On Sunday, July 12th, a group of around 100 Isha volunteers set out to run, walk, or complete 108 sun salutations to raise awareness and funds to support education in rural India. The effort took place as part of Sevathon 2015, held in Baylands Park and sponsored by the India Community Center. Isha volunteers have participated in this annual event for several years as part of their efforts to raise funds and awareness for Isha Vidhya schools.
These dedicated volunteers and their generous donors have raised around $40,000 so far, enough to provide a year of scholarship for over 160 deserving children! Below, a few of the 25+ volunteers who participated in the Yogathon event share their experience.
Jordan Funk, an Isha Hatha Yoga teacher and volunteer, shares:
“It was a truly exhilarating experience, with many pushing well beyond their limitations and inspiring awe in passerby. Over two hours, the participants showed that classical yoga is alive and well, and can be used as a tool to accomplish great social work.
After several months of watching the group train, it was such a tremendously beautiful sight to watch the group fully focused and enjoying their practice amidst a whirlwind of activity. A friendly reminder that yoga isn’t something that happens in a vacuum (or the comfort of a yoga studio), anywhere is the right place to practice yoga. Even to outsiders it was very clear that something was different with this group. Though others were practicing sun salutations, one of the event organizers commented that the purity of the practice and the level of involvement each participant showed was truly remarkable.
During the Yogathon I would take breaks to check on the group, and it just brought tears to watch this group going through a very vigorous and challenging event with such joy, making it seem so effortless. But even more so, knowing that they were there to help ensure children far less fortunate than we are would have a chance to get ahead with high quality education.
Several in the group met or surpassed the 108 cycles of Surya Namaskar, but it’s not the volume that is important. Seeing each person beaming with energy and enthusiasm afterwards is the true testament to the power of Hatha Yoga.”
Sonal, another Yogathon participant, also shared about her experience on Sunday:
“I had an amazing experience at the Sevathon yesterday while doing Surya Namaskar with fellow Isha meditators. I think I was able to do more than 70 Surya Namaskars.
Our teacher Jordan created a space for us where we could do the Surya Namaskar at our own pace as our own practice undistracted by all the hustle and bustle around. I am very thankful to him and Isha for bringing the practice to me and taking me this far.
Initially I began at a slow pace and then slowly caught up the momentum a bit. But I felt a tremendous control over my body and mind as the practice progressed. I experienced a very focused moving meditation in the middle of all the noise around. And the energy I felt was exhilarating. If only my everyday life could be like that .
Thank you friends for supporting the cause. Thank you to my father and husband for keeping all affairs at home in order and taking care of my son while I was at the event. Thanks to my daughter who woke up at 5:00 am to come with me to cheer me up, but was able to decide at the spur of the moment and run a 10K for Isha Vidya at the event.”
Ravishankar Nilakantan expresses his excitement at reaching his goal, as well as his inspiration for participating:
“I have been practicing Surya Namaskars for a few years now and I always wondered and dreamed of hitting the magic 108 number though I never got even close to it. When I heard that there was an opportunity to participate in a Yogathon in Sevathon, our popular local fund raising campaign to raise funds for Isha Vidhya, I immediately jumped on it and signed up to do 108 Namaskars. It was a double treat, since I get to not only train for the Yogathon but also do it for a cause that is very dear to my heart.
I started training towards this effort from 4 weeks prior as I wanted to be in good shape during the event. Initially I was puffing and panting to do 12 but as the weeks went by I could see my body and stamina improving tremendously. The postures and practice itself started getting way better, thanks to our local Hatha teacher in the Bay Area. I trained with him every week and received valuable corrections to the practice. I am ever in gratitude to the teacher as so many subtle corrections suggested changed my experience of the practice in a big way. As the weeks went by I could slowly increase my daily dose more and more. Going about 54, I could see tremendous heat being generated in my body and I was literally burning. This pushed me to go on a full vegetable/fruit diet and follow all the grandma remedies from applying castor oil to consuming fennel seeds and coconut water. Eventually they helped in cooling the system. Initially I had thought doing more Surya Namaskars would make me tired as would the repetition of any other physical activity, whereas on the contrary I was bubbling with energy more and more as I increased the count.
Going through all this effort and training made my connection with whole campaign a lot deeper. I reached out to every friend and family member I knew and explained why I was doing this and what a big difference their contribution could make to the lives of these kids. The response I got from people around me overwhelmed me. I never had expected this. People and friends of friends I did not even know came forward and contributed to support the effort. I had setup a big personal goal of raising funds for 20 kids and thanks to so many many gracious friends, family and colleagues I am very close to reaching that.
The day of the event arrived. It was a beautiful and cool morning and the 30 of us participating started bowing down to the sun in unison. After practicing on hard floors indoors for a month, doing the Surya Namaskar outside on a cool day in the grass was such a rejuvenating experience. I did not sweat a drop thanks to the gentle wind gusts, when usually I would be drenched and dripping. I started going at it effortlessly and thanks to all the training, before I knew it came the 108. I was thoroughly and totally over joyed. A fitting finale!
Now the event is over and I can not wait for the next year’s version to make the campaign bigger and raise more awareness and support for Isha Vidhya. And I already miss my 108…”
Though this year’s Yogathon is over, you can still support Isha Vidhya in empowering rural children with high quality education. Just $240 will support one child’s scholarship for an entire year!