Over the past decade, economic power and prosperity have come India’s way. However, the country's new prosperity remains elusive for many. Millions of people, a significant proportion of them living in rural communities, still lead lives of abject poverty. Isha Foundation’s Action for Rural Rejuvenation (ARR) initiative is a multi-dimensional program with a holistic approach towards improving the overall health and quality of life of the rural poor. Since its inception, ARR has reached more than 4600 villages, serving a population of over 7 million people.
ARR has always made innovative use of sports, community games, and yoga to revive the spirit of rural communities. Villages have united beyond divisions such as caste and creed by coming together in volleyball and throwball teams, participating in yoga programs and by taking part in tournaments such as the ‘Rural Olympics.’
Recognizing ARR’s innovative and effective use of sports in community development, Mr. Saggar and Mr. Ganapathy from the Panchayat Yuva Kendra and Khel Abhyan (PYKKA) project – a rural sports initiative of the Central Government – and Mr. Kevin from UNICEF, visited Isha Foundation in April 2010. Following the visit, Isha Foundation was chosen to participate in a sports training program in Cuba between January 15th and February 17th, 2011. Smt. Kavitha was invited to attend the training as a representative of Isha Foundation. She writes about her month-long Cuban Adventure,
“Though a small country, Cuba excels in sports and is ranked 10th in World Sports. Being a country with minimal resources, it produces international athletes of high caliber. The Cubans view sports as a channel for improving health. Their motto is mass participation and sports for all, which resonates with PYKAA’s objective. Children who excel in sports during their schooling are given an option to take up sports as their choice of specialization after school. The training is given by the government and such children are supported financially by government funding. It would be a learning experience for the Indian Sports Authority to get an exposure to Cuba’s approach towards sports and training.
We were inducted into the training program on January 17th. Ms. Daliah at the National Institute of Cuba was our training coordinator. The training mainly emphasized the reason why sports was considered important throughout the country.
We were visited by trainers, sports doctors and instructors who delivered lectures and gave presentations. We had field trips to various places like the National Institute of Gymnastics, and to see Aerobics, Dance and sports.
In a practical session, I demonstrated asanas to the group and initiated the Indian coaches into Aumkar Meditation. After my demonstration, six coaches came up to me to learn Surya Namaskar. I also introduced Sounds of Isha and Project GreenHands music. Ms. Daliah, our coordinator loved Sounds of Isha and made the Cuban school children dance to our music in the last week of the training. I shared a few words about Isha as a spiritual organization that is recognized worldwide. I also spoke about Isha’s social outreach projects for education, environment and health.
Ms. Daliah at the end of the training spoke of her experience,
In your group I got introduced to Kavitha first and through her I saw what Indian culture is.
They are now planning to introduce yoga into their sports regime in the next year.
In Cuba, I could feel Sadhguru’s presence in every step. This training gave me an opportunity to see how fortunate I am to live in Isha where the highest possibility is offered. When I look at myself and think as to what I would have been if not for Isha or Sadhguru, I have no words to say.”