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Sharing Yoga with Refugees

Of the many tangible and intangible beauties in life, I have had the chance to not only experience some of them,

but also merge two beauties together: yoga and sharing.

Through collaborating with ioi strategic design, I was given the opportunity to give a yoga class to a group of lovely girls.

Given that this project has been on my mind ever since I started training, I was not only excited to see it happen, but also a little bit worried. What should I expect? Will the group be interested? Will they be able to interact and engage with me?

I wanted to help these girls restore confidence and self-esteem, because I believe in the power of yoga to reduce anxiety and depression. I believe in its power to give energy and hope, to make them feel strong, independent, and safe. I tried to loosen-up the class and make the atmosphere more relaxed, I didn't want them to take it very seriously, I just wanted them to have fun, find that spark in yoga and just love it.

Oh how far did they exceed my expectations. Their engagement was truly like no other. Seeing yoga affect their bodies and minds - making them remember what it feels like to be safe and in inhabitable places once again - is perhaps the main reason I want this one-time class to become a regular class.

That being said, I think that these girls should and need to experience the real benefits of yoga - give them grounding and help them get back in touch with their bodies. One of the toughest things in Yoga, I believe, is to learn to control your breathing. This helps calm the nervous system and in turn calms the mind, which is key to help them feel empowered to rebuild their lives and most importantly, integrate.

To me, Yoga has the power to tackle deeper levels of trauma that psychological work alone cannot not reach.

I am certainly not a therapist, at least in its conventional sense. But a trauma-sensitive practice can help release stress by bringing greater attention to the physiology of a person and ultimately integrating this awareness with an opening up of the mind. A combination of physical postures, called asanas, breathing exercises and meditation can help ground, empower and relax both the body and mind.

Sharing yoga with refugees was truly an experience like no other for me. The results were visible in simply how the girls carried themselves differently when leaving the class to when they came. To me, having one of the girls come to me after class to tell me that she felt relaxed for the first time since a while, changed my experience with refugees from challenging, to rewarding.


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