YOGA IN WARZONES
I’m aware of ongoing, escalating wars, desperate migrations and increasing poverty around the world and the role that Yoga is playing in developing successful programs of peace and wellbeing for the citizens and soldiers of war torn countries. Like no other time in this ongoing story of humans at war, has Yoga been so carefully and widely applied in healing the tragic after effects of war. There are established, researched, international Yoga projects that are empowering and life affirming. They are restoring faith, transforming lives, and healing Post-Traumatic Stress in the ravaged inhabitants and survivors of war and those that serve in the military. This is such good news.
The Africa Project is one of them. It began in 2007 in one of the most impoverished parts of Kenya with children and youth effected by war. They have discovered that Yoga can positively transform lives across race, nationality, age, gender and economic status, that it is valued when offered at no cost and it can transform the perception of life and what is possible for the future beyond grim reality. Evidence continues to show that Yoga is an effective tool to reduce PTSD symptoms and improve daily functioning. Yoga and meditation give traumatized individuals the tools they need to release their stress and reduce physical pain.
Yoga Beats Conflict is another, founded by UK Yogi David Sye in collaboration with Sama Fabian. It’s a dynamic Yoga program with participants from Palestine, Israel and Gaza who are practicing together in unity beyond borders. They recently flew 25 participants out of the ongoing conflict in The West Bank, to complete their Yoga training in the safety of Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands to return to their war torn homes as teachers. Says David:
What is going on now in Gaza and throughout the West Bank is what yoga must not run away from. If the idea of Yoga is to hold any credibility at all in our world, it must be able to cope with the worst of humanities…I am very clear that our world does not need any more niche yoga, it is crying out for yoga to grow up and become the radically reflective and transformational tool it has the potential to become!
Anahata International supports the Ramallah Project in a response to a growing demand for sustainable Yoga programs. Women attend from their homes in villages and cities where military occupation, violent protests, and socio-economic disadvantages are a fact of daily life. They inherently understand that peace begins within and with profound inspiration, are discovering pathways for wellbeing through Yoga. The Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Gaza with their program, Healing the Wounds of War is providing the same. In a place like Gaza where it’s easy to feel helpless, such skills and practice foster empowerment and inner peace.
There's a growing consensus among military doctors, researchers, and veterans themselves, that conventional treatments aren't always enough to help veterans navigate the consequences of PTSD, from unemployment and domestic violence to substance abuse, anxiety, and suicide. "Once dismissed as mere acrobatics with incense, yoga has been found to help ease the pain, stiffness, anger, night terrors, memory lapses, anxiety and depression that often afflict wounded warriors." (Huffington Post: Yoga Warriors 13/93/13)
There are Yoga practices available to relieve and heal the horrors of our warring. This is such a relief given the reality of increasing global unrest and the need for healing, worldwide. Yoga wisdom affirms that war begins in the mind and becomes trapped in the body, creating endless suffering. Take a good, long, slow breath. Be at peace.