Remembering V Nanammal, India's 'Yoga Grandma' Who Trained Over 1 Million Students

Over the last fifty years, Nanammal has trained more than one million students and continued for the remainder of her life, teaching 100 students every day at the 'Ozone Yoga Centre' in Coimbatore.

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India lost its oldest yoga teacher and exponent, V Nanammal, more than two years back in 2019. Popularly known as 'yoga grandma,' the 99-year-old could do over 50 yoga poses, including the challenging sirshasana (headstand), the paschimottanasana (seated forward bend) and the mayurasana (peacock pose). What made her stand out was that she could do all these poses in her usual simple pink saree.

Born on February 24, 1920, in an agricultural family at Zameen Kaliayapuram in Tamil Nadu's Coimbatore city, she learned yoga from her father when she was just eight years old and mastered more than 50 asanas over the years.

The yoga grandma used to wake up at 5 am, brush her teeth with a neem stick, practise yoga, followed by a breakfast consisting of kanji (a rich, water-based liquid diet). She did not consume white sugar and instead used jaggery for her diet. She was a strict vegetarian and ate multiple vegetables every day for lunch.

According to Wikipedia, her father and grandfather were 'Registered Indian Medicine Practitioners (RIMP)'. Yoga was their family tradition, they would not teach yoga to anyone outside their family and it stayed within the group. The family's primary business was traditional Siddha medicine and agriculture during those days. They owned coconut and cashew farms in Kerala to earn their livelihood.

Nanammal's husband was a Siddha (perfected one) practitioner and, like her family, was into agriculture and cultivation, with whom she moved to Negamam and later to Ganapathy. After her marriage, she cultivated a liking towards naturopathy (a form of alternative medicine). She has five children, 12 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

Practised Yoga Throughout Life

Nanammal started practising yoga from a very early age. As her father knew martial arts, she learned many yoga poses from him and continued practising them throughout her life.

In the year 1972, she established "Ozone Yoga centre" in Coimbatore. As her family followed the traditions passed over to the next generations, the centre taught their traditional style of yoga, which focuses mainly on Pranayama (breath control). Since the 'Ozone Yoga school' was set by her, Nanammal and family have taught yoga to over 1,00,000 people.

Trained Over One Million Students

Over the last fifty years, Nanammal trained more than one million students and continued for the remainder of her life to teach 100 students every day at the 'Ozone Yoga Centre'. Nearly 600 of her students, including 36 members of her family, have become 'Yoga instructors' teaching students around the world.

According to her son Balakrishnan, she had trained more than 60 family members as Yoga teachers in her lifetime.

Nanammal attempted to get on to the Guinness Book of World Records by teaching yoga to more than 20,000 students and enthusiasts in Coimbatore. Her objective was to bring awareness among women, mostly girl students, about yoga techniques by going to different educational institutions to solve several health-related problems, especially after marriage.

She was also going to participate in the Indian reality show 'India's Got Talent' as a contestant. She had gained immense popularity on YouTube, which included videos of her performing difficult yoga positions in her usual attire, a pink sari.

The yoga guru suffered a fall from her bed in the autumn of 2019 and was confined to bed after that. She eventually died on October 26, 2019, in her hometown.

Awards And Citations

She was conferred with several awards and citations for her achievement, including National Nari Shakti Puraskar and Shwaasa Yoga Organisation's Yoga Ratna award in 2016.

She also received Padma Shri, the country's fourth-highest civilian award, in 2018, the oldest recipient to be conferred with the award so far. She dedicated her life to teaching yoga to thousands of people and being one of the earliest people to spread the ancient practice across Tamil Nadu.

Nanammal has been a source of inspiration for so many motivational speakers, human resource programs and fitness instructors to use as an example of how physical fitness helps mental fitness and overall health.

Also Read: Gender Inclusion! Karnataka Becomes India's First State To Reserve Teaching Jobs For Transgender People

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Editor : Snehadri Sarkar
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Creatives : Tashafi Nazir