Three years later, Tina’s daughter was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and yoga took a whole new meaning in her life. “Just like other families faced with ASD, we struggled to adapt to our daughter’s condition,” says Tina. “Dealing with so many different therapy programs and being constantly bombarded with new things to learn about ASD made us feel stressed out.” In order to better cope with the ups and downs, Tina continued to practice yoga several times a week, but during a conversation with an occupational therapist, it became clear that yoga might serve as more than a great tool for reducing her own stress.
At the OTs suggestion, Tina introduced yoga at home for her daughter, who struggled with self-regulation, sensory integration, and body awareness. When the yoga seemed to be helping, Tina was motivated to deepen her knowledge, and became certified as a children’s yoga instructor in 2006, through Radiant Child Yoga Program and Sonia Sumar’s Yoga For The Special Child. “It was an awesome experience for me to see just how yoga can help differently-abled children and teens,” Tina reflects. As she began doing yoga almost everyday as part of their home therapy program, Tina saw firsthand the benefits yoga promoted in her daughter’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being, from the inside-out. And it had a profound effect on her parenting, too. Through their practice, Tina learned to “see the ‘able,’ not the label. To always start with what they can do, instead of what they can’t.”
“That’s the beauty of yoga,” she adds. “It helped me to see my daughter for exactly who she is, a beautiful being, and not as a child with ASD.”
In 2008, Tina took the first step to sharing her work by offering children’s yoga classes at home. But after more and more inquiries came pouring in from parents and schools in her area, asking for more information and more classes, she decided to time the next step, by founding her own organization dedicated to bringing yoga to children and teens.
While this would be impressive for any busy mom, what made this step daunting for Tina was the context. Tina and her family live in Indonesia, a republic country that is predominately Muslim. While Tina notes that Indonesia has a long tradition of embracing religious diversity, at about the same time that Tina’s yoga classes were gaining traction, a Muslim organization in Malaysia deemed yoga as haram, or forbidden by Islamic Law, and this belief had spread to her country. In fact, while not an Islamist state, for nearly a decade Islamic influence had been expanding in new ways in Indonesian society, with certain religious groups questioning practices that they believe undermined Islam.
“People’s understanding of yoga was often misunderstood, and they would mistake yoga as being equivalent to Hinduism because it came from India,” says Tina. “Whenever I teach yoga to children, I am often asked whether I am a Hindu, or if the children would become Hindu if they practiced yoga.”
In spite of potential lashback, Tina founded Kids Yoga Jakarta in 2010, starting with after-school yoga programs in her community. Within two years, yoga became a trend in Jakarta, and now Tina is kept busy teaching yoga for children in a variety of contexts, from Corporate social responsibility (CSR) events, to collaborating with NGOs to raise awareness about the benefit of yoga for children and teens.
“Our mission is empowering children through yoga,” says Tina. “No matter their ability, beliefs, or background.”
Many yoga students who wear the hijab, including children, have benefited from yoga and even became yoga teachers in Indonesia.
Even though public support has generally been in favor of Tina’s work, she still faces widespread misinformation in bringing yoga programming out into the community. “Most people still assume that yoga is equivalent to Hinduism,” she explains. Teaching in schools, this poses an even greater challenge. “As a children’s yoga teacher, I need to be mindful when I teach, I need to be neutral. I respect other people’s beliefs, and my sole intention is to teach yoga. Yoga is about breath and movement. That’s it.” Yoga Ed. has been a great asset for Tina in that way, because it’s secular, brain-based approach allows Tina to focus in on the core benefits and evidence-based practices. “I’ve been teaching yoga for children in numerous religious schools such as Catholic Schools, [Protestant] Christian Schools, and Islamic Schools in Jakarta, Bandung, and Surabaya. So far, I have had no problems delivering Yoga Ed. school programs there, because I always explain to them the central purpose of the curriculum and programs.”
Looking to the future, Tina is excited to keep on breaking down barriers and expanding her reach. “When I started this in 2008, nobody knew about children’s yoga in Indonesia. But I had amazing support from the yoga community here in Jakarta, and we’ve made huge progress. We rise by lifting others.” Tina continues to lift up others through her programs and her ongoing pursuit of education and outreach.
“When you work so hard for your job and you love doing it, that’s when people can see that your work is your passion.”
When asked what advice Tina would offer to other individuals determined to bring yoga to communities who may not know about or embrace yoga, her response was simple. “Set your intention. Keep an open mind and slowly plant the seeds of yoga.” At Yoga Ed., we’re happy to help in growing Kids Yoga Jakarta’s roots. “What I love about Yoga Ed. is the support system,” says Tina. “Especially for me living outside of the U.S., I still get 100% full support from the Yoga Ed. team. I’m so proud to be part of this organization.” And you better believe we are beyond proud to have her on-board as a member of our Yoga Ed. family.
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