Menstruation and menstrual hygiene has always been a silent topic in many parts of the world. This topic has been often considered as a taboo. Many people feel uncomfortable while discussing these topics and to a surprise most of them are females. Women spend about 6 to 7 years of their lives menstruating, as compared to this statistic the level of education about menstrual hygiene is very low. Project Pavitra sensitises girls on the issue of menstrual hygiene through Health, Hygiene and The Art of Living Happiness Program for adolescent girls.
One of the dynamic Pavitra Star is Mrs. Neera Chopra. She has reached over 2500 girls within a short span of two weeks with great spirit and enthusiasm. She shared that while conducting the programmes, the girls in the workshop used to feel embarrassed as well as ashamed to talk about menstruation. It was after Neeraji told that even she gets menstruated and it’s completely normal for a healthy body to menstruate once a month, the girls felt comfortable and normal. For her the ice breaking was quiet easy as she herself becomes a kid with the younger ones in the workshop. According to her this helps the younger girls to gel up with her and to share their problems with more intensity.
“ Women spend around 6 to 7 years of their lives menstruating. ”
While conducting such workshops she came across a girl, Neerja who thought of menstruation as cancer. At the age of 12 she got her periods, she hesitated to share it with her mother for two days. On sharing it with her mother she got a long list of rules to follow, such as – carrying a dupatta, wearing salwar kameez, not to talk to boys, not to wear frocks, not to play much, to name a few. These restrictions made her feel that menstruation is rather a punishment given to her by the god anti was better if she was a boy. Only after the intervention of Neera Chopra she realised that menstruation is a natural process and is an eternal part of a woman’s body which helps in keeping the human body healthy.
Neera Chopra further shares that the workshop should not only be conducted with girls but also with their mothers. The mother is the first person to whom a girl speaks with. She is the one who sows the seed of knowledge and understanding in her daughters. If the are ignorant of the topic then they might end up in giving misleading guidelines just as Neerja’s mother. Thus it is important that the mothers are well aware of menstruation, hygiene and sanitation. It includes awareness about sanitary pads, their disposal, type of food to eat during these days and so on. Mother is the first school at any house, thus the women should be made educated about menstruation so that they further educate their daughters about it.
Neera Chopra truly sticks to the saying that, “ A well educated woman not only educates but also empowers the entire house.” Her contribution has changed many mindsets of the adolescent girls and women. The number of girls using sanitary pads instead of cloth have increased with good numbers. She is an ultimate inspiration who works with complete zeal and passion for the project. Such enthusiasm if shown by each one of us will definitely lead in changing the current scenario.
– Aditi Nalawade
Paritranaya sadhunam vinashaya cha dushkrutam
Dharma samsthapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge
From time immemorial, whenever adharma has raised its head, enlightened Masters have taken birth in human form to uplift humanity and re-establish dharma. In the past, Lord Sri Krishna, Gautam Buddha, Adi Shankaracharya and such have taken the onus for social transformation through spirituality.
In Kaliyuga, we are fortunate to walk the planet as contemporary of our spiritual Guru and humanitarian Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji (Gurudev). He is uplifting humanity through various programs designed for people from every walk of life, adults and children alike.
‘Catch them young’ is a famous proverb that has profound significance. Sri Sri Sanskar Kendra (SSSK), an initiative of the Art of Living under the aegis of Ved Vignan Mahavidya peetha is envisioned and blessed by Pujya Gurudev for inculcating human values, imbibe our tradition, culture and develop a sense of pride towards our desh, dharm and sanskriti in children between the ages 7 to 11 years.
Gurudev says, “Just as a sapling needs watering to blossom fully, young children need ‘Sanskars’ for nurturing human values”. Spread in 18 states of India and 7 other countries of the continent, there are currently 1,150 Kendras running with around 45,000 children getting established in spirituality and human values. 4,500 SSSK teachers are imparting this precious knowledge to children joyfully with dedication and commitment. Numbers are growing consistently
What do we teach?
“Education is not about feeding our kids with useful information. It is to make them beautiful citizens of our planet”-Sri Sri
Children and youth need value based leadership. While schools impart formal education, children imbibe values from elders in the family and society. The hindrance to nurture values in children can be attributed to disintegration of joint family system, changing priorities and the advent of gadgets. Economic growth must be supported by a strong foundation of values for a nation to develop. In the present scenario of changing ethos, it has necessitated bridging the gap.
