Getting a better grip on mind and emotions

By Tanesha Kumaraswamy, Bengaluru, India

During summer holidays, i attended the Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana’s summer camp in Jigani on the outskirts of Bengaluru. At first, I was not interested, as we had to wake up at 5am and there would be no internet access for the kids. I wondered how I would spend my time without email and YouTube. My mother insisted it would be a wonderful time to learn new things. Today, I’m glad I attended the camp, which immensely helped me to be a better student and a good person. It gave me answers as to why we do yoga, pranayama, sing bhajans and follow various practices.

In our camp, we had around 80 kids, including some from neighboring Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Maharashtra. After waking at 5am, we did yoga postures and meditation from 5:30 to 7:00. I felt so good while doing Surya Namaskar. We were taught new postures every two days. Doing yoga early in the morning was very refreshing and in this serene environment made me feel as if I were thousands of miles way from Bengaluru’s rampant traffic and loud noises.

From 7:00 to 8:00, we chanted shlokas and sang bhajans. During breakfast, hot traditional dishes such as idli-sambar and khich­di (rice and lentil with vegetables) were relished by all children. After breakfast, we performed karma yoga, including sweeping the corridors and watering the plants, with bhajans playing in the background. After that work, a warm shower refreshed me for the day’s lecture.

For me, the highlight of the summer camp was listening to these empowering two-hour lectures by trained yoga teachers. Each instructor encouraged us to ask questions at the end of their talk.
I learned about “Mindful Eating,” and now I try to follow this every day. Before attending this summer camp, I thought that eating with a spoon was hygienic. I used to watch TV while having my dinner. According to mindful eating, meals should involve all the five senses. This can be done by focusing our mind on food, seeing the food, then imbibing the aroma, using fingers to eat, and listening to the sound of chewing. My heart fills with happiness and gratitude while following these principles.

Another excellent discourse was “Yoga for Memory Development.” As a student, I have to remember so many historical names, math formulas and science equations to excel in my studies. From the Yoga for Memory Development discourse, I came to know that keeping free from stress, eating good food and getting enough sleep play an important role in memory. Now, I make sure that I eat well, sleep at 10pm, and do yoga or exercise every day. I have noticed that doing pranayama calms my mind, and now I’m stress-free always.

We would end the discourses by doing pranayama, followed by a wholesome lunch—roti, rice, vegetable side dish, rasam (hot lentil soup), dal (thick lentil gravy) and a sweet (kheer or kesari). Everything was cooked with very little oil, and without onions or garlic. The food was tasty, even though the dishes were simple!

In the evenings, I enjoyed playing cricket with the kids for two hours. Some campers played volleyball and kho-kho (a tag game). After playing, we had snacks and then bhajan session. I learned so many uplifting songs, and now I try to sing these bhajans while helping my mother with household chores.

Our last session for the day was called Happy Assembly when kids got an opportunity to showcase their talents. I really enjoyed seeing the amazing talents, as they sang divine songs, recited shlokas or performed traditional and folk dances. One day I danced Bharatanatyam, and another, I chanted ten Bhagavad Gita shlokas. On the last day, I was part of a drama, Bharata Bhakti, based on the Ramayana.

I learned the amazing Deep Relaxation Technique—DRT. On some busy days, when I don’t have time for 30 minutes of yoga, I just do pranayama and padmasana for 8 minutes, and I feel so calm. When I do DRT before going to sleep, I feel so refreshed and enthusiastic when waking in the morning.

During my stay in summer camp, my parents got videos and photos of the activities almost every day. Some of my friends were sad as they were not allowed to call their parents. I also missed checking my email. I feel that kids should be allowed to call their parents and access the internet for half an hour a day.

Attending this summer camp has transformed me into a strong and confident girl. I now know it is possible to be productive and learn new things without the internet! I have learned to adapt to new places and new friends. I told my school friends about this summer camp, and they are inspired to attend in the future! Today, I’m so grateful to God, my parents and teachers for giving me this opportunity to learn everything—from meditation to yoga.

Tanesha Kumaraswamy, 14, is in ninth grade. She enjoys singing devotional songs, yoga and reading about ancient Indian culture.