Yoga teacher targeted by bullies

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By ROBYN BRISTOW

Padmavati Maharana, owner of Rangiora Yoga, is smiling on the outside, but is “crying inside”.

Recent incidents have scared Padmavati who is experiencing bullying, threatening behaviour, racism and hate.

It began with pizza deliveries to her business in central Rangiora, and has since escalated to nasty Instagrams and Messenger messages.

“It is bullying, ignorant and criminal and those doing it should be punished,” says Padmavati, who on Monday laid a complaint with the Rangiora Police.

She has no idea how the perpetrators got hold of her phone number, but it has been used to intimidate her with messages, and to order pizza on her behalf, which contain meat.

Padmavati, who is Hindu, and a vegetarian, says she left her native India to enjoy freedom in New Zealand.

But freedom has been taken away from her in the past three weeks.

She now keeps her studio locked, and hides behind the locked doors as she gets mocked about needing to “eat cow”, held sacred by those of the Hindu faith.

The racist behaviour began after Padmavati started up lessons and food ideas on Tik Tok, where she has 527,000 visitors.

This followed the 28-year-old teacher stepping up in early 2020 and offering classes via her Facebook page, when New Zealand was plunged into its first lockdown due to the threat of Covid-19.

The classes immediately became popular as Padmavati tried to give people a “little less stress” during the difficult times being experienced.

She also offered free one-hour yoga lessons as an alternative to the free Saturday morning classes she had provided before the country moved to Alert Level 4.

Padmavati also continued to hold daily yoga classes for her private clients on her Facebook page via Zoom, a Californian-based remote conferencing video communication system.

She has been teaching yoga for more than 12 years.

“I give a lot to my community, and many know me in the community, and are clients.”

It is during live sessions on Tik Tok that the racism and threatening behaviour begins. She has had several visits from a pizza deliverer who bangs on her door downstairs, and when she goes down discovers he is trying to deliver pizza she has not ordered.

Padmavati believes those trying to intimidate her, are a small group of teenagers.

“They are like a gang,” says Padmavati who is struggling to understand what is happening because all she is doing is “literally” helping people.

“They should have respect for other cultures.

“Being Hindu is very personal and sentimental.”

Padmavati was born in the Kanpur Village of the Balasore district in the Eastern part of India and has been living in Rangiora since 2016.

She became interested in yoga to improve her health.

“I used to get frequent asthma attacks and was always suffering from a cold.

“After I started yoga I had less and less asthma attacks and very rarely had a cold. Now my asthma is completely under control, which I credit to yoga.”