Dressed in cream-coloured khakis, an oversized black kurta, his long hair drawn into a casual ponytail, Utkarsh Sanjanwala steps into the office of Sneha, a Santacruz-based NGO. At least 20 kids aged between five and 15 huddle around him. “Aaj kya sikhayenge, sir?” they scream in excitement.
The chattais have been spread across the hall, and there is enough space for everyone, but this is that rare class where all kids want to sit in the front row — as elbows nudge each other in a bid to mark territories. In a few minutes, the paintings on the yellow walls — trees, lions, rabbits — come alive in the form of yogic postures that Sanjanwala teaches using examples from nature and the animal kingdom.
Triyak Tadasana, which requires holding the hands above the head and bending sideways, turns into the ‘tree’ asana, as the kids sway from side to side, following the breathing pattern that Sanjanwala announces. He asks them why are they swaying, and the kids shout out in unison, “It’s a windy day!” Similarly, Shashank asansa, which literally means the hare posture, is the rabbit pose for these kids, as they bend forward to touch their heads to the floor.
Next up, the kids begin to mew in delight, as the Marajari asana is taught as the cat posture. All this, unlike a class for adults that would be conducted in silence, is happening amidst squeals of laughter and unanimous cheering.
My belief that for yoga you need a quiet, ‘intellectual’ environment is shattered and after 15 minutes of standing in the corner as a passive observer, I cannot resist but join the fun. I sit cross-legged as Sanjanwala tells the class that it is time for the bees to buzz. We plug a finger into our ears, close our eyes and perform Bhramari, creating a buzzing sound with the mouths closed. Tiny giggles punctuate the buzzing, and I realise I cannot stop smiling.
This class is a forerunner to the One Rupee Yoga for the Poor Project, which introduces children to yoga. The bigger, year-long project, which will start in July, is aimed at underprivileged children from the lower-economic background. The classes will be conducted 3-5 days a week for children in the school/institution/community. Chip Mumbai, an NGO that works for children in pain is in talks with BMC schools. According to the space available and strength of the students, convenient batch timings can be set up so that the programme can fit into a school’s routine. “Our long-term vision will provide teacher’s training to young adults. They will then conduct the classes for which they will be paid Rs 600 per class. “This will provide good employment and income to the youth and they will be directing their energies towards something positive. We want to duplicate this model in as many places as possible,” says Sanjanwala.
“Kids are open-minded and free from preconceived notions. I am yet to meet an adult who picks up as fast as these kids,” says Sanjanwala, project director, Yoga Sadhana Seva Trust (YSST), located in Kandivli. The idea struck him at 3 am in the morning, two months ago. “It came just like any other passing thought. I wrote it down and showed it to my guruji and the trust members,” says Sanjanwala, who has studied Yoga Therapy and Philosophy in the guru-shishya parampara at YSST.
So far, the trust has tied up with Chip Mumbai, which is tapping BMC schools to conduct the programme. “We are also looking for private donors, yoga teachers and volunteers,” adds the 26 year-old. The project will also help the trust to scientifically study and analyse the effects of yoga on children, using the records and progress charts of its young pupils.
“These children come from homes that have space constraints and an unhealthy environment. While parents of some of these kids are drunkards, others may be victims of abuse,” says Sanjanwala, who turned to Yoga in 2008, before which he was a graphic designer for a corporate organisation.
My last, most curious question to him: Why charge a rupee, when the project might as well be free of cost? Nodding in delight, he explains, “It is human
psychology that one never appreciates what comes to him/her for free. We are taking as little as a rupee, but it is to make the students value the knowledge they will gain from the programme.”
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