The incredible seva (social service) of three Integral Yogis in Hong Kong made headlines because of their extraordinary humanitarian and charitable service.
Devoted to making Yoga more accessible in Hong Kong, Integral Yoga teacher Hersha Chellaram, runs Hersha Yoga and the Yama Foundation, a nonprofit that brings free Yoga, art, and meditation programs to underserved communities in Hong Kong. She was named a 2015 Women of Hope honouree and in 2018, she was named one of “10 Women Shaping Hong Kong for the Better.” Not only does Hersha provide private Yoga therapy for children and adults with disabilities and chronic health conditions, but she also runs specialized teacher training certifications—all with an aim to share Yoga with people who have different abilities. “The seed was planted during one of the first Yoga classes I taught, when a woman walked in with a wooden leg and practiced adaptive Yoga,” recalls Hersha. “A few years later, my niece Talia was born with a rare genetic disease. These two key events drove me to bring Yoga to communities who would never even think that Yoga was possible for them.”
Like her cousin Hersha Chellaram, Minal Mahtani has been a disciple of Swami Satchidananda since she was a little girl. Minal was nominated for the Women of Hope 2018 award under the category of “Champions for a Better Life.” She explained, “I was fortunate to have been exposed to Yoga teachings and such a great Master from a young age and Gurudev was like a father figure to our whole family. I was drawn to Gurudev, his kind and gentle nature and his simple and loving messages of knowledge, truth, and wisdom. My interest in Hatha and Raja Yoga developed in 1998 after attending classes by my aunt, Nalanie Chellaram in 1999.” After visiting Yogaville for a retreat, Minal decided to stay on and train as a Stress Management Yoga Teacher. She now works with individuals who struggle with mental health disorders such as Anxiety Disorders and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and she runs regular support groups. She teaches Hatha Yoga and Stress Management Yoga to those suffering with mental illness, their caregivers, and to corporates.
Shalini Mahtani, Minal Mahtani’s sister, is also a nominee for the Women of Hope 2018 award under the category of “Power & Influencer.” Shalini is a pioneer in diversity and inclusion in Asia having founded, Community Business. This was the first organization in Asia that brings together companies and their management around women at work, LGBT, disability at work and the issues of culture. Her greatest passion is the Zubin Foundation she established in memory of her son, Zubin, who died tragically at an early age. The foundation focuses on critical issues that receive little attention in Hong Kong such as patient safety and care, racial integration, empowering women and girls and special education needs of non-Chinese speakers.