Neerkondar Nanammal was among those chosen for the Padma Shri award by the central government. She has been teaching yoga to thousands of people and spreading the ancient traditional practice across Tamil Nadu. "I am very happy that I have been chosen for the award," said Nanammal, with a childlike enthusiasm. "I am happier that this recognition has come for making all those people I teach yoga stay healthy,'' she said from her house at Ganapathy in Coimbatore.
Born in an agricultural family at Zameen Kaliayapuram, she moved to Negamam after marriage and later to Ganapathy. Having learned yoga at the age of eight from her father, she mastered more than 50 asanas. Over the past five decades, Nanammal has trained more than 10 lakh students and continues to teach 100 students daily at the Ozone Yoga Centre run by her. Around 600 of her students, including 36 members of her family, have become 'Yoga instructors' around the world.
"It is a great honour for us,'' said her son V Balakrishnan, also a yoga instructor.
Nanammal has five children, 12 grand children and 11 great grand children. She is a silambattam expert too.
Nanamma's day begins at 5AM, much before the sun is up. She still follows a lifestyle close to nature, right from brushing her teeth with neem sticks and having millets, porridge, spinach and fruits. She does not consume tea or coffee and completely avoids white sugar.
Nanammal has won several awards for yoga and her legacy continues, with her students winning laurels in yoga competitions across the world. She has been particularly keen on teaching yoga to girls to help them lead a healthy life. "Yoga can keep you healthy and help mitigate stress, sugar, high and low blood pressure. I wish every house had a yoga exponent and everyone lived healthy,'' Nanammal had said in an interview to TOI.
In March 2017, Nanammal was conferred the Nari Shakti Puraskar by former President Pranab Mukherjee on International Women's Day. Nanammal had also dined with Prime Minister Narendra Modi once.
Come February 24, the great grandma will turn 99.