Therefore, starting from the age of 7 years, we, in Sri Sri Sanskar Kendra instill values in children through teaching from a manual blessed by Gurudev,
1. Shlokas, Dohas, Mantras
2. Simple and effective Yoga Asanas
3. Inspirational stories
4. Wonderful explanation of science behind simple things, ‘Wonder!’ that brings out a WoW.
5. Grand ma’s home remedies to reduce dependence on doctors and pharmacy.
All in a playful, family like atmosphere complemented by lot of learning through games and activities, singing Bhajans and dancing.
Regional and national festivals are celebrated.
Children and teachers look forward to 2-hour, once a week, interactive joyful session. Parents report remarkable change in the outlook and conduct of their children, so much so, they are requesting for similar sessions for themselves!
Thus laying a strong foundation, we encourage children to attend other programs blessed by Gurudev such as
Prajna Yoga (Intuition Process)
Children who are attending SSSK sessions are reported to exhibit sharper intuition.
Utkarsha Yoga (8 to 13 years) and Medha Yoga (13+ to 18 years)
Human values like compassion, belongingness, caring and sharing are further nurtured along with other spiritual practices and Sudarshan Kriya. Again, it is observed that Sri Sri Sanskar Kendra children absorb the learning better and practice. Established in Sadhana, Seva and Satsang, they become strong pillars of support to the society, nation and world at large.
Some of the long term changes we can foresee
The need for Deaddiction Centres becomes redundant.
There will be a drop in juvenile delinquencies.
Children realize the importance of revering our cows, farmers and natural farming, honouring food, custom and tradition such as rangoli, lighting lamps, pujas and many more.
They stand up for the nation and be the change to rebuild Ramarajya where dharma prevails above all else.
Jai Guru Dev
Teacher-Advanced Meditation program
Teacher-Sahaj Samadhi Dhyan Yoga
Teacher Trainer-Sri Sri Sanskar Kendra
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Sri Sri Sanskar Kendra
In India, menstrual cycles are still mentioned in a hush-hush tone. The taboo restricts urban women to discuss menstrual cycles openly. In a lot of places, women are considered impure during this period. They are restricted from entering the kitchen, cooking, touching pickle, touching or getting close to Holy books or Puja room or even sleeping on a mattress. It is almost that the women feel forced to feel apologetic about such a natural and beautiful aspect of their lives and live with the most known secret.
It gets trickier to create awareness when one struggles to find an audience willing to shun the apprehension and to begin with, just listen. If the topic can’t be broached, how does one create awareness on menstrual hygiene, pain relief, mood management and tips to look after oneself? Art of Living Foundation’s Pavtira Project, the name itself means purity, aims to do just that. It intends to make women confident, shun the myths, embrace this aspect of womanhood and focus on their health and hygiene. Reshma Tandon, an entrepreneur from Nainital, takes us through her journey with the Pavitra Project that enabled her to reach out to close to 650 girls within a matter of two weeks.
Reshma has a showroom of woollen garments and is an Art of Living Foundation’s volunteer. She has been a part of the Happiness Women’s Collective for Underprivileged Women and Children. The initiative looked at arranging vocational courses for women and train them to make diyas, paper bags etc. Further, sessions with gynaecologist to speak on hygiene were arranged. General check ups were conducted for the underprivileged women. They are now planning to organise a health camp.
Reshma was doing her bit for the society. She had no clue about the beautiful direction her life was about to take. She chanced upon Ria Tayal’s writeup on inviting interested people to be a part of this project. Reshma was short of time yet she realised that Pavitra Project is the need of the hour. “ I was very clear that I would take this up only for a month or two when my workload is less during the off-season time. By Gurudeva Sri Sri Ravishankar ji’s grace, things fell into place and I have been able to take back-to-back courses and have some more lined up,” she said. Reshma felt that the courses beautifully fit into her schedule and she also found the energy to keep going. “All of this was Gurudev’s grace,” she added.
Elaborating on the Pavitra Project, she said, “ Pavitra Project reaches out to girls from age 10 to 19. They are taught pranayams that will help them manage their moods and ensure emotional wellbeing. We suggest healthy eating options that will help them out during their menstrual cycles. We give them homely tips and exercises that will help them manage pain and we create awareness on menstrual hygiene.”
The project comprises of an hour and a half every day for three days. She says the icebreaking takes a day. On the first day of the project, they find the girls giggling and somehow managing it through the session. On the second day, they begin to talk and by the third day, they blossom into confidence and do enactments and share their stories. “It is such a beautiful journey of three days and the transformation is heart-warming,” Reshma added.
“I felt Gurudev’s grace flowing. I came to realise that I just need to do my bit and everything else will be taken care of. Things happened with such good energy and so flawlessly, it has been beautiful,” she said and one could sense contentment and gratitude trickle down her voice.
