Sister Infant Tresa, Catholic sister and yoga master fosters health and hope through the ancient tradition of yoga.
“I had severe back pain and wheezing while studying nursing in Kerala in 1976. I took medicine for a long time. But the pain was always strong. In 1985, I met a yoga guru who came to the institution where I was studying. I decided to talk him about my health problems. He advised me to do yoga and taught me to do it. I began to feel better after doing yoga. I also got relief from my back pain and wheezing. I felt it was a blessing from God. I then decided to make yoga a part of my life”, Sister Infant Tresa, talks with calm, smiling at us.
Sister Tresa is both a Catholic nun and a yoga master. She belongs to the Franciscan Clarist Congregation, a Kerala-based congregation with the largest number of women religious in India. Before becoming a full-time professional yoga teacher, she worked as a nurse in various hospitals and medical colleges in Kerala. “In 2006, after retiring as a nurse, I decided to teach yoga to help others. In the same year, I set up a yoga centre at the Nirmala Medical Centre at Muvattupuzha, in Kerala state. After a few years, I set up another yoga centre in Thodupuzha, a nearby town where I teach two days every week, Sister Tresa said.
To join together as one
A 3,000 year-old tradition yoga originated in India. Yoga is derived from a Sanskrit word ‘Yuj’ which means to unite, to join together as one. It is the union of the physical, mental, intellectual, emotional and spiritual. It is a discipline and holistic science. It touches all aspects of human life. As Sister Tresa points out: “Yoga promotes physical and mental health, including mind control. Yoga can change our lifestyle. I believe that yoga can change a person physically, mentally and spiritually for the better and can give inner strength”.
The Franciscan sister said also that there is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about yoga and Hinduism. “Since yoga originated in India, – she says – there is a misunderstanding that it is part of the Hindu religion. Yoga does not belong to any particular religion. Yoga is a contribution of ancient India to the world”.
According to the sister: “Yoga enhances concentration, improves meditation and helps people stay focused. Yoga helps people to be in the moment in which they live. Gradually they become aware, first of their bodies and of their breath. Yoga brings them to look at it, to control it. Once that has been achieved, the transformation has begun”.
The most popular types of yoga
There are five popular types of yoga. Hatha Yoga is the most widely practiced type of yoga which is excellent for beginners. It’s gentle with slow and smooth movement, and the focus is on holding the poses and integrating the breathing into the movement. It is a great introduction to yoga as it incorporates many different asanas, as well as pranayamas and chanting.
Iyengar Yoga focuses more on body alignment and balance, holding poses longer and using props such as straps, blankets and blocks. It is also a good choice for beginners.
Kundalini Yoga empathises rapid movement through the poses and emphasises breathing, chanting and meditation. It has a more spiritual feel then Hatha and focuses on energy balance in the body.
Bikram Yoga is derived from traditional Hatha yoga, but is practiced in a room heated to about 105 degrees Fahrenheit. The objective is to loosen muscles and to sweat to cleanse the blood and to remove symptoms of diseases and chronic pain, Finally Ashtanga Yoga or power yoga, is an ancient system of yoga taught by one of the great master of yoga, Sri K.PattabhiJois. It is an aggressive workout where somebody moves quickly from one pose to another to build strength and endurance.
Sister Tresa comments: “Most human illness can be cured by yoga. Yoga helps in generating correct quantities of hormones from all glands in a human body. Diseased organs in a human body are repaired, encouraged, rejuvenated. Muscles and bones, nerves, respiratory, excretory and circulatory systems are coordinated and make the body flexible and healthy and adjust to the environment”.
Lifestyle diseases like diabetes, cholesterol, blood pressure, rheumatic arthritis, back pain, asthma, obesity, epilepsy, gastrointestinal disorders, menstrual disorders, muscular dystrophy, and so on are cured and corrected. The mind becomes stronger and able to endure pain and unhappiness, to face sorrow, anxieties, and mental and physical problems. At present, two yoga centres function under Sister Tresa’s supervision. She has taught yoga for nearly 4,000 people at the two yoga centres. Sister Tresa concludes: “My spirituality, my faith, my mental and physical health, and strength that I gained through yoga are my assets. I’m a person of positive thinking and a committed religious woman”. (Y.L.)