Rupa Mehta, founder of the Nalini Method workout, is sitting in circle of middle-schoolers, leading a discussion about emotional weight.
“One word that makes me feel emotionally heavy is dumb,” says a boy to his classmates.
“Ugly,” says another.
Mehta, known by New Yorkers for her popular Upper West Side fitness studio, has journeyed to MS 354 in Brooklyn on behalf of NaliniKIDS, the non-profit she began in partnership with Mayor Bloomberg’s office and NYC Service.
“What we do [at the Nalini Method] is so elite,” Mehta admits. “Fitness classes definitely aren’t cheap. I wanted to give back in a way that still connects to the Nalini message.”
Now in its third year, the 12-week workshop takes place during school hours and aims to teach students in under-served communities about both physical and emotional health. The students participate in discussion-based lessons with Mehta followed by a Nalini Method workout.
Each student is given a copy of Mehta’s book, Connect to Your One, as well as a workbook that draws heavily on Mehta’s mind-body philosophy. “We pay a lot of attention to physical obesity,” Mehta says. “But no one ever talks about emotional obesity. In fact, a healthy body is often dependent on a healthy mind.”
How are Brooklyn kids responding? Ms. Chance, a teacher at MS 354, says, “I really see a difference in how the students conduct themselves in class, even when Rupa isn’t here.” And watching a lesson in action, it’s hard to miss the students’s enthusiasm and focus.
As Mehta leads the discussion, she makes the distinction between emotional and physical heaviness, asking the class to identify people in their lives who are emotionally heavy or emotionally light.
One of the students, Carlos, raises his hand. “You,” he says, pointing to Rupa, “are emotionally light.” —Carla Vass
For more information about NaliniKIDS and its volunteer program, visit www.nalinikids.org