Yoga Shaping Young Minds

‘Kids are equally stressed as much as elders.’ ‘In this fast-paced competitive environment, children are under constant pressure to perform well.’ We often come across these statements and we begin to believe that indeed the world is becoming challenging for children. But do children really think it likewise? Well, the answer is definitely ‘no’ especially those children for whom life itself is a challenge. These are those less privileged orphaned kids who have to fight for everything in life, be it a meal or a rightful home.

But there are some blessed souls whose motive is to reach out to these underprivileged and extend all the possible help and these are the ‘caregivers’ who not only provide a shelter called ‘home’ but also give these children an opportunity to develop their talents to help them lead an independent life with dignity. ‘Ajol’ (Marathi word for the home of maternal grandfather) by Shantiwan in Navi Peth, Pune is one such home where children not only get their basic necessities (food, clothing, and shelter) but they seek education, discipline, and also work towards becoming responsible citizens.

Shantiwan, an initiative by Deepak Nagargoje and his wife Kaveri in a small village named Arvi, came into being on November 27, 2000 with inspiration and blessings from Shri Baba Amte to help sugarcane sharecroppers and their families. Shantiwan, which commenced from a basic ‘patra shade’ is now home to over 300 children and a foster home to many single mothers and their children.

“We believe in inculcating discipline in children since their tender age which is why we have come up with this unique ‘Mantri Mandal’ (cabinet of ministers) of our children. This cabinet comprises all portfolios – sports, stores, health, education, cleanliness, etc.,” informed Vijay Kumar Joshi, vice-president of Ajol. The older boys are made in charge of a particular department and the younger ones assist them. “This helps in inculcating coordination and a sense of discipline and responsibility in them,” he said.

Discipline only comes with diligent practice of yoga or as we call it ‘Yoga sadhana’. “Initially, waking up early even twice a week for yoga practice was boring. But now, we all wake up early even on the other days, and practice the asanas taught to us by the Yoga trainer. It has helped us a lot,” said 18-year-old Gaurav who is in charge of the ‘store’ section where he has to maintain a record of daily supplies on a day-to-day basis.

His friend, Kailas, undergoing training in the Computer Operator and Programming Assistant (COPA) course is in charge of ‘sanitation and cleanliness’ in the orphanage. “When yoga was introduced to us, we were all very lethargic and would come up with excuses to avoid it. But very soon we developed an interest and now we are seeing positive changes in us. We have become active and better focused,” said Kailas.

Sugriv who aspires to be a part of the DRDO in the future couldn’t stop counting the benefits of yoga. He said, “It has improved our immunity and given us self-confidence to deal with issues, both mentally and emotionally. It has boosted our metabolism, improved our digestion and we now feel more energetic throughout the day. We do not fall ill very often. We are not only focused on our studies but we are also able to extend a helping hand to our caregivers in helping them manage the day-to-day affairs.”

“Yoga isn’t only a set of poses that we perform every morning. But it is our lifestyle, it is a part of our daily routine,” said 14-year-old Yash who is doing good in his studies and is also vying to join the Army.

Yoga was introduced to children from Shantiwan as an initiative of Sab Ka Mangal Ho (SKMH) Foundation, a non-profit organization in Mumbai that partnered with SOSVA Training and Promotion Institute, a support service organization that focuses on building capacities of voluntary organizations working in diverse fields of social sectors. Both SKMH in collaboration with SOSVA began imparting yoga training to children from orphanages and helping them transform their lives positively. They work to enhance not only the child’s physical capabilities but also to bring about a sense of confidence, delight, and contentment in them.

“Yoga may seem old-fashioned but its transformative benefits are immense and hence this initiative. I sincerely believe that these children too deserve a good life and yoga will definitely help them in their lives ahead,” said Malav Dani, an entrepreneur and founder of SKMH Foundation.