R Nethaji, a final-year MSc Chemistry student of Loyola College, Chennai, recently bagged a national-level award and medal for the best social service in Yoga at New Delhi presented by Human Care Human Rights Protection association. Son of a daily-wage worker, the 22-year-old was introduced to yoga at the annual yoga camps organised by Vellore Institute of Technology, every May. “I participated for the first time in these camps in 2007 and was among the three best participants, and this continued till 2010. I owe everything to my guru Suresh,” begins the youngster.
With these accumulated experiences, Nethaji started conducting yoga training programmes, free of cost, as a graduate student of Sacred Heart College, Tirupathur. “Father Praveen Peter, Principal of the college, encouraged me to conduct these initiatives. I also had the opportunity to train about 1,000 NCC cadets along with Army Staff at KSR College (Thiruchendoor and Namakkal campuses) and also conducted similar camps at Gobichettipalayam. These experiences and my way of teaching helped me achieve laurels at Voorhes College, Vellore and JCC Club, a Rotary subsidiary. They awarded me with state-level recognition and prizes,” beams Nethaji.
As a postgraduate student of Loyola, Nethaji approached the hostel director, Jayaseelan SJ, with an idea to teach yoga to the visually-challenged. “This was largely because ‘normal’ students didn’t show interest in yoga and were oblivious to its benefits. There were quite a few visually-challenged students in the Loyola hostel and I went door to door campaigning about my idea. Initially, three people showed interest,” says Nethaji.
Soon, impressed with his patience and teaching style, three turned to a respectable 33, says Nethaji. “While teaching the visually-challenged or those with other disabilities, one needs to have a lot of patience. They get an idea of how asanas work only by touch as they cannot see the postures. While they are trying to replicate the asanas, one or two might need help catching up. The trick here is to not stop for the sake of these small numbers, but let others carry on with their yoga, but take time out simultaneously and correct the actions of the ones needing help. Especially, when it comes to the visually-challenged, they shouldn’t get a feeling that it is a time-consuming process. They have their own frustrations you see, and might give up easily,” reasons Nethaji.
Another person to have instilled confidence in Nethaji and motivated him further is Loyola Principal, Joseph Antony Samy SJ. “He let me use the basketball ground for teaching, where we all gather every Saturday from 6.30-7.30 am. Sometimes, he has helped me with contacts to teach at local schools and such. Of course, all this is for free,” says Nethaji, who has also published an article, Envision Yoga for All, in Conversion Today, a local newsletter.
His efforts also helped a youngster from Switzerland, Iva Maria, who was admitted to St Thomas Hospital in the city for balance and migraine issues. “Now, she has promised to make a visit every six months to learn yoga from me,” says Nethaji.
People nowadays even go for a PhD in yoga, but it is still seen as a way to fitness rather than healing, rues Nethaji. “Not many people are aware that yoga could help women in delivering babies without complications or help them have a regular menstrual cycle. It is a myth that yoga only helps you with keeping a calm mind or easing breathing issues.”
He also lists a few precautions to be taken while practising yoga. “Yoga is best practised in the mornings that too before breakfast. Also, ensure you wear loose fitting clothes. Another major mistake people do is buying a book and trying to replicate the asanas at home. You need to first learn from an expert if you don’t wish to break bones or sprain yourself badly.”
Yoga is celebrated abroad but is facing step-motherly treatment at home, where it originated, says Nethaji. His future plans include opening a yoga school for those with disabilities, which will render free service. Considering his family’s financial situation, he has also set his sights on bagging a Government job. Those willing to help the youngster with funds can contact him at 91-8015496164. email@example.com
Not many people are aware that yoga could help women in delivering babies without complications or help them have a regular menstrual cycle R Nethaji, MSc chemistry, loyola college