Learning Hinduism and reading the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata have taken a chunk of Missy Franklin’s time ever since the five-time Olympic gold-medallist swimmer announced a shock retirement in December last year.
Chronic shoulder pain forced the 23-year-old to call time on her career but on the bright side, it allowed her to do things that she couldn’t do as an active athlete.
Earlier, she did Yoga for fun but after exploring Hinduism, it became a spiritual experience for the bubbly American, who is majoring in religion at the University of Georgia.
“I have been studying religion for a year now and it is so fascinating and eye opening. I love learning different cultures, people and their faith,” Franklin told PTI on the sidelines of the Laureus World Sports Awards.
“My own religion is Christianity but two classes I have found so intriguing are Hinduism and Islam. Because those are the two religions I did not know a lot about and after reading and learning about them, I think they are beautiful,” said the winner of four gold medals at the London Olympics.
Besides being a champion athlete, Franklin also comes across as a bright student. She is fascinated by the Ramayana and Mahabharata and has also made a conscious effort to learn the unfamiliar names in the two epics.
“I think the most beautiful aspect of Hinduism is the idea of Karma and of being good to one another, doing good deeds and how that all comes back to you, how the universe works.
“I find their myths and tales incredible, it is also fascinating to know about their gods, reading the Mahabharata and Ramayana has been such an amazing experience for me. The family names in Mahabharata would always confuse me but I remember learning about Ram and Sita in the Ramayana. How Sita lived her life, how loyal she stayed to Ram,” she said.
As she is not competing anymore, Franklin has decided to not go for a second shoulder surgery. She doesn’t swim much due to the constant shoulder pain but keeps herself fit with running and cycling. Yoga, too, has been in her routine for the last three years.
“My shoulder is still a bit painful because I chose not to get the surgery at all, so it is painful to swim. But for the first time in my life I am able to do different kinds of exercises I have never done.
“I love running, cycling, I do Yoga and a bunch of stuff I get to pursue that I never did before. I am travelling way more now because I don’t have to train,” said Franklin, who is getting married later this year.
Another thing on her to do list is visiting India, the country which has the largest Hindu population in the world. Thanks to her time at the University of Georgia, she also knows a lot more about the history of Yoga.
“Learning about the true roots of Yoga and its process, how actual Yogis live their life of renunciation, it is so incredible. I have been doing Yoga recreationally for three years but after learning more about it through Hinduism, it has definitely become a more spiritual experience for me.
“In the west, I think the spiritualism of Yoga was left out and that is a huge generalisation. But it is great leaning about what Yoga is all about and how it is about that connection with the divine and creating that oneness,” she added.