Youth Retreat Sadgamaya this year took place May 8-10, 2014 at Amritapuri. Around 1,800 children attended, 1,000 boys and 800 girls, all from the 10th grade in Amrita Vidyalayam schools in Kerala.
The Amrita Yoga Classes led by Brahmacharini Shobha were an important part of the 3 days’ Sadgamaya schedule. The Archana was done a little earlier, with the boys’ class beginning at exactly 6a.m.,and followed immediately after by the girls’ class. All were sleepy but in a good mood.
About fifty International volunteers guided these classes. Our job was mainly to direct the hundreds of youth to their spots in the bhajan hall. It was about keeping an eye on the students and helping them follow the instructions of the yoga teacher.
We had many meetings in preparation for what we thought would be a gang of unruly youngsters. We were mistaken! One of the main coordinators, Rachel Korbee from Netherlands, had her room just next to ours, so that she could keep us informed and share ideas. Her enthusiasm and creative thinking were in full force!All of us got swept up in the energy. We saw nobody looking bored or impatient.
The day began with a dynamic and playful yoga, with hand clapping and laughter. Shobha played with them happily, having years of experience with children’s yogasana sessions at schools all over India. She gave them choices, and they responded with enthusiasm.
“Did you sleep?”
“How many hours of sleep did you get? One? Two?”
Sleepy eyed, they were given the choice of calm or energetic movements, and each day most chose the energetic! The minority, consisting of girls, opted for calm. Devotedly, they followed Shobha’s lead. Everyone was so attentive you could hear a pin drop.The International volunteers got caught up in their own enthusiasm.We could see Shobha on stage giving instructions while demonstrating the postures at the same time. She went fast and the children enjoyed that. She was able to keep them engaged in a continuous stream of movement.
When Shobha did some advanced postures on the third day, they all broke into cheers and clapping! They loved being challenged and were impressed by their teacher’s expertise.The tree pose was what blew us away. A sea of students stood as still as stone, rooted and relaxed.Such an elevated atmosphere! After the workout, the relaxation. We had seen incredible enthusiasm to try even difficult postures.
The teachers asked the students to touch the International volunteers’ feet at the end of the last class. It was done such sincerity and sweetness that many had tears in their eyes as they received the traditional sign of respect and youthful gratitude. Sleep deprived as they were, they students remained disciplined, attentive and respectful throughout the three days.
The small art exhibit of the 15-year-olds by the stage was dazzling. Hanuman and other gods were portrayed with true feeling and creative brilliance. Some seemed so alive they almost jumped off the paper! A school play of Sri Rama accompanied Amma on stage. A warrior stance by one boy embodied Sri Rama’s majesty, eyes radiating divine power. Kaikeyi was a bundle of nerves, words tumbling out restlessly. Even her eyelids fluttered in distress! You had to wonder if these children were professional actors! Were they really just kids under that makeup?Lakshmana strode with anger at Kaikeyi’s mad decree, but radiant Sita walked humbly to her fate. At the end of the play, an innocent voice, reverberating with sincerity and emotion, called out, “We love you, Amma!”
When Amma announced more such camps, the response was a unanimous testament to the discipline and care demonstrated in the Amrita Vidyalayam Schools.
The volunteers had their ownAmrita Yoga class with Shobha as a parting gift. Expertly, she began with the tiny tots version, then went on to the 8 to 12-year-old version, then to the teen, and finally to the adult. It was like witnessing the birth and growth of Yoga, culminating in sacred silence!
Thank you, Amma, for this amazing event!