Sahaja Yoga Meditation at Schools in DUBAI

Sahaja Yoga Meditation at Schools in DUBAI

“Enjoy the silence,” their instructor said in a soothing dulcet voice as the 15-minute morning session on Thursday drew to a close. “Bring your thoughts to the present. Leave the past and future where they are.”

A fidgety girl in the front row strained to keep her eyes closed when soft instrumental music began playing through portable speakers. Most of her classmates however seemed lost in the meditative process.

“Meditation is only as effective as the willingness and openness of the individual to the experience,” the instructor said, referring to the few restless teenagers among the lot.

Disconnecting with schedules and deadlines

Star of the school’s athletics team, Heena Tahiliani, was only eager to share the positive effects of morning meditation sessions. “I’m a very active person which is why I initially didn’t expect anything from the sessions.

I thought it would be boring since there is very little movement involved. After the first session, I could notice a difference in the way I manage my day.

I suddenly had more time for everything and a lot more energy to balance my training and studies. It’s a great way to start the day,” she said. “PE is very vigorous and exhausting and you only feel the benefits afterwards. With meditation, you feel calm while you’re doing it and stay energised throughout the day,” Heena’s classmate, Jesika Agarwala added.

Meditating their stress away

Abhinav Sharma, a proponent of meditation through Sahaja Yoga, has been pitching its effectiveness to schools across the UAE for months. “Sahaja Yoga focuses on meditation. By introducing 10 to 15 minutes of mindful silence into the lives of children, we hope to awaken their positive energy,” he told Khaleej Times. Setting aside vague philosophical terms, Sharma added that the benefits of meditation on young impressionable minds have been recorded the world over. “Children are like soft clay. Meditation can bring discipline into their lives by helping them learn how to channel their energy to the present. We are all guilty of spending most of our time dwelling in the past or planning for the future. With the amount of stress schoolchildren are under these days, it can only be beneficial for them to learn calming techniques and positive affirmations early in the morning.”

After eight years of practicing yoga with his family, 14-year-old Abhay Anand’s daily routine includes meditation sessions per day. “It’s an important part of my life because it helps me stay positive and relaxed. I feel like I have more time to assess situations, and to think before I react,” he said.

Sidharth Lalwani, new to the entire process, commented on the unexpected physical changes 15 minutes of meditation can bring.

“First I felt my arms getting heavy. My hands felt hot and prickly, like there was energy buzzing at the ends of my fingers. Then when (the instructor) asked me to raise my hand, I felt hot air rise from the top of my head. After a few sessions, the air above my head started to get cooler,” he shared.

The science behind this form of meditation suggests that various core points in the body known as ‘chakras’ are activated by focusing on the present and avoiding mental distractions. The warm or cool air they feel is a reflection of their state of mind, according to practitioners. Each chakra is said to represent different parts of the body and mind, and addressing the way these points feel after the meditative sessions reportedly help practitioners better streamline their lives.

Most of the students polled agreed that their alertness and attention spans have improved. Psychologists might attribute that to a kind of placebo effect, but in Abu Dhabi-based psychologist, Dr Mehnaz Koory’s opinion, the end justifies the means. “Even if the positive effects of meditation are psychologically linked, the end result is that teenagers who may be over-stimulated by technology are taking time out to connect with themselves in silence. Everyone could take a page out of these kids’ book and use a small window of time during the day to disconnect with their schedules and deadlines,” she said.

This style of meditative yoga has been adopted in more than 100 countries around the world, with studies conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles, claiming that meditation effectively lowers levels of teen depression, aggression, and stress.

The UAE faction of Sahaja Yoga is made up of working professionals holding down day jobs, who still see merit in setting aside their mornings to guide children through daily affirmations. Currently two schools in the UAE have engaged the group for their extracurricular meditation training: Delhi Private School Sharjah and Millennium School Dubai.

Sharma and his team have held one-off meditation sessions at other institutions as well, including local girls’ school, Anisa Al Ansariya School, and sessions for the staff at Rashid Hospital.

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