Sri Arunodhayam Charitable Trust is an NGO serving the needs of abandoned children with special needs for the past 20 years.
I have been blessed to work with these divine children for almost two years. While the boys are of varied ages from 4 years to 40 years, the girls are from 6 months to 17 years. Almost all of them have some intellectual disability while some are autistic, some have cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and many have a lot of complications, disabilities and physical deformities.
We progressed very gradually and cautiously since many of the children were at first unable to even move on their own and could just manage to crawl. Many of them were very aggressive and some of them were totally unpredictable with a lot of mood swings. Many children had no control over their emotions and would often start crying or laughing. They also have no control over their natural urges.
Initially it was a little difficult to make them sit in one place and so we had to keep trying different techniques each time. In order to attract them, we tried jumping together, clapping together, crawling together, squatting together and various other games to slowly bring the kids closer to us. Slowly they started coming closer, touching us, hugging us and wanting to sit next to us.
Gradually, we started giving them the practices one by one, and each time it was a different experience and it still continues to be so. They all felt that they were getting closer to our Gurus touching their photos and trying to talk to the Gurus. They became very fond of our beloved Guru, Swami Niranjanananda, by listening to his childhood stories and they keep asking to see him in person.
While the boys got distracted very soon with the practices, the girls were found to be a little receptive. We started working with them slowly, starting with simple movements, observing the breath, chanting, kirtans and yoga nidra in the form of stories. We have been giving them pawanmuktasana series, TTK, makarasana, bhujangasana, vajrasana, shashankasana, trikonasana, eka pada pranamasana. We also started giving them surya namaskara very slowly. Since they could not understand and follow properly, it took us a while to make them do nadi shodhana pranayama. They all thoroughly enjoyed bhramari pranayama as it was fascinating to hear the sound coming from within.
Slowly, bit by bit, practices were added and the rhythm of yoga started to flow naturally. Kirtans were a big hit though the words were not coherent, the effort to participate made them all join and attempt to sing in unison with tal, rhythm, clapping of the hands and a little dance from time to time.
They also enjoyed short wave Om chanting, ulta or reverse chanting of Rama nama with the chant of Mara, Mara, Mara. They were fascinated to find themselves saying Rama, Rama, Rama. We also made them chant Om aim klim sau, the bija of Bala continuously and until date they are doing it regularly. Gam Ganapathaye is a favourite and almost all are able to sing it correctly. We also made them chant the three daily mantras slowly and are hopeful that they will be able to chant properly in the near future.
Yoga nidra was added and it was woven around a different story line each time, yet not digressing from the basic principles. These kids were made to fly with the birds, eat with the monkeys, dance in the rainy forest, paddle a canoe and climb a mountain apart from visualizing psychic symbols.
We also made the teachers, caretakers and physiotherapist be part of the sessions. Taking the cue from the physiotherapist, we started working with the young girls specifically as many could hardly move, yet were trying enthusiastically to imitate all the practices in their own seated positions.
Sai Lakshmi is one such divine child aged 8 now, who could barely move. She is affected by cerebral palsy and intellectual disability. She is a very vibrant kid who imitates tadasana, surya namaskara and other asanas in her seated position by herself. We suggested to the home that we needed to work on her specifically and started focusing on her. Slowly the chanting, her indomitable willpower, the relentless effort of the physiotherapist and the teachers combined with our attention started yielding results and the power of the practices of Bihar School of Yoga started to shine bright.
We are really excited and happy to place on record that Sai Lakshmi is now able to stand up, walk a few steps on her own and is in fact trying to do eka pada pranamasana. We have identified a few other children and are planning to work on them one by one.
We humbly dedicate this magic expression of yoga to our beloved Gurudev Swami Niranjanananda whose inspiration and invisible divine presence made this possible.