Meet 97-year-old V. Nanammal from Coimbatore, a yoga enthusiast who still goes about her morning exercises as if she were in her teens, and is inspiring an entire generation to take up the practice. Perhaps the country's oldest yoga instructor, the lady, who has rejected offers from several yoga federations across the world on account of not knowing English, recently even attempted a Guinness record! She talks to DC about her daily routine and how practising yoga can bring magic to one's life.
“I started practising yoga when I was eight. I learned yoga from my father, who was a martial artist,” says the great-grandmother. Nanammal's husband was a Siddha practitioner in the village and was also into agriculture. That is how she cultivated a liking towards naturopathy after her marriage. “I never stopped practising yoga at any point in my life. That’s the secret of my health,” she adds.
Let us hear about Nanammal’s daily routine from the horse's mouth. “I am an early riser. The first thing I religiously do after getting up at 4.30 in the morning is to drink half a litre of water. I only brush my teeth with neem sticks. If I am travelling outside the country, I make sure to pack three to four neem sticks inside my bag. After my morning chores, I teach yoga to students.”
Rather than gorging on dosai or idli for breakfast, she only has kanji that is made of millets (raagi, kambu, thinai or kuthiraivali). “These are highly rich in fibre and calcium. I have kanji with a different vegetarian dish every day. All the vegetables we use are from our own farm.” For lunch, some variation of spinach is a must for her. She makes sure to have dinner daily between 7 and 7.30. It is usually a fruit and half a tumbler of milk with honey, turmeric powder or pepper powder.
She has never consumed tea or milk but loves ginger tea, or coffee made from coriander seeds or dry ginger. “I am against white sugar. My children and grandkids use only jaggery.” Apart from teaching yoga, she is also an advocate of naturopathy. “Living close to nature and knowing its rhythm keeps me energetic and active. I believe in sharing knowledge. So, whenever possible, I share tips about medicinal plants with people who come to visit me.”
As many as 600 students of Nanammal are teaching yoga across the world. Though she taught yoga in her house, Nanammal was recognised way back in 2003 when she first attended a yoga competition. “After that, I have participated in 100 competitions so far.” And now, 36 members of her family are yoga practitioners; it has become a legacy.