What Matters To Me: Yogananth Andiappan
In the What Matters To Me series, a Generation T honouree describes what they do, why they do it, and why it matters.
Ever since he began learning yoga at age two, Yogananth Andiappan has dedicated his life to the practice, following the teachings of his yoga guru father, Asana Andiappan. Yogananth’s non-profit organisation Andiappan Yoga Community offers classes to people who can’t afford yoga or who have special needs—challenging the idea that yoga is a pursuit only for the healthy and wealthy. Here, Yogananth discusses his work in his own words.
See also: What Matters To Me: Henry Motte-Muñoz
When you don’t belong, you have to prove yourself. In India, unless you belong to a certain caste, you are often not accepted as a yoga teacher. I wouldn’t be accepted at a traditional yoga school in India as a yoga teacher because I am not Brahmin. It was the same for my father, but he found a teacher and later began to reach out to people who didn’t have access to yoga, knowing the health benefits it can offer. As a result, my father’s interest in yoga became purely therapeutic. He was teaching from a health point of view, starting from body, mind and breath, so all people, regardless of religion and caste, could practice yoga. Yoga for health was very new at the time. His approach was to practise for health and wellbeing. I came to Hong Kong to bring this approach to people.
To me, yoga means connecting with society and people
Yoga is not just about meditation and postures. It is a way of life. Being a vegetarian, responding to things in a calm, relaxed manner, having balanced emotions and coordination, doing things with awareness—those are all viewed as yogic lifestyle practices. Today, when we say yoga, most people limit their understanding to yoga postures, and while these have a big influence, there are many other practices.
Andiappan Yoga Community was a way to bring yoga to the disadvantaged in Hong Kong. While I was teaching in various studios before founding my own, I never felt that I was reaching the common man. All the people who came to my classes were white collar workers. The reality is that yoga in Hong Kong is still a luxury. That was the reason I started the community.
To me, yoga means connecting with society and people. Of course, you need to find balance yourself, but we also need to think about people around us. Every yoga teacher should have the mindset to bring yoga to people who can’t afford it or who don’t have access to it but who really need it.
I hope to bring focus to the youth through yoga. With the recent events in Hong Kong, people are hoping youth will find strength and support and purpose, and be able to remain calm and emotionally balanced. These are all challenges and I hope to offer support.
See honourees from the Healthcare & Wellness category of the Gen.T List 2019.