Nayantara Rodrigues, M.S., LMFT, YTT 200
Nayantara Rodrigues is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, an adjunct professor, a yoga instructor at Four Corners Yoga and the CEO of Namaste for Compassion (NFC). NFC is a non profit that provides free yoga to underserved communities. “We are passionate about the healing benefits of yoga and that everyone is entitled to this beautiful gift. We help the local mental health community experience yoga as a tool for healing and continue to fundraise for charities we believe in. Every year we give back to the Bal Pushpa home (an orphanage) in India.”
Tell us a little about yourself:
Hi everyone! I was born in Madras (now Chennai), India. I moved here when I was 8 years old. My mom and dad had a wonderful life in India, but sacrificed everything they had for my brother, sister and I. So here I am proving to my parents that their sacrifice payed off and that I am living my dream.
I am a wife to a loving husband, mother of two amazing kiddos. When I’m not being a busy wife, mom and professional, you can find me watching a really good movie. I’m into Star Trek and Star Wars so i have to say it “Live long and prosper” and “May the force be with you.”
I love yoga and learning from others; yoga is my refuge. I also love my girl time; love my sisters, you all know who you are, you all give me wings to help me fly.
I saw children on the streets first hand in India. Watched them beg with no arms or legs, babies taking care of babies, no food, no clothing, watching them and feeling so helpless and overwhelmed.
Tell us the story of how you started NFC. Where did the idea come from?
My husband and I were on the plane coming back from a really beautiful vacation. I wanted to watch a movie and my husband recommended the movie Lion. If you have not seen that movie as yet please watch it. The movie is based on a true story of a boy who lost his family and became a street child in India, eventually being adopted. Years later he found his biological mother and family in India. I think I cried through the whole movie.
There was a really dark part where they depicted his life when he was a child on the streets in India. I was touched deeply, not because of the movie, but because I saw children on the streets first hand in India. Watched them beg with no arms or legs, babies taking care of babies, no food, no clothing, watching them and feeling so helpless and overwhelmed. The movie had a wonderful message that even if one life is saved it’s truly a miracle.
My heart had never felt this way before, the feeling of devastation, yet hope at the same time. I vowed to myself and told my husband after the movie was over, “We have to do something, we have to.” When I got back, I shared on Facebook what I wanted to do. A small group of us met and brainstormed. One thing led to another and eventually Namaste for Compassion was born.
We raised $5,000 dollars for a small orphanage in India. A year later, my husband, children and myself went and delivered the money and goods to the orphanage ourself. We continued as a small group to have small fundraisers and eventually morphed into providing yoga as a tool for mental health as well. Being a therapist and yoga teacher, I saw the power yoga has to heal. Our whole team believes in the healing power of yoga, so we started to direct our attention on providing free yoga to underserved communities, so they can be equipped with the powerful tools, yoga, meditation, and mindfulness has to offer.
How has NFC evolved? How have you evolved?
NFC evolved from a feeling in my heart to serve, into a living reality today. I would have never imagined in my wildest dreams that it would have been what it is today.
I could make a huge list as to how I have evolved. To break it down and not bore you too much, I would say that I have evolved spiritually the most through this embarkation. The tribe of people who come together each time to support NFC shows me just how beautiful our human spirit is. Along with what manifests each time we have a thought and who gets placed in our life to make the thought a reality. I always say that NFC is much bigger than me and our team, there is something magical and beautiful that continues to open doors for us, that continues to encourage us, that continues to support us. I trust that and it makes me trust my heart even more.
How do you balance it with the rest of your life?
Good question. Still figuring that out. Week by week, day by day, hour by hour, being flexible is key. Having a husband and family that support my dream is key. I don’t have it figured out and that is ok. I try not to be too hard on myself and keep reminding myself I am human and to talk to myself the same way i would talk to someone I love, with love and compassion.
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”~Rainer Maria Rilke
What is your healthy living philosophy?
I think healthy living starts with a healthy heart and mind; that both align. Society places a lot of emphasis on health in regards to our physical health, but if we focused on our mental health first everything else would line up. Being open to truly knowing yourself and being vulnerable is so important to living a healthy life and making healthy connections. Mental health is also patterns passed down from your family system, starting with your own mental health means that you leave your children and generations to come with tools so they can live their best lives.
What’s next for you personally? What’s next for NFC?
Next for me is saying “no” more. I love everything I do and it doesn’t feel like work, but it catches up to me and my family and I am learning to say no.
Next for NFC… so much, which is why I have to say no to other things.
NFC will be partnering with the the Fresno Police Chapliancy’s Resiliency Center; helping them to provide yoga mindfulness and meditation to children and families impacted by trauma.
Always hold onto your why … Why are you starting on your journey in the first place? Who do you want to help and why do you want to help them
What advice do you have for someone wanting to follow a dream or start a non-profit?
I would say do it. Find a good group of core people you trust and will be honest with you, a good lawyer. Save up some money or do small fundraisers for the fees for paperwork. Take it a day at a time and believe in yourself even if others don’t. Trust your intuition. Most of all start somewhere and have patience with yourself and the process. Always hold onto your why … Why are you starting on your journey in the first place? Who do you want to help and why do you want to help them? So when things aren’t going your way, you revisit your why. This will help you to find strength to go on.