Reshma wants to now reach out to nearby villages with the Pavitra Project. Kudos to her journey of spreading awareness and smiles!
– Shubham Shukla
Chatargaon, a tribal village amidst the Darbhanga forest of Assam had barely seen light for years. The faint sunlight through thick tall groves was the only source of comfort till the project “Light a home” by the Art of Living enlivened the utterly simple lives of the villagers.
With 60 households and a population of 272, the villagehad not been the part of the mainstream development due to its geographical location. There was no availability of electricity, roads or basic health services. Villagers depended on fishery migrant laborers and agriculture for a living. Sri Sri Rural Development Program (SSRDP) Trust (under the aegis of the Art of Living Foundation) did a baseline survey and identified thatbringing amenities to the village was way beyond the financial/geographical outreach of these villagers; hence a need to regulate this poverty of electricity through installation of Solar Micro Grid Systems.
SSRDP proposed to install de-centralized solar micro grids in each household with two to three days of battery backup for rainy days; smart charging/discharging technology to protect the battery from overcharging or excessive power consumption.Villagers beamed smiles of hope rekindled. Within days project planning began; estimated budget, determining the geographical scope, identification of vendors and liaising with local government bodies and panchayat committees was done.
When people come together with belonginess and a common motive, difficult tasks become achievable. Focussed group discussions, community meetings, PRA (Participatory Rural Appraisal) & The Art of living courses like Rural Happiness Program and Youth Leadership Training Program empowered people to take ownership of the project. Thus, a team of empowered volunteers was formed.
Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says, “Taking up responsibility brings immense power”. A self-help group of village women was formed with deposit of Rs.100 per month from each household for the maintenance of the solar grid set-up.Furthermore, two youngsters from the village were trained to handle the system.
And it was time for implementation. Nothing big can be achieved without obstacles and challenges. Transportation of material at site location without damage was one big challenge. Due to the kaccha roads, many vehicle drivers would deny duty or demand high prices. At times the team had to go by walk to the village due to non-availability of vehicle to reach-out the village. Co-ordinating with the ground team and head office was another challenge, the forest being a peaceful place without mobile networks you know.
Darkness cannot exist for long. Like the light that finds its way through clouds or trees, the project was successfully implemented in all 60 households including the Namghar Temple in spite of all the obstacles within a span of just 10 days. The forest village is now self- sustainable, rather lighted and warmer than ever before.
– Tuheena Sharma
Both crime and criminal are treated as unpardonable in any society. Solitary confinement of criminals was thought to be an effective way to help offenders become penitent resulting in transformation. Hence, prison system emerged as the formal way of punishment and is being followed in India since Eighteenth Century.
To bring about a real transformation in the lives of people behind prisons, the Art of living Foundation initiated the Prison SMART program. It involves teaching meditation, yoga, pranayama and Sudarshan Kriya to bring inner peace and transformation. The program has positively impacted the lives of more than 7,00,000 inmates.
Once a person is declared criminal, he is socially unacceptable by the society. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says that prisoners are our fellow brothers/sisters and they need to be transformed from within. The prison SMART program has been started with the objective of increasing social acceptability of the released prisoners. Efforts are also being made to associate the prisoners with the Kaushal Vikas Yojna to provide them employment.
Bhopal Central Jail, Madhya Pradesh, has implemented the Art of Living Prison smart programs for last 2 years and lives of around 2500 prisoners have been impacted through the program. The YLTP (Youth Leadership Training Program) was conducted in July 2017 followed by Prison SMART-Part II program in August 2017. Another prison SMART-Part II program was conducted in March 2018 by senior Art of Living Faculty, Shri Ajay Valecha, assisted by Shri Raj Kishore, Dr. Lokendra Singh kot, Smt. Lata kot. Dinesh Khandelwal and Dr. Nilesh Arya (DIG, ITBP and an Art of Living faculty) and faculty from government, Medical colleges.
Mr. Dinesh Nargave, Jail Superintendent, shared that there are two types of general tendencies among the prisoners. Either they feel guilty of committing the crime and go into depression or they feel very aggressive towards the legal system considering that justice was denied to them.The course has helped them to understand themselves and accept it as their karma/part of life.
He mentioned that Muslim inmates considered Yoga practices as a part of Hindu religion. But gradually they realized that there is no such religious discrimination associated with these courses.
Quoting some of the experiences from the inmates would be worthwhile at this point.
Shri Santosh, one of the inmates, shares, “The program changed me completely and I want to start a new life” Gurpreet from Punjab shares, “I was extremely short tempered, and had lack of understanding. Now, I experience change and I teach Yoga and meditation to my prison mates. Mohammad Anas shares, “He feels more depth in his prayers/offerings”
One inmate mentioned that Sudarshan Kriya helped him realize that ultimate happiness lies within the Self. Another inmate said that Sudarshan Kriya is like a process that turns dirty water into clean water. Positive feelings emerge from the soul.
