"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players'' - this particular quote by the great English playwright and litterateur William Shakespeare, casually quoted in his pastoral comedy As You Like It, portrays a perfectly practical picture of today's busy world and the activities of the human race. The lives of people around the world and their unique lifestyles vary from region to region, culture to culture and so on - however, the basic commonality of them all is that everyone is way too much busy and stressed these days. So much so, that sometimes, this overwhelming trend of remaining actively occupied can lead a person into an unhealthy lifestyle - thus comes the discussion of maintaining healthy practices such as 'Yoga', a well-respected act and procedure that has proven health benefits and ancient history. The ongoing pandemic has changed the world and its human inhabitants, and a number of people, nowadays, are slowly but surely getting aware of maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle, to avoid their health-related tragic and untimely consequences - thus, the practitioners of Yoga are increasing day by day. As per its international acceptance, the United Nations General Assembly established June 21 as "International Day of Yoga", celebrated annually in India and around the world from 2015. On December 1, 2016, yoga was listed by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage. Exploring a successful case study, today's story covers an inspirational journey of a self-made woman, who not only conquered the obstacles of being shackled by social stereotypes through her dedication and hardship; but also becoming an example for women in society. This is the story of Bishaka Tanchangya, a successful development practitioner and a Certified Yoga Instructor from Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana (SVYASA Yoga University), Bangalore, India.
"Being a country girl, I was born and grew up in a remote village which still does not have electricity. The only way to get there is by the water routes, which takes 6-8 hours by boat from Rangamati city. Coming from an area like this, after losing my father when I was an eight-year-old, never have I ever thought I would be able to pursue higher studies in my life," Bishaka shared to DC, who has eventually received education from a total of four Universities from home and abroad. At present, Bishaka Tanchangya works as a Monitoring and Evaluation Reporting Manager for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nation's Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) project in Bangladesh. Coming from the rural Rangamati, Bishaka has a bachelor's degree in Sustainable Development and Anthropology and Sociology from Curtin University, Western Australia; a Masters in Disaster Management, from the University of Dhaka and also currently pursuing her Masters in Communication at the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB). As a development professional, Bishaka works with the project's Country Team Leader as well as the technical team and liaises with the regional office and headquarters. Alongside her many identities being a development professional, Bishaka appeared as a changemaker in society through her Yoga-centric activities as a certified Yoga trainer, providing Yoga sessions to many people including the first responders during the pandemic. With her team's support, Bishaka incorporated a yoga session to manage stress for clinicians treating COVID-19 patients. Through this initiative, she has been helping medical doctors with self-reflection exercises to find ways to improve themselves, both personally and professionally, as well as teaching methods to reduce stress and anxiety amidst the pandemic.
When asked about her journey to Australia from Rangamati and how she started her life-changing commitment with Yoga, Bishaka said, "I had good friends who provided me with adequate advice and support, introduced me to the Australian Scholarship which I received in 2010. That scholarship supported me to pursue my undergraduate degree from Australia. Back in Australia, I used to go to the Tibetan Buddhist temple with one of my very dear senior Dr Naomi Shahrin, now working as an Assistant Professor at the Asian University of Women, Chittagong. I was inspired and moved by her Yoga-centric lifestyle, thus I became oriented with meditation and Yoga eventually, and I started loving it. Moreover, I went to meet his Holiness Dalai Lama when he came to my city in 2011 and that also moved me more towards Yoga - and that's how the journey started."
This journey eventually led Bishaka not only to follow and maintain a healthy lifestyle for her own self but also to change others. "In 2014, I came back to Bangladesh, worked in my indigenous community in Rangamati for over a year, and resumed my yoga learning in 2016, when I got my current job and shifted to Dhaka. After a while, I went to Patanjali Yoga Centre in Gulshan and took lessons which I continued for a long time, then I started practising yoga through the Indian High Commission in Dhaka - and finally, in 2019, I received a scholarship from the Indian government to take 300 hours of Yoga Instructor Course from Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana (SVYASA Yoga University), Bangalore, India, with a special focus on Yoga for Diabetes Management," Bishaka shared her inspirational story with DC.
When asked about how Yoga has changed her life and how it can change others, Bishaka, who is now providing professional Yoga training with her fitness entrepreneurship 'Bend with B', said: "First of all, Yoga helps me to stay mentally and physically healthy, and it also helps me to recognize and address my anxiety faster. I explored the changes such as being less-irritated, disturbed and overwhelmed. On how it can help others, I can say that Yoga is a tool, convenient and easy to rely on - that anyone can use in their way to address their individual requirements. Through yoga, people can explore the magic of mindful living, one of the best ways to deal with stress and anxiety or mental health issues that all go through. The Yoga postures (asanas) may improve physical flexibility, coordination, and strength, while breathing practices and meditation may quiet and focus the mind, resulting in increased awareness and less anxiety, and therefore a better quality of life. Reductions in distress, blood pressure, and gains in resilience, mood, and improved metabolism - these are the health benefits of Yoga, to name a few."
That is understandable, but when asked about how Yoga can help people in the current pandemic-affected circumstances and the normalcy of home-quarantining, she shared her expert opinion with DC: "Regarding the current scenario based on the COVID-19 global pandemic, the mental health of people is getting impacted a lot these days. People have been following difficulties in coping up with the new normalcies based on their regular lifestyles, and in this case, I have observed that many of them have started using different techniques and mechanisms for their mental well-being, and one of these is the popular practice of Yoga. Although Yoga is a human-to-human practice that needs proper lessons and guidelines, the pandemic has created opportunities for more people to learn and practice Yoga from professionals through online sessions. And the good thing is, people are becoming much aware regarding their wellbeing, thus practising Yoga as a method of being healthy, both physically and mentally."
"And that comes with a dedication towards maintaining a balanced and routined, disciplined lifestyle. I am an early bird and I go to bed very early in the night, because sleep is extremely important, I believe as a Sleep Advocate. For achieving the benefit of Yoga as an effective way to change unhealthy lifestyles, I advocate for people to have 8 hours of sleep per day and follow a healthy and clean diet according to the need of one's own body," she added.
Despite being a successful example in society, Bishaka does not consider herself successful. "I do not want to call myself successful, in fact, I do not have much of what so-called people considered to have in order to be successful. I suggest people choose happiness over success. So my advice would be, if anyone wants to be happy - the process is actually simple: to consume less, take actions to support and help others through being compassionate. I am happy and content with whatever I have or achieved so far through my works, and that keeps me going for a new day every morning."
Accomplished in her academic and professional career, Bishaka Tanchangya believes that being happy and content is all about the passion, hard work and support from dear ones that led to the place where she is now, and she also believes that happiness is a choice that one needs to rely on, which Yoga can certainly add some much-needed mental and physical strength.
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