According to a report in Healthworld, Economic Times, India has close to 1.8 million visually-impaired children, and their numbers will reach 2 million by 2020.
These figures are alarming. Visual impairment at a young age can have severe consequences on a child’s psyche. Unable to take part in regular activities like playing sports or other group activities which teach essential skills, they often find themselves at a loss.
Well, a man in Delhi is doing his bit to ensure that visually-impaired children can also have a regular childhood and are not left behind due to their disability.
Hemant Sharma is a yoga teacher in the SD Public School in Pitampura (Delhi), and with the help of an NGO called Akhil Bharatiya Netrahin Sangh in Raghubir Nagar, he coaches the Yoga Artists Group—a crew of visually-impaired students—who perform acrobatic yoga under his tutelage. He also teaches acrobatic yoga to children with Intellectual disabilities.
It all started when Hemant would notice his father, who was a former social worker, teaching visually-challenged children.
Hemant was always interested in yoga, and more recently acrobatic yoga, and inspired by his father’s work; he thought it would be great to introduce the children to yoga.
Sharma started teaching kids in 2012 and was in for a pleasant surprise when they picked up the poses in no time. Today, he teaches around 20 children, all aged between 8 to 10 years.
Speaking to The Better India, Sharma praised the dedication of his students and said, “They have great concentration, don’t get so distracted easily, and were successful in learning the postures faster than I had thought.”
The Yoga Artists Group has won many accolades over the years, including the first National Disability Excellence Award, and placed first in MTNL’s Perfect Health Mela where they won the overall championship trophy in the first Yoga Champ Scavenge. The crew has also appeared on TV shows across channels like Doordarshan, Colours TV, and Zee TV.
Recently, they entered the Asia Book of Records on July 19th, 2018, and now hold the record for being the only visually impaired acrobatic yoga team.
Combining yoga and acrobatics, a team of at least two people is required for this challenging practice, and teamwork, confidence, and mutual synergy are important. Practitioners have to always remain in sync, and the slightest mistake can be disastrous.
“One has to stand on their hands, and a lot of strength is required for that,” said Sharma, explaining that in order for the kids to get stronger, he has a unique program and also uses training aids, to help them hold poses which they go on to master.
A typical session is held at the NGO, from 4:00–6:00 pm. Sharma guides the kids and helps them with the poses. Sharma has a unique way of teaching his students—they feel his yoga postures with their hands, and go on to replicate it.
They turned out to be fast learners, who got really good in a short span of time, so Sharma stopped using touch as a medium and now, only relies on verbal instructions. What is more remarkable that the students have even stopped using a walking stick.
Nutrition is also a significant factor for the success of training and performance, so Sharma ensures that the kids have access to a healthy and nutritious diet, and makes suggestions accordingly.
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Sharma says that the children are confident in their movements, not unlike a sighted person, and do not let their disability come in the way of living a good life.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)