Have you thought beyond these common varieties of rice – Jeera, SonaMasuri, Basmathi, Steamed and Raw etc. Meet Mr. Mahesh Anand from Chidambaram, an ex-techie, converted into a farmer since 2.5 years. His passion to find and revive the traditional paddy varieties! He works with traditional paddy varieties – Kitchili Samba, Konakkuruvai, Katarniyam and AruvadhanKodai.
Tamilnadu was home to 1300 indigenous varieties of paddy and now sadly on 212 varieties of seeds can be found. Unfortunately, these seeds are not popularly grown and are scarcely found. Mahesh has procured and preserved 12 varieties thus far and aims to find at least 365 indigenous paddy seed varieties. He states the example of Orissa, “A Shiva temple in Orissa offers different varieties of rice everyday to the idol – meaning that they already have 365 varieties of rice.”
Mahesh says, “Eating traditional varieties is beneficial in many ways. Rice is not just a source of sustenance. It is also has medicinal value. I have not eaten any medicines for the past 2 years. Riceseeds provide for my medicinal requirements also. This is how our ancestors lived – they understood the medicinal and nutritional value of indigenous varieties.”
“Promoting traditional varieties of rice can also result in lowered cost of rice.The process used by farmers uses almost 20 to 30 kgs of seeds per acre but the natural farming technique that I userequires only 3 to 5 kgs of seed per acre. This ensures huge savings”, says Mahesh Anand.
Inspired by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Mahesh wants to encourage new organic farmers to explore farming with indigenous paddy seeds and he sells these seeds to farmers. He aims to create awareness of the benefits of using indigenous paddy seeds in natural farming.
Remembering my revered father on this World Earth Day. He was serving in Railways and had a transferable job. We lived in railway quarters, a different home every couple of years. Those days Railway quarters had a huge backyard. We would grow beans, okra, greens and flowers for family consumption.Once my father decided to plant a coconut tree. He got a sapling, squatted and prepared the ground. Then put the sapling in the small pit, closed with more mud, watered and got up with a face shining with fulfillment. We, children asked him ‘ What is the use of planting a coconut tree? We won’t be around to enjoy the fruits’.
My father, with such serenity and simplicity, said ‘ so what? Someone else will enjoy’. That day he not only planted a coconut tree but also a seed of sanskar (values) in his children. Years later, when he was no more, I felt a great desire to see the coconut tree he had planted. My husband and I along with my cousin visited our home which was now occupied by the current Railway officials.
We introduced ourselves and told them the reason for our visit. They were happy to receive us. However,I did not sit down for any pleasantries.
I walked past to the backyard. There indeed stood the majestic coconut tree full of fruits. I just stood there gazing, transfixed! I relived those moments of planting the tree and my father seemed to smile from heaven.
The family said ‘ We always remember the person who planted the tree with gratitude, although we do not know who it was’. We talked about the person he was. His love for doing good to others, not just people but also to animals and plants, to honor God given resources. As a young girl, I used to be picky about my choice of food. If I did not like the taste of food, I preferred to leave it in the plate than force myself to eat what I did not relish.My father’s voice echos even today gently but firmly telling me to honor food. The tears glistened and I learnt the value of doing good for the sake of doing good, because we cant help but do good.
I had not dreamt in my wildest dreams that some day Sri Sri Ravi Shankar would make an unannounced entry in my ordinary life and give me an extraordinary vision about all that was initiated by my parents and the extended family members that include my grandparents very prominently. Vasundhara,a Sanskrit word which means ‘Possessor of wealth’ is our Mother Earth. Our ‘ Mother Earth Day’ is everyday , not just once a year, as we express our gratitude to her during Disha Pranayam (Bowing Down process).
Praying for green earth and brimming rivers,
Jai Guru Dev
Let us celebrate the journey of these 500 women who have risen like a phoenix from the ashes. The story begins with six women starting to write their futures, and little did they know, they were set on the path to change life of several hundred others. They have given the gift of a self-sustaining community to the society for future generations to depend on.
We heard this story at the International Women’s day conference organized by the Art of Living Foundation and couldn’t help but share and spread the joy. Two women, Art of Living volunteers, walked into rural areas of Bangalore hoping to get together women to meditate. Those were, however, their first steps into lives of these women and beginning of beautiful future waiting to unfold.
