Jefferson Awards: Teaching Yoga’s Healing Virtues To Ease Bay Area’s Pain

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Bidyut K. Bose leads a yoga class (CBS)

Bidyut K. Bose leads a yoga class (CBS)

OAKLAND (CBS 5) – The stress of modern life can take its toll. But one East Bay man is making it his mission ease that burden for everyone. Kate Kelly reports this week’s Jefferson Award winner is bringing yoga to a whole new population in need.

Growing up in India, Bidyut K. Bose, or B.K. for short, first learned yoga with his father. It’s a discipline he has practiced throughout his life, and it helped him cope with the stress of a high-pressure Silicon Valley career. But he noticed the toll that stress was taking on those around him.

“I basically became a student of stress — you know, what is it doing?” he remembers. “I found that stress was a critical factor in just about every chronic condition: hypertension, diabetes, anxiety, you name it.”

B.K. cites studies that show chronic stress can affect emotions, focus, even self-control.

“You start to realize that if we can indeed lower stress and increase self control, that could have a profound impact; a powerful catalyst that could really transform us and heal our communities,” he says.

So ten years ago B.K. left the technology field to start the Niroga Institute, an Oakland based non-profit that brings yoga and mindful movement to a whole new audience, like seniors who participate in one of the hundred free classes Niroga offers at 40 different sites around the Bay Area.

John Aranguren will be 90 in March… and says he wishes he’d started yoga earlier.

“It makes you concentrate,” John reports. “Believe it or not, just counting takes your mind off whatever you think daily. I’m hoping to get some of my family interested — they need it!”

A big part of the Niroga Institute’s mission is to change the face and the zip code of yoga, and that means bringing it to the communities where it’s most needed, like hospitals, juvenile hall, and inner city schools. Last year, Niroga’s yoga teachers taught after-school classes at Richmond’s Lincoln Elementary School. Amal Aziz worked as the school’s program coordinator.

“Students were a lot more peaceful, a lot more focused, not just inside the classroom, but outside the classroom,” Amal says. “Their energy was a lot more peaceful, a lot more focused.”

Young student Juan says he likes the silence of yoga.

“(It) makes me think what I did wrong and I don’t do that much trouble anymore,” he explains.

That’s exactly what Niroga Program Director Danielle Ancin is hoping the kids get from yoga.

“We fail often to focus on improving their internal environment, building their emotional intelligence, self control, respect for themselves, and their bodies.. and ways to deal with stress,” says Danielle.

Part of B.K.’s mission is to teach a diverse group of instructors so they can help him share yoga with communities that otherwise have no opportunity to experience its benefits.

Danielle calls him a visionary: “He sees the potential that this practice can bring to society.”

B.K. adds, “We know that this is a really powerful catalyst that has tremendous potential that can transform health care and education and violence prevention.”

And he’s doing it one breath at a time. So for transforming lives with the well-being of yoga practice, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to B.K. Bose.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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