Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi

Yoga Youth and Children’s Retreat

by Yuko Metsugi

The International Yoga Youth and Children’s Retreat was held in Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama from 22nd to 31st December in 2015. The retreat was projected to Swami Veda Bharati’s heart and in keeping his mission; “So that the Grace and the practices and the teachings of meditation in our lineage may continue into next generations and meditation may become a family-centred experience." It was the third Children’s retreat and we had a special theme to honor Swami Veda Bharati and his love for children - "Namami: At His Lotus Feet."

There were about 40 children who participated the retreat. The numbers included children from Bhagaban Dev’s traditional gurukulam in Orissa and KHEL’s Lakshmi Devi Academy in Dheradun. While the majority of the children were from India, we also had one child from Switzerland who participated with her mother. Children got along with each other day by day, and we were surrounded by joy, laugh, and peace throughout the retreat.

The daily schedule started from hatha class. Teachers introduced varieties of teachings and children enjoyed them very much. By attending all the hatha classes to teach and support, I learned very much from other teachers. Some unique things, which could catch children’s attentions were games for ice-break, physical exercises for warm-up, and partner stretch and pose to get to know each other well. In hatha class, children learned proper sitting, Makarasana, and diaphragmatic breathing. When we taught them proper breathing, we found that many children were breathing from their chests, which could indicate that they had some stress and pressure in their daily lives. It was also seen in the laboratory that breath rates of some children were very high in the beginning. However, as the retreat progressed, we were informed that their breath rates went down. Changes were also found in meditation class. In the beginning, there were much noise in the room, but more and more children were being able to concentrate for a longer period of time.

Besides hatha class, we had many workshops such as mandala arts by Radhika, the music workshop by Shivananda, the director of the C.J. Maa Music School of Rishikesh, and the vocal workshop by Aditi Sharma, a wonderful Dhrupad Vocalist from Delhi. In the vocal workshop, children learned a Hindi song from Aditi and performed at the end of her concert next day. There was not enough time for them to prepare, but they worked very well and indeed, Aditi had a great teaching skill by bringing children’s attentions and putting them together to make a beautiful performance. I myself shared how to make Origami, and the techniques and arts of Shodo. In Origami workshop, I taught different kinds of Origami such as animals, flowers, and ‘Ninja stars’ and they all picked very well. Children received handmade Origami medals at the end of the workshop. In Shodo workshop, I shared the origins of Japanese characters, Kanji, and children drew some of the Kanji with thick brushes, black inks on Japanese Washi papers. (Shodo is a Japanese calligraphy, which was developed more than 2000 years ago, and children in Japan practice it in schools. It helps to develop concentration as well as techniques to draw them beautifully.) It was very surprising to me and made my heart very warm to know that children from Bhagaban Dev’s ashram told me that they were teaching Shodo to their friends in their ashram after they went back. I believe that children had many opportunities to experience many cultures and to create another interest in these workshops.

The talent show that we had at one night was another opportunity to realize how many possibilities children had. Children from Bhagaban Dev’s ashram performed excellent asana together. Some children sang Sanskrit and Hindi songs, while others performed traditional Indian dances. One of the small children sang the whole lines of Hanuman Chalisa, and I was very impressed. Adding to this, children prepared the talent show all by themselves, from doing MC to showing us many different skills. At the end of the talent show, we all stood up on the stage and danced together. It was a beautiful night.

While children enjoyed their daily programs, we had special programs for parents as well. Parents practiced hatha and meditation separately from children, and participated in lectures and discussions, which were taught and led by Sofia Foteina, Namita Sinha and Rabindra Sahu. The themes for the lectures and discussions were ‘Spiritual Parenting’, ‘Purpose of Living’, and ‘Introduction to Bhagawad Gita’. At the end of the retreat, we had a review session inviting both children and parents. We reviewed Yamas and Niyamas, how to fold blanket properly, steps of Makarasana, and steps of meditation. Children and parents were asked their answers separately. Out of these four questions, children surpassed in their scores. Other activities that children and parents did together were the nature walk and a short trip to the Vashishta cave by the Ganga.

During the snack time in the afternoon, Swami Maa Radha and Swami Prayag Giri shared stories of Swami Ji, and children gathered on the grass to listen to them under the sun. There were Guru pujas in the begining and the end of the retreat, with talks by Swami Ritavan, Swami Radha Bharati, and Swami Prayag Giri, and Rabindra Sahu gave all the teachers and volunteers shawls and gifts of warmly selected books in the closing puja. We were wrapped with the air of love and care to each other. After the ending puja, we had a bonfire and children received treats such as toys, Indian sweets, and tons of candies! It was dark at night, but each heart was shinning as if it equaled the light of the moon.

Last but not least, I would like to thank Rabindra Sahu for organizing this wonderful retreat. He was a great director and an excellent teacher who had worked selflessly darting here and there. Namita Sinha, an experienced teacher who has been teaching children yoga in Bangalore, was another great teacher and organizer who was putting her effort to plan this retreat. We missed Nalini and Apoorva in the retreat, but I would like to send my appreciation to them for their work behind the scenes. Sofia was taking an important role for the parents’ sessions along with Namita and it was she who brought delicious chocolates from her country, which children enjoyed very much. The other talented and skillful teachers included Elissa who taught very fun hatha class combining different games and activities, Sandeep who taught a meditation class, which children focused very well, Adhikari who brought many kinds of games both in hatha class and the playtime, Ramprakash who showed his excellence in teaching hatha class that activation and relaxation met in balanced proportions, Gita Bhoi who shared her beautiful voice in teaching the Himalayan prayers, and Borim who taught hatha class as well as Momo lessons for us that children and guests enjoyed. Rosa and Erik from Gurukulam, and a wonderful guest, Gion, helped us throughout the retreat by preparing snacks, taking children to nature walks and the Vashishta cave, and playing with them everyday. Rosa, Gion, and I went on the ‘treats’ hunts’ in Rishikesh on the last day of the retreat, had so much fun preparing ‘surprise’ for children. It was actually all of the teachers and volunteers who put their ideas to make children enjoy, and children gave wordless love back to us.

Finally, though I have participated in other children’s camps in India, USA, and Canada, and have been teaching children and their families in Japan, I feel that I met the most genuine and loving children in this retreat. We may be doing our own sadhana, but it is also true that we share and learn from each other, and it is sometimes children who teach us things that we have forgotten and help us to find the treasures that we have dropped as we grew older. I learned very much from the children, as well as other skillful teachers and volunteers.

I would like to express my sincere thanks to Swami Veda Bharati to have been watching us with his gentle smile all through the retreat. I felt the warm air always wrapped us in SRSG as if Swami Ji was giving us a huge hug to everyone. I appreciate very much for having me in the retreat, and thank all the children to share their smiles and the purest souls with us.

In Loving Service,
Yuko Metsugi

Editor’s Note:

To inquire about attending the 2016 retreat, contact [email protected]

Photos by Jay Prakash Bahuguna



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