded by sage Patanjali) is universal and no religion takes objection to it. Suryanamaskara is a combination of several postures performed in a continuous manner with appropriate breathing. It is a complete mind and body regime with several proven health benefits.

Some people might take objection to chanting done during performing Suryanamaskar. What is important is integrating our body and mind. Thus chanting can be optional. If yoga is taught in this manner, problem should not arise.

OneIndia: You have also trained several star Indian cricketers. Tell us about your experience...

SN Omkar: I started teaching yoga to cricketers at Brijesh Patel Cricket Academy, Bengaluru. I was introduced to the Karnataka State Cricket team by the then coach, Daljith Singh. I met Javagal Sreenath, Anil Kumble and Rahul Dravid.

They started doing yoga and were impressed with the techniques we were using. They used to regularly come to my yoga classes. Through them I met the players of the Karnataka State Ranji Team. The Ranji team started practicing yoga and I was one of the team members when they won two consecutive Ranji Trophies during the 1997-98 and 1998-99 seasons.

These cricketers introduced me to the national cricket team. 

Yoga was formally introduced to the cricket team when John Wright was the coach. Wright was very impressed with my techniques and he made yoga a part of the players routine. During all the camps, cricketers had to go through one-hour session of yoga every morning. It continued even during the time of Greg Chappell. I conducted nearly 15 yoga camps for the Indian cricket team. I got positive feedback from all the players.

Yoga Guru with Sachin

Sachin Tendulkar used to practice nearly 45-minutes of extra session after the regular classes. He was an avid yoga practitioner. He found immense benefit through yoga. Dravid and Kumble still come to our classes to practice yoga whenever they have time.

I also taught yoga to the Indian Blind Cricket team and Women's Cricket team. I am a yoga consultant with the National Cricket Academy, Bengaluru. I have conducted several classes for the under-16, under-19 and under-22 teams at the Academy, Bengaluru. I have also taught yoga to PT Usha.
I have thoroughly enjoyed training cricketers. I am proud to say that I am one of the pioneers to have introduced yoga in sports, especially cricket.

OneIndia: Tell us few benefits of yoga to help us lead a better life...

SN Omkar: It is important that more and more people take to yoga. It has several health benefits. Yoga is not just limited to postures and breathing.

A true student of yoga should cultivate certain ethics in life. We must learn to look at life in a better perspective. Unfortunately, in today's world we all face stiff competition in every walks of our lives. It inevitably causes tension. Yoga helps us to become better physically, socially, psychologically and spiritually.

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