There's no shortage of smiling faces at Baale Mane, the home for disadvantaged and abandoned girls in Bangalore, India where our nonprofit Alo Gives is currently working on an amazing project with them to build a new yoga pavilion for the girls' daily 6 a.m. practice as well as new dorms, kitchen and other facilities. More about that here. Founded in 2001 to help get girls off the street and prevent them from entering or rescuing them from child labor, the haven and happy place is now home to 41 girls who eat, sleep, study, play and do yoga under the guidance of Baale Mane's mother and manager, Mary. Alo yogi Adell Bridges visited the home a few weeks ago and saw firsthand how important the girls' daily yoga practice is to their strength, health and inner peace, not to mention their gradual growth into independent and confident individuals. To get the full story, we chatted with Adell about what it was like to do yoga with the girls, what surprised her about Baale Mane and what she learned from the visit.
What prompted your visit to Baale Mane?
I was traveling from Sri Lanka to Goa, India, and I knew that Alo supported this charitable trust. I had a few free days, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to visit the girls and help raise some awareness for the amazing work that's done there! My visit was a short two days—I wish I could have stayed for longer. The girls and their "mother" Mary welcomed me so warmly, I felt right at home! I arrived on a Sunday, when they all have their free day from school, so they showed me some of what they do there—yoga, dancing, drumming and gardening.
What was it like doing yoga with the girls?
I'm not sure I can put that into words! Every one of these girls is nothing short of inspiring, and when they asked me to teach them yoga, I felt so honored and humbled. There are many definitions of what yoga is out there, but these girls truly embody what this practice teaches—compassion, unity, love and dedication.
What role does yoga play in these girls' lives?
They begin their day with an hour of pranayama and asana at 5:30 a.m., which aids greatly in their health. Their mother described yoga as a medicine for the home, teaching them to breathe and be aware of their bodies, so they rarely get ill even though they are living, eating and sleeping in such proximity to each other. As they continue on with their day, they go to school, they help each other, clean up for each other, learn from each other and spend time to reflect on themselves, so they really practice all aspects of yoga.
Did anything surprise you about your visit?
I wasn't expecting all the girls to be so upbeat and positive! Given what they have been through, I thought I'd see more sad faces. But this home is such a haven, a nurturing and warm nest, where they're allowed to focus on their future instead of their past. I was also surprised at how small the home is, considering it houses 45 girls and several staff members. It's probably a similar square meterage to a suburban American home that would house four or five people! I'm happy that they are going to have this new building soon, so they will have more space.
What did you learn from the experience?
Where do I begin? I learned that for $50, you can feed each one of them a very special meal that they rarely get to eat. I learned that the home supports the girls well after they've moved out, gotten a job and married, to ensure that there is no chance of them ending up in the situations that led them there. I learned that just going into the city to buy vegetables is a daunting task for some of them, which is something Baale Mane supports them in doing on their way to independence. I learned that Baale Mane never pushes the girls in any direction, but rather teaches them to explore their own talents, strengths and desires, so they can pursue a career they really love.