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Anitha Reddy- Spreading The Most Ancient Indian Fitness Ritual, One Friend At A Time

    By Sonal Kulshrestha
    Pictures by Ganesh Wadawadigi

(Botanical Garden, Grapevine, Texas. Getting ready to start the 108 Surya Namaskar Challenge. Photo credit: Ganesh Wadawadigi)

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It was an ethereal ambience in a small enclosed park at the Botanical Garden in Grapevine, Texas early in the morning of August 9th 2015. Tall trees surrounding the park looked majestic. Cool breeze blew occasionally. But even more serenity was provided by the live chanting of Gayatri Mantra- 108 times to be precise, with intermittent shlokas and sun salutation mantras by talented singers along with a harmonium player. In front of them were around 100 women, men and children performing Surya Namaskars in sync with the Gayatri Mantra chanting. The event was 108 Surya Namaskar Challenge. Before the mass asanas began, there was a brief explanation given regarding the significance of the number 108. The number 108 is a sacred number in Hinduism because the average distance of both the sun and the moon to Earth is 108 times their respective diameters. Also there are 108 Upanishads, 108 sacred sites in India and 108 sacred places in the human body and hence the religious malas have 108 beads in them as well. As the 108 Surya Namaskars progressed in the serene environment, you could sense the determination of the participants and the devotion of the singers. They were in unison with one another. It appeared even mother nature wanted to contribute by providing a tranquil backdrop. Nothing obscured the deep serene. The after-party included complimentary Indian breakfast by a local Indian restaurant. The participants all later described the experience as refreshing, mesmerizing, spectacular, peaceful, mystical, energetic, memorable and special. I was there and proud to have achieved the feat of performing 108 Surya Namaskar along with my daughter and many friends. The event was above all inspirational. And the person behind this spectacular show is just as inspirational. Anitha Reddy is the charismatic woman who worked hard in garnering people's skill and participation, in pulling together the ingredients that made the moment magical and memorable, the motivation behind the momentum that is required to generate the interest and keep up the enthusiasm, to create fervor and continue ardor. 

Anitha Reddy herself got introduced to yoga at a very early age. Being born and raised here in America, her Indian immigrant parents were keen on introducing their children to the rich external and internal benefits of Yoga, India's most ancient form of wellness and fitness that is known to be referenced in the Hindu scriptures dating back to 800-200 BC. However, it was in her late twenties that Yoga became a passion for Anitha. While home with her young children, Anitha started informally practicing Yoga with some one dozen friends from the neighborhood. Upon receiving encouraging feedback from them, she got a formal training as a Yoga instructor and even traveled to India to attend a month long Yoga camp to further strengthen her newly acquired skill. Armed with a Yoga instructor certification, a natural knack for teaching and her innate passion for the ancient art of complete well being, Anitha then embarked on a journey of spreading this form of fitness, one friend at a time. Although a project manager by profession, she always managed to find time for complimentary yoga classes every weekend for friends in her own backyard. The 108 Surya Namaskar Challenge was the culmination of all of Anitha's adventure with yoga. June the 21st had been declared as the International Yoga day by the United Nations, thanks to the efforts of the visionary Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi. So celebrating yoga was very much on Anitha's mind. However, busy summer schedules and travel plans posed a major challenge for planning a large event. “Sunday of the back to school weekend seemed like an ideal day to plan the event for two reasons”, says Anitha. “For one thing, people were back from their vacations and gearing up for the next school year. Secondly, it gave an excellent opportunity for everyone to train together as a family or with friends for a whole month of summer break, the time of year when even the moms normally stop going to the gym otherwise”. 

After having successfully organized a sublime yoga challenge, far from getting ready to rest, Anitha was only brimming with enthusiasm to move on to her next fitness project, the Dallas Marathon in December. She has already participated in half-a-dozen half-marathons and aims at completing a dozen of those. Here too she does not believe in flying solo. She has been roping in about half-a-dozen of her friends to train and run with her for each of those events. I asked her what inspired her to take on this very modern day concept of staying fit- that of running marathons for a cause. She totally surprised me when she said I was her inspiration (we belong to the same local ladies' evening out group). "Most people who participate in very strenuous and demanding events make it look extremely hard. You made it sound easy to do", she says. Clearly she makes it sound easy to do for her friends too, because follow her they do. But before moving on to making plans with her friends for the half-marathon training, she encourages everyone to continue their practice of yoga. "My experience has been that yoga is a truly healing practice", she says.

By Sonal Kulshrestha

(Sonal is a programmer by profession and writing is her passion. She lives in Dallas, Texas in USA) 

Pictures by Ganesh Wadawadigi. A special thank you to him.

 (108 in progress. Photo credit: Ganesh Wadawadigi )

 (108 in progress. Photo credit: Ganesh Wadawadigi ) 

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(Post 108- relaxing in Shavasana. You can see the stage and the singers on the right. Photo credit: Ganesh Wadawadigi )

(Post 108- the group- dripping of sweat and the sense of achievement. Photo credit: Ganesh Wadawadigi)

(Post 108- posing and some more posing- Left and above. Photo credit: Ganesh Wadawadigi) 

(Photo below: Anitha with her husband and two sons, all of whom participated in the challenge.  Photo credit: Ganesh Wadawadigi) 

(The stage  team, singers and Harmonium player- Pranavi Jonnalagadda, Kiran Kan Charla, Bindu Patel, Kasturi I Nagano and Satish Raghupatruni. Photo Credit: Kasturi Inaganti)





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