London/Patna, Sept. 9: One of Britain’s cycling heroes, who suffers from cerebral palsy, told The Telegraph today how attending the Munger School of Yoga helped him win gold in the Paralympic Games yesterday.
“Yoga calmed me down – I was an angry child,” said David Stone, 31, who rode a tricycle as he won gold in the Mixed T 1-2 Road Race at Brands Hatch, Kent.
Cerebral palsy is “an umbrella term encompassing a group non-contagious motor conditions that cause physical disability in human development, chiefly in the various areas of body movement”.
Yorkshireman Stone took the 24km road race to win his third Paralympic gold medal, seven seconds ahead of Italy’s Giorgio Farroni. David Vondracek of the Czech Republic was 3.17 minutes behind in third.
Stone was disappointed when he had to settle for bronze in his time trial event on September 5 — he came third in the quick-fire, single-circuit 8km course which was much too short for his liking.
He admitted the latest triumph had lifted him.
“It makes it better to win now because it was so disappointing not winning in the time trial,” he said.
He added: “Compared to Beijing, the competition was so much better. It’s good, it pushes me. It makes it a much better sport. The crowd were fantastic today. I couldn’t let them down.”
Yesterday’s race was very competitive — but the yoga helped with strategy and preparation.
“It was the best race of my life,” emphasised Stone. “It makes the win better as it wasn’t easy. I made my move, but the Italian (Farroni) stayed with me. It was so hard.”
In his exclusive interview with The Telegraph, Stone described the healing experience at the school at Ganga Darshan, which he attended on three separate occasions and recommends highly to others.
He first heard of the school in his teens. “I was about 21 when I first went there. It helped my body but it helped my mind as well. For a very long time, when I was 18-19-20, in fact ever since I was an angry child, I did not like my body.”
In simple but moving terms, he explained: “The effect of going to Bihar was that, first, I became more accepting of my body, then I began to like my body.”
After the first visit, “I went back the following year for three years. Then I returned again last year for another month, so in all I have spent 10 months there.”
Sources at the Munger School of Yoga, 200km from Patna, confirmed that Stone stayed at the school located on a hilltop on the bank of the river Ganga.
In one of the school books titled Past, Present and Future, Stone penned a few lines: “Ashram has been a safe hand, secure environment where I feel I have been able to express my personality and become more accepting to my body and my internal emotion. The activities and environment have allowed me space in which this could happen.”
Mahesh Kumar, a trained yoga teacher from the school apprised The Telegraph of the asanas and pranayamas Stone underwent.
He underwent three stages of pawan muktasana. In this asana, the person lies on his back and stretches in his legs towards his chest while inhaling and stretches out the legs while exhaling.
He also underwent naadi shodhan, bhramari pranyama and yog nidra, a form of dhyana (meditation). Naadi shodhan involves various ways or inhalation and exhalation while sitting cross-legged in calm, composed and relaxed postures. In bhramari, as prescribed by the yoga school for all the cerebral palsy patients, Stone filled his two ears with two index fingers while sitting cross-legged. Then he inhaled deeply and exhaled by sounding like a wasp while keeping his lips closed but nostrils open. Yog nidra is a form of meditation that Stone underwent.
Sources at the yoga school said that Stone was prescribed the asanas and pranayamas specific to his condition. He followed the regime properly and recovered.
Practitioners of conventional and alternative medicine believe exercise, including yoga, can benefit people with cerebral palsy, but caution that rigorous scientific evidence is still required to support these claims.
“There are various ways through which yoga may indeed help, but unless scientific evidence is generated, such reports will remain anecdotal,” said Manjari Tripathi, a neurologist and an additional professor at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi.
She said studies in the past have suggested that yoga can modulate brain activity and autonomic activity that regulates the involuntary actions of the body. “But the use of yoga has not been tested in many diseases in any scientific manner,” she said.