The Art of Living volunteers fondly known as Sankari Amma and Padmini Amma took very little time to realize that the women and their families were struggling to meet their day-to-day needs. The women were dependent on their husbands and more often than not, the men were consumed in alcohol. They were somehow surviving and living on debts to be able to feed their children. The volunteers reached out to Gurudeva Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and asked for guidance. It was decided that the women need to be vocationally trained to take charge of their lives and families. Two more volunteers were sent from ashram to train these 4 women (to begin with) to make jute bags. These women, who were tired of waiting for the circumstances to change, could now make and sell these bags to earn their living. Unaware of the jargon floating around but tuning into their intuitions, women realized that they need soft skills training or in their words, “learn to talk and communicate.” With support from the Art of Living volunteers, these women could now efficiently market and sell their bags.
As the word spread, more and more women came forward and joined hands to form an informal self help group. The group started noticing that a lot of these women had skills and were equipped to earn their living; they just needed a platform and motivation. The group started identifying women from the village who already had the knowledge of making aggarbattis (incense sticks), soaps etc. They were brought in to train others who were looking for opportunities to be able to earn their bread. Also, women who enjoyed cooking were identified and trained. They eventually started cooking meals in offices and homes. Some of them now are looking forward to rent a place and run a small canteen.
It is amazing how the strategies of the corporate world were intuitively and seamlessly put into practice without realizing the impact that they were creating. Innocently, one step led to another. There were no white boards, power point presentations, meetings and seminars, the women followed their hearts and with the help of Art of Living volunteers pursued their dreams. Now, each member has a bank account and the only rule to be a part of this self help group is that members need to send their children to school. Art of Living volunteers have not only come forward to empower these women but are making sure that the children are sent to school.
It has been 14 years since the four women first came together. They still do not have an office or a place to meet up. They meet up on one of the volunteer’s terraces. But their journey is inspiring: From struggling to earn their bread to now sending their children off to school and colleges, from burdensome debts to now being able to pay off their loans and save some money, from feeling lonely and waiting for situations to change to coming together to form a big family of close to 500 women who stick to each other and led a shoulder in times of need.
While, we were listening to their stories awestruck, these women would burst into smiles and then into tears recalling their journey. They know their life has turned around but they are innocently unaware of the extent of impact that they are creating. Hiding behind their shy smiles, they do not know that these are the stories that move the world to believe in goodness, karma, happiness and writing one’s own destiny. A happy one world family? The Art of Living dream doesn’t seem so far fetched.
Yoga is back in fashion and how. On World Yoga Day 2017, under the banner of “Sun Never Sets on Yoga” ; hosted by the Art of Living Foundation, Jeyakumar of Chennai attempted to set a new world record of doing 108 Surya Namaskars in less than 15 minutes. One Surya Namaskar consists of 12 different asanas done in sequence. Those who do yoga will agree that one round of Surya Namaskar itself takes the breath away. It is a complete set of body workout that has multiple benefits.
Jeykumar is an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer working with KLM Airlines. Passionate about his work he says,” My erratic work schedule, constant travelling and irregular sleeping habits gave me all life-style related problems at a young age. I suffered from severe back and neck ache, knee pain and obesity by the time I hit my 30’s. I became very irritable and depressed.” The turning point came when he came in contact with Art of Living’s Sri Sri Yoga in Chennai. With a job that had was very dynamic he could not keep up with his practices. His body ache continued and increased. Finally on the advice of his yoga teacher Mr. Venkatesh; he set a goal of 48 days regular practice for himself. Jeyakumar managed to squeeze in an hour of yoga in his busy and erratic schedule. His resolve strengthened once he crossed 25 days of regular practice.
He experienced a wonderful calmness descend on him, all his aches and pains reduced. His body listened to him, his mind was serene and he seemed to have more energy than ever before. During one session he could finish 108 Surya Namskars and 30 push-ups in 30 minutes, his yoga mentors Chayya Anna and Venkatesh encouraged him to think of attempting a world record. Jeyakumar decided to extend his practice to 108 days. On the 105th day of his practice he is confident of making a world record as he has bettered his timing. It was a happy coincidence for him that his 108 days of sankalp completed on 18th of June on the same day when he attempted the world record. He says,” With the blessing of my Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and the support of my teachers and colleagues I can surely reach my goal and make our country proud.” He is also an Art of Living teacher and finished a certificate course in Yoga.
More than 200 people joined him to do yoga on the Sun Never Sets on Yoga Day, 2017 on Elliots beach, in Chennai. Jeyakumar attempted his world record in the presence of two certified yoga teachers and two gazetted officers on behalf of the Limca Book of Records after the IYD protocol
- He entered the Limca book of records for doing fastest 108 suryanamaskar