Yale sophomore uses ancient Indian dance form to foster cultural anti-biases

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Shruti Parthasarathy ’24 introduced the Bharatnatyam dance form to Yale, in the form of cultural workshops and a new app launch.

Yash Roy

01:19 am, October 29, 2021

Contributing journalist


Sharon Li, collaborating photographer

Shruti Parthasarathy ’24 has been participating in the ancient Indian art and dance form of Bharatnatyam since the age of five. Over the past three years, she has combined her love for dance with mindfulness through her organization, Mindful Kala.

Mindful Kala offers longer intensive workshops and workshops through Yale’s Good Life Center. Parthasarathy is also developing an interactive app to allow students of all ages to work through activities and information slides to learn more about Bharatanatyam and mindfulness.

“I created Mindful Kala as a way to shine a light on a historic and under-represented art form through the prism of mindfulness and social well-being,” Parthasarathy said. “Mindful Kala aims to empower adolescents through easily accessible and interactive educational and support activities – especially through Indian dance – as a means of uplifting and increasing well-being and fostering intercultural sensitivity. ”

Parthasarathy started Mindful Kala at her high school in Middleton, WI, where she led workshops that exposed students to Bharatnatyam and used the art form to better understand cultural history and the principles of mindfulness.

According to Parthasarathy, this initial study worked well with the students, which led her to transform the project into a larger study on the rise of cultural anti-bias. She created an experience with 46 freshmen from her high school and put them through an intensive 8 week program of learning about Bharatnatyam and its connection to mindfulness.

The results of his study were then published in the Advances in Global Health and Medicine Journal.

“We saw a marked increase in anti-bias measures among the students who participated in the experiment, and when our study was published it was picked up by a journal,” Parthasarathy said. “I was very honored to later present our findings to the Academic Medical Consortium, which were then picked up on national and national news.”

Once Parthasarathy arrived at Yale, she continued to develop the organization and became involved with the Good Life Center. Through its collaboration with various cultural organizations and other Yale clubs, Mindful Kala has hosted virtual and in-person workshops with over 600 students over the past two years.

With the help of psychology professor Laurie Santos, Mindful Kala also recently completed a randomized controlled trial of 50 undergraduate and graduate students at Yale who participated in a four-week Mindful Kala crash course aimed at increasing good. -being and mindfulness.

Parthasarathy explained that this study found a statistically significant increase in anti-bias among students who participated in the intensive four-week Mindful Kala program.

Parthasarathy’s colleague Suba Ramesh ’24 explained that Mindful Kala is also working on creating a course app that could further expand the reach of the program.

“Mindful Kala has been so effective because of Shruti’s studies and bringing mindfulness to campuses,” Ramesh said. “So we think it’s great to bring the app to a group of people across the country and the world. ”

According to Parthasarathy, the Mindful Kala web app will be offered as a “Yale Student Mental Health Association Campus Initiative Program,” and Mindful Kala is working to make the app fully functional by the start of this year. 2022.

Zeenat Vastrad, one of Mindful Kala’s professional counselors, explained that the app has been an “amazing learning experience” for the group.

“We’ve worked hard to make sure this app will be incredibly user-friendly for kids of all ages,” Vastrad said. “Shruti and the rest of the team have worked really hard to create an app that will help expose people from all walks of life to an amazing ancient Indian art form as well as important mindfulness principles that we all need. . ”

While the development of the app is currently Mindful Kala’s main project, Parthasarathy has also set a future goal of creating a Mindful Kala children’s book that young students can use to learn more about Bharatanatyam and mindfulness. .

Members of the Yale community can register for weekly Mindful Kala meetings at the Good Life Center through Yale Connect.


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