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Swami Pragyamurti Hope Project

Tools for Inner Peace has launched the Swami Pragyamurti Hope project to bring yoga and healing to street youth in Freetown, Sierra Leone (West Africa). With this work we hope to keep alive Swami Pragyamurti’s legacy. We have a match fund campaign running from 28th November to 5th December, and would love your help.  The Project The intention of this project is to: The Swami Pragyamurti Hope Project will use the manual she developed for teaching in prisons – theYoga Manual for Prisoners and Other Castaways – as a basis. We will train a group of 8-10 yoga teachers in Freetown, Sierra Leone, to share the practices and sequences from her manual. These yoga teachers will then teach her sequences in prisons and to hundreds of homeless street youth – including drug addicts, gang members and prostitutes – in the slums and ghettos of Freetown. On the Ground The aim of our yoga outreach work is to help generate new healthy habits and improve mental and physical health in prisons and marginalised communities. Many of

Changemaker of the Week

We are excited to announce the we have been awarded $1000 by the Pollination Project and featured as their Changemaker of the Week. The Pollination Project feature story, authored by Liza Di Georgina, is titled Embracing Peace from Within in Sierra Leone. “Peace is not something you have outside but it’s what you have to have inside to be able to change things in the world, even if it’s very small; when you work on yourself and you create peace in yourself then you can start radiating that out,” Minna Jarvenpaa, founder of Tools for Inner Peace Read more: https://thepollinationproject.org/embracing-peace-from-within-in-sierra-leone/

Bhramari pranayama

Yoga as Medicine

“Over the course of the year, many traumas have surfaced, providing me with the opportunity to observe and process them. This has led me to feel much calmer and more serene. I am grateful for this newfound inner space, which allows me to engage in even deeper introspection, dream bigger and take action towards my aspirations.” – Feedback from participant, Community Yoga Teacher Training, Lebanon Most of our trainees have experienced traumatic events in their lives. Many have been traumatised by their experiences of civil war and violence, the August 2020 Beirut blast, as well as more common causes of trauma that relate to childhood abuse and neglect, natural disasters and accidents, and sexual and medical trauma. This shapes their experience of even the simplest yoga practices. Trauma gets stored in the body as tensions and tightness. Easing the tension can result in being flooded by memories and re-experiencing traumatic events. One student gets triggered every time she plugs her ears and listens to the vibrations of the humming sound in Bhramari pranayama, so we

Suddenly There is Something More

Shukriya, originally from Aleppo, has lived in refugee settlements in Bekaa valley, Lebanon, for the last six years. Tools for Inner Peace have been training her as a community yoga teacher for three years since 2020.  She smiles when she talks about her experience, “Yoga relaxes me and brings me pleasure. The classes are really beautiful.” “I’ve been doing yoga for four years now, and so much has changed since the first class. After the third class I started experiencing big improvements. I felt changes in my breath and in my overall energy. Whatever stiffness I would feel, I would just go to the class and it would be gone. If I felt anxiety, it would just go during the class.  “It became like an addiction. I had so much good energy. Every time I would come for a class, I would feel optimistic afterwards. I would feel fresh, as if reborn. It’s like every time you enter a class you’re entering a different world. You detach from the world, to a world where there

“Sow seeds of love wherever you go”

– Quote by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati These are some personal reflections by Mantramala (Minna Jarvenpaa) on the Yoga Pura Vida teacher training that Tools for Inner Peace supported in Sierra Leone: The week before our departure from Sierra Leone was full of emotion: grief, joy, memory of old hurts, love. Over the course of the first eleven days of the training, participants had been finding their way into all the aspects of yoga, opening up, releasing tension, going deeper. Old memories were starting to come up, both tender and sad.  On Day 12, we started teaching Yoga for Children and discovered that many of the participants had been orphans, street children or refugees from the civil war; some had survived sexual abuse or abandonment. Others had been pulled out of school and made to work in the streets by relatives. Several had never had the safety or care to really be children. All carried within them the inter-generational trauma of slavery on which Sierra Leone was built. Now we were asking these same people –

What the Research Says: a study of our Yoga for Peace project

Mind, body and community: The potential for yoga as mental health and psychosocial support in emergency contexts Jessica Stone Lebanon is home to approximately 1.5 million refugees, numbering roughly a quarter of the entire population—the highest proportion in the world. Many Syrian refugees in Lebanon have witnessed or experienced physical, psychological or sexual violence, and continue to experience food insecurity, discrimination and social isolation. Reports of traumatic flashbacks, uncontrollable emotions, hopelessness, despair, and unusual physical and mental exhaustion are also common, as are high rates of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (1).  Women in particular are increasingly exposed to sexual assault, interpersonal violence and survival sex work in the settlements (2),  yet there are few mental health services available for Syrians in Lebanon (3), and even fewer that cater to women’s needs. To address these challenges, the organisation Tools for Inner Peace has been implementing a yoga program for mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) in informal tented settlements and community centres in the Beqaa Valley region since 2017. This program supports women to

Yoga with Impact podcast

In a podcast with Danielle Begg, founder of The Yoga Impact Charity, Mantramala (Minna Jarvenpaa) tells a bit of her own story and how Tools for Inner Peace was born. They also talk about how yoga touches people from diverse backgrounds, how Tools for Inner Peace navigates cultural and religious boundaries, and share ideas about making change in the world. Click here to listen to the podcