I recently had the privilege of giving a Shantala baby massage workshop to 16 women and four public health workers in a clinic in an economically marginalized community. There are so many benefits for babies who receive Shantala on a daily basis, including motor development, increased immunity, improved respiratory and circulatory system functioning, better sleeping patterns and relief of intestinal colic. But for me the most important impact of Shantala is enhanced bonding between caretaker and the baby.
On a steamy, hot Friday afternoon, I drove into the community with several colorful exercise mats, pure coconut oil extracted in an ancestral three-day process by the Potiguara indigenous people who live an hour north of João Pessoa, and two poster boards outlining the 20-minute sequence.
The method, a millenary technique originating in India, works best with babies between 2 and 8 months, but sometimes older babies come with their caretakers. It is also easy to learn and can be practiced daily without the presence of an instructor.
Teaching Shantala, especially in places of economic marginalization and with families in adverse health situations, has become one of the most meaningful ministries that I have done as a Maryknoll Lay Missioner.
Kathy Bond has been a Maryknoll lay missioner in Brazil since 1993. Together with her husband, fellow Maryknoll lay missioner Flávio Jose Rocha, she is based in João Pessoa in the northeastern Brazilian state of Paraíba. They previously served for eight years in São Paulo.
All photos were taken by Ana Tavares, anatavaresfotografia.com.br during the workshop.