Namaste for Compassion Brings Yoga to Underserved Communities

Nayantara Rodrigues at a recent Yoga session at Phoenix Academy in Fresno, Ca. (Photo courtesy of Namaste for Compassion)

It all began when Nayantara Rodrigues and her husband Carmo went to Mumbai, India to visit his family and she was struck by so many street children, some with missing limbs, begging on the streets.

“Some have captors who cut off their arms and legs so they’ll beg for them and keep all the money,” she said. “I mean, it’s heartbreaking and they’re everywhere.”

These children are orphans, victims of abduction and homeless. She felt compelled to do something and so, when she got home, she was determined to do just that.

She started a fundraiser on her Facebook page and put together a fundraising yoga class. With the help of her friends, she was able to raise $5,000 which, on her next trip to Mumbai, she was able to donate to Bal Pushpa House, a tiny orphanage that occupies a two room flat run by a retired nun who takes in the street children and cares for them.

After this success, they began small fundraisers for other worthy causes, such as raising money to dig a well for a school in Africa in memory of Clovis Unified administrator, Gavin Gladding, who was killed by a hit and run driver in 2018. They also raised funds for Together Rising, an online organization that identifies needs and raises money through donations.

Through these efforts, the non-profit Namaste for Compassion was born.

The mission of Namaste for Compassion is to bring the benefits of yoga to underserved communities and, according to their website, “we help those in need attain tangible or monetary resources with a view to alleviate their community’s burdens in meaningful ways.”

Currently, Nayantara and her team of yoga instructors provide free or discounted yoga classes to CASA, Ronald McDonald House, Juvenile Justice Campus and Marjaree Mason Center.

She says, “A lot of mental health workers that work in the community for underserved communities, they don’t really get the time or energy after a long day to provide their own self-care, so we’re kind of bringing self-care to them.” She sees yoga as a bridge to good mental health.

Soon, they will be teaming up with the Fresno Police Chaplaincy to find ways to aid first responders.

Nayantara, who, like her husband, is originally from India, was exposed to yoga all her life, but only began practicing in 2016 after attending a class with friend and Namaste for Compassion board member, Crystal Uyeno. In 2017, she went to Goa, India and got her yoga instructor training. In addition to being a yoga instructor at Four Corners Yoga, Nayantara is also a licensed marriage and family therapist.

She finds talk therapy and yoga equally beneficial.

“Because I am a licensed marriage and family therapist,” she says, “I know the importance of [talk therapy], but I also know the importance of syncing mind, body and soul and really knowing your body, knowing your breath, being really mindful, being present.”

She has seen the benefits of this as they apply to the young women she has instructed at Juvenile Justice Campus. Many of them come from traumatic backgrounds and have pimps on the outside, so they “don’t have this ownership over their body,” she says. “They can’t be still with their body.” As such, they have a hard time being still and connecting during Nayantara’s yoga class.

But at the end of the four to six weeks she spends with them, she finds they have found that connection, found the ability to be still and their feedback has been very positive.

Nayantara hopes to make Namaste for Compassion a fixture in the Clovis community.

“We want to be consistent and wherever we choose to go, be there for a very long time,” she says. “So, you know, Marjaree Mason Center, Ronald McDonald House and Juvenile Justice Campus, I don’t want to just be there for six months, I want to be there for years and years and years to come.”

For more information, or follow them on Facebook or Twitter, @namasteforcompassion.