Explore Yoga – Youth Summer Workshop 2013

BY: Vedant Thyagaraj

July 1st, 2013

Yoga Bharati conducted a workshop for teenagers and college students, called “Explore Yoga,” from June 17 to June 27, 2013. The goal of this workshop was to give the youth participants exposure to not only the physical side of yoga practice but also its holistic nature and a glimpse of the evolution of yoga in America and the extent of its adoption and industry. . More than 20 teens, many with minimal exposure to yoga, showed up every day during the two-week workshop  to learn about yoga and its application to their own lives.

Teenager Yoga

Each day the workshop started off with a yoga class that lasted between 60 to 75 minutes. Each yoga class had a specific theme; Surya Namaskaras, Pranayama, Dynamic Practices, Meditative Postures, and Advanced Asanas were just a few of the many that were emphasized. Yoga Bharati’s youth faculty conducted the sessions under the leadership of Savitha Nanjangud, the Youth Program Director. In a typical Yoga Bharati style, the teachers conducted yoga classes beginning with Shanti Mantra, breathing and loosening exercises followed by 4-5 asanas each day, learning about the benefits, limitations, and key awareness points of each one. Finally the participants participated in a guided relaxation (DRT) and Pranayama. After the yoga session, the participants enjoyed a snack break, which was considered as one of the highlights since they got to socialize during this time. The latter half of the session each day was an informative session that covered the impact of yoga on many different fields of study. On the first day, the participants got the overview of yoga’s history in the US, ranging from Swami Vivekananda to modern yogic styles of Iyengar and Bikram and the trends in the yoga industry. Yogic concepts such as Happiness, the five Koshas, the four streams of yoga, and the eight branches of ashtanga yoga were also introduced.

Yoga Teenager

On the second day, the participants learned about yoga research in the U.S. and discussed topics such as the growing number of published yoga papers in recent years, different university-level projects/courses, different studies being conducted, and many stalwarts in the mind-body medicine field, to name a few. The next day, the participants learned the concepts of Suryanamaskar (Sun Salutations) practice and the day after that, they further explored theconcepts of Yama and Niyama. The participants were then encouraged to pick a Yama or a Niayama of their liking and practice it until the end of the workshop. On the Friday of June 21st, Reverend Elena from the Center For Spiritual Enlightenment (CSE) talked to the participants about meditation. The participants enjoyed artistic activities planned for them, in order to illustrate the concepts of meditation.

On Sunday June 22nd, the participants took a trip to CSE in downtown San Jose. They toured the Wisdom, Compassion, and Grace buildings and the main Temple, and also saw different meditation and yoga rooms as well as areas where services were held. They also had to opportunity to go to the teenage den, where they socialized and played pool and table tennis. The group was then led to the main temple to join the adults in a distinct service. Sunday was a special Gratitude for Teachers’ Worship and Yogacharya Ellen Grace O’Brien (founder minister of CSE) gave a sermon, which mentioned the significance of the summer solstice and super moon and their metaphorical implications. The field trip concluded with a wholesome vegetarian lunch.

The second week flew by even quicker than the first. On Monday, June 25th, Dr. Prasad Kaipa gave a talk on Yoga and Leadership with Swami Vivekananda serving as the prime example. He talked about the qualities of a leader, Swamiji’s burning curiosity and how when we develop and maintain curiosity about a subject matter that interests us, we automatically become leaders in that area. He also mentioned that we should keep both our cultures and not forget either of our cultural identities. However, most of the participants said that the next day’s presentation on Ayurveda was their favorite out of all the informative sessions.

In the following day, four presenters from Vedika Global explained Ayurveda to the participants. They talked about the five elements (Pancha maha bhoota) that constitute everything in nature including human bodies and the Gunas or qualities that can be used to describe something. They then explained the various aspects of the Doshas such as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, relating them to the nature of animals. The highlight of the session was the food. The participants sampled six types of Ayurvedic tastes (shadrasas) – sugar, rock salt, lemon, cocoa bean (bitter), raw banana (astringent) and chili (hot). The participants also watched a cooking demonstration of how to make rose lassi (rose flavored buttermilk) using actual rose petals. After watching the process, they each got to taste some of the delicious lassi.

On the second to last day, the participants played a fun game of jeopardy, where they reviewed all the concepts they had learnt since the beginning of the workshop. The participants had a blast and all of them actively participated. They then were given time to prepare a small skit for the final day’s presentation. The workshop concluded on June 27th with a yoga class for the participants as well as one for their parents. After that, the participants had a chance to present their experiences with Yamas and Niyamas they had practiced for the past week. The students then performed skits in their groups. One group performed a skit in which they acted as an animal from the jungle and did the asana corresponding to that animal. Another covered many topics including asanas, pranayama, Ayurveda, etc. in their spoof of Pokemon, “Yogamon.” A third team performed a yoga rap accompanied by a succession of asanas, and the final team did a mini yoga class, which included various Asanas and a deep relaxation.

Although the participants initially were very reserved and reluctant to talk, by the end of the workshop, they were bursting with energy, “My mom wanted me to do this. I was not very keen on doing it,” said one student in regards to his enrollment. However, after participation in the workshop, he said, “it was an amazing experience.”

There was an overwhelming and enthusiastic response for Explore Yoga this year by the participants and parents alike. At Yoga Bharati, we hope this made a difference in the lives of the participants, and gave them the experience of the benefits of this wonderful science of holistic health. We also hope this will motivate them to take up the regular practice of yoga and spread it to their own generation.