Written By: Ved Pimple
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted American society’s lifestyle and has affected every citizen of the country, regardless of the state of their health. Based on a study from the American Obesity Society, time spent on athletic activities decreased by two to four hours per week. While it seems like such a lifestyle is inevitable, one individual has identified and worked to resolve this issue. Mahadesha Ji, a Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) volunteer and head of the Santa Clara Division of HSS, organized a yoga and meditation session through Zoom to combat an unhealthy lifestyle during these unprecedented times. Mahadesha Ji acknowledged that the pandemic would result in mental and physical instability and stress due to the uncertainty of the future. Recalling that the timeless practice of Yoga and Dhyana (meditation) was an essential method to dispel anxiety, Mahadesha Ji realized that this pandemic was the golden opportunity to revive the tradition of Yoga and meditation. Inspiration for the initiative primarily came from the teachings of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh. A characteristic of the HSS is to identify and solve prevalent issues in society. Working alongside Dharmendra Ji, the head of the Northern California division of HSS, Mahadesha Ji contacted various yoga instructors throughout the nation such as Digant Das Ji, a dedicated full-time HSS volunteer, pracharak, to conduct daily yoga sessions.
The yoga initiative’s foundation was an informal grassroots effort done by Mahadesha Ji along with volunteers of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh. The target audience was working adults and parents who needed relief from the stressful pandemic. Thus, to publicize this initiative, the volunteers utilized several platforms. Using the Nextdoor app, Mahadesha Ji spread the yoga initiative’s information to the local neighborhood community. The volunteers also spread the word through WhatsApp, sending the information for the yoga class in local chat groups. They also contacted linguistic groups like the Kannada and Telugu associations to help spread the word of the new yoga session, gathering people from different languages into one language: Yoga. Capitalizing on the diversity of the Bay Area, Mahadesha Ji and the volunteers contacted various ethnic diasporas as well. Attributed mainly to these public efforts, about 190 people signed up to participate in these daily yoga sessions. Set with the foundation of the yoga session, Mahadesha Ji began the sessions on March 18th and continued the yoga sessions for 36 days through May 2nd. The yoga class was conducted through Zoom, having a Monday through Friday schedule from 5-6 PM. Every day, the classes consisted of about 45 people who were dedicated to improving their lifestyle through the yoga services by Mahadesha Ji. Through the healing properties of Yoga and meditation and the teachings of Mahadesha Ji, the anxiety in the adults was assuaged, and they became accustomed to a pandemic lifestyle.
Overall, Mahadesha Ji considered the initiative a huge success because the yoga classes impacted the lives of many individuals who needed relief during these turbulent times. According to Mahadesha Ji, participants enjoyed the session as it gave them a sense of tranquility during a chaotic period of uncertainty. Each participant looked forward to these sessions to experience the eternal tradition of Yoga. The sessions provided the participants with knowledge on the vast tradition of Yoga and unique yoga techniques, so eventually, the participants would carry on the tradition of Yoga themselves. As a learning experience for both him and his attendees, these sessions also allowed Mahadesha Ji to learn a few lessons himself. One lesson Mahadesha Ji learned is that, “If you believe you can achieve a goal, then you eventually will despite being in unprecedented times. Efforts have to come from yourself, and there will always be people for support on your journey.” Mahadesha Ji’s effort to organize a yoga session and serve society during the pandemic illustrates how an obstacle was transformed into an opportunity.
Rundle, Andrew G., et al. “COVID‐19–Related School Closings and Risk of Weight Gain Among Children.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 18 Apr. 2020, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/oby.22813.