In November 2016 I started a seva project in a home for blind people situated in Sofa, Bulgaria. The project included activities such as conducting one weekly yoga class, taking the residents for a walk, visiting cultural events.
Although yoga is popular and well accepted in Bulgaria, the staff of the home was very suspicious at the beginning. They even tried to convince me that nothing can be done for the residents of the home, because they were very demanding, negative and did not want to make any personal effort for anything. The blind residents would spend their days only eating, sleeping, arguing, complaining and even fighting with each other, including physical fights. I asked them to let me try without having any expectations.
We started with the pawanmuktasana 1 series sitting on a chair, some breath awareness, mechanics of breath and abdominal breathing for the first three months. From the fourth month some standing asanas were introduced together with PM1 and nadi shodhana the first stages up to alternative nostril breathing ratio 1:1. It took a good amount of time until the trust between us was established and the students agreed to move to a yoga mat where some of the practices of PM 2 and 3 were introduced together with yoga nidra.
Every class included a short talk on the benefits of the practices, yoga of attitude, awareness, and SWAN analysis. Following the example of Swami Niranjanananda, I tried to keep everything short, simple, practical and understandable.
We also had a short relaxation practice for the staff every Monday straight after their operative meeting.
There are 18 to 20 people living in the home, between the age of 20 to 93. Of this group only four were attending the classes. The others were sitting outside the hall frowning and speaking negatively about politics. Every time I would go there I would stop, introduce myself, as they cannot see who is coming, and I would ask them how they felt. Then I would try to change their negative focus into a positive one by telling them jokes or inspiring stories. Despite the fact that only four are serious in the classes and others are only speaking and listening to some inspiring stories a miracle happened in only three months time.
The atmosphere in the home changed. Fights and quarrels stopped completely. All the residents including the most negative ones started to smile and greet the others. The health of those practising yoga improved significantly. The most negative man in the home who used to shout and even beat others became the most regular student. He shared with us that yoga was the first thing he met after he became blind that gave him real meaning and understanding of life. His attitude towards the other residents and the staff was completely changed only in three months.
The regular visits to the ashram in Munger, participation in the programs with Swami Niranjan and the establishment of regular sadhana gave me the strength and the willpower to overcome the initial difficulties and to keep on with this project with the faith that every person's life can be changed and become more positive, creative and meaningful.