Multidimensional Application of Yoga for Youth

Swami Satyakarmananda, Founder and Yogacharya, Ghantali Mitra Mandal, Thane

My subject today is the multi­dimensional applications of yoga for youth. We have completed a lot of work for the application of yoga in many areas, and have successfully planned and worked out approximately thirty-one projects overall. Though our focus was mostly on the young generation, we did not limit our work to youth only.

We presented yoga to the inmates of prisons, and most of the hardened criminals became qualified yoga shikshaks or teachers, which brought a total transformation in them. In 1976, yoga launched a revolution in jails.

My journey

Firstly, let me tell you a bit about my own involvement with yoga. I am now running 82 years, and I have been working very honestly and sincerely in the field of social, cultural and national work from the age of eleven. This has given me 72 great years of experiencing the effects of yoga in the social, national and cultural field, a very strong foundation indeed.

My journey first started in 1971, when Yogacharya Saraswati gave me some primary training of yoga. I then received advanced training from Sri Swami Satyananda, my spiritual master, and there started my yogic career.

What made me want to enter this field in particular? Swami Vivekananda once said, and please listen very carefully to these words, "Yoga should not only remain a thought movement, it should be made socially relevant." Yoga should not only remain a thought movement, it should be made socially relevant. These words 'socially relevant', what do they mean? They mean that yoga must have a social connection for the benefit of society, for the benefit of the community, for the benefit of all humankind, men and women all over the world. Swami Satyananda says that "Yoga is our heritage of yesterday, the need of today and the culture of tomorrow." Keeping these words in view, and keeping them before our institute, we simply started extending our activities into what he said, devoting ourselves by doing some work, sincerely, for the young generation.

Let me tell you about how we work. We are on the border of the city of Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra. It has now become Thane city, but it is part of Mumbai. We have very little time at our disposal, only two hours in the morning and one or two hours in the evening, but I tell you, about two hundred devoted people are working with me and nobody is getting paid. Nobody is paid; they are coming with their intention of service, sacrifice and surrender, people like Dady Billimoria, who is my seniormost colleague.

'Multidimensional Applications of Yoga for Youth' projects

From the total of thirty-one completed projects, eight have won international acclaim, and we have worked out fifteen projects titled 'Multidimensional Applications of Yoga for Youth'. Due to limited time, I am only going to touch on a few of our projects, and give the details of the numbers of camps and participants in the work we did for the yuva peedhi, the young generation.

Yuva shivirs

First, we conducted yuva shivirs, camps for the youth. So far, we have successfully conducted 61 camps, wherein 4,538 members of the young generation participated. We carried out research also, which was presented at numerous conferences.

Tapping talent

Second, we created a project called 'Medha Samskara' for students. This is how it came about. One day I read a news item in the papers. It was about how the number of students committing suicide in Japan is increasing at an alarming rate. I asked myself, 'What things are making them commit suicide at such a tender age?' That article gave me the inspiration to work out a program for the yuva generation. They are facing so many problems while studying and concentrating on their studies. Medha Samskara was a project designed to help them overcome these difficulties. In Sanskrit, medha means buddhi or intellect, the power of memory and retention, and samskara means a deep mental impression. So Medha Samskara is basically training in how to concentrate and retain the studies better, helping students handle the pressures of studies, exams and school in a better way. I do not charge anything for these classes; it is my mission, my work. The Medha Samskara classes are for students from all over the states of Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka. They are for boys and girls from ninth to twelfth standards, because most of the strain is on this group: how to concentrate when they are forgetting how to remember. In the examination hall they get confused, so what to do? There are many techniques, but I won't go into detail. We have had 225 free classes of Medha Samskara wherein 75,125 students between the ninth and twelfth standards participated.

Yoga for fire-fighters

Next, we worked with fire-brigade jawans, firefighters. When a fire takes place, it is these people who go to the site, climb on the ladder, take the water pipe in their hands and control the fire. For them, we conducted a one-month camp wherein 230 jawans participated daily.

Yoga for prison inmates, sportspersons and tribal communities

Six yoga camps for young jail inmates were conducted, which I referred to earlier, wherein 378 prisoners participated and out of which 30 have become qualified yoga teachers. They started teaching others. They began telling others how to behave properly and to stop committing crimes.

We conducted one camp for badminton players in which 50 players participated. We also conducted two camps of yoga for table-tennis players, wherein 32 players participated.

Three yoga camps for the children of tribal communities were conducted, in which 104 children participated.

Yoga for traffic police

We also gave yoga camps on anti-pollution for traffic police. Traffic police are facing pollution all the time, especially those who are constables in the centre squares at traffic junctions. They are facing terrible pollution. With the help of the Assistant Traffic Control Commissioner, we worked out a plan under which we conducted four camps, wherein 250 police constables participated.

Yoga for menstrual disorders

Then we successfully conducted three camps on menstrual disorders and yoga for young girls, where 104 girls between the ages of 14–15 to 19–20 participated. Here, we carried out some research and presented the paper at an international conference where it stood second.

Yoga for computer operators

We conducted a pilot and research project for young operators of computer systems, those who are constantly sitting in front of the computer screen. We noticed that after a few years they start getting troubles, maybe neck trouble, eye trouble, backache and other such issues. So we found a solution. At first it was a pilot project, and then it became a research project which we presented in an international convention, where it stood number one.

Yoga for pregnant women

Our 'Yoga for Pregnant Women' camps have become a great success. Dr. Ulka Natu is giving a workshop at this conference, and she is in charge of that. She is a gynaecologist and also a yoga teacher, and the combination of her medical knowledge and my upanishadic and yogic knowledge has given very good results. We have so far conducted 92 camps for pregnant ladies only, in which a total of 801 women participated.

Yoga for the differently-abled

Then there is yoga for the differently-abled young people of Baba Amte's Anand Bhavan. Baba Amte's Anand Bhavan is generally known as a centre for leprosy patients – Maharogi Seva Samiti – but when you enter, you notice that there are other physically handicapped youth between the ages of 18 and 30 years. We conducted a camp wherein 82 deaf, blind and mute leprosy patients and other physically-handicapped youth participated, and we came out with great satisfaction. I don't claim that by conducting the camp their lives have been fully changed, but at least satisfaction was gained on both sides: on our side for giving and on their side for receiving. These people have been given a good descriptive name: not 'Disabled', but 'Differently-abled'. I like that name.

Yoga for musicians

Another group we worked with was of young tabla players. One tabla player developed some backache and neck problems after a few years of sitting for concerts while accompanying the singer. He was admitted to the hospital for these problems and he called me there. "Can you do something?" he asked. I told him, "I will definitely do something for you, but I will study it first." So in response, we conducted two camps wherein 26 tabla players participated, and we studied the results.

Yoga for the mentally challenged

Next we worked with mentally-challenged young inmates of a mental hospital in Thane, which I have spoken about earlier, where we took Swami Niranjan to visit. The last camp held was over three months long in duration; every day, including Sundays, a batch of ten yoga teachers was sent there. We had discussions with the superintendent of the mental hospital, and we were allowed to work with the borderline mentally-challenged people only. We came out with great satisfaction. We presented the findings of that project last December at an international convention held at Lonavla in Maharashtra, where it was highly appreciated by all the delegates participating from around the world.

Yoga for young executives

We have conducted one camp for young executives wherein 38 executives participated.

Getting recharged

So far, we have conducted fifteen yoga shivirs, of which I have given you the names and the number of participants. The total comes to 410 camps, and the number of participants comes to 81,860. I am quite satisfied with that, but still we have to go ahead. We are not going to stop here. You see, with very limited time and resources we were able to do something for Swami Satyananda's mission, and with great satisfaction we are continuing to do his work. Yoga is like a tonic for us, it recharges us.

One last minute, Guruji! When we come to the ashram, you are here. There is a signboard saying 'Mobiles not allowed', but even then some sadhakas bring their mobile. However, the ashram has a very good system. There are no charging points in the rooms! Why? That is material charging, but what about the spiritual charge we are receiving from this great personality? For us seekers, he is the great master, he is the great charger. When we come here, we get ourselves fully charged, and go back to our lives.

—Address, 25 October 2013, Polo Ground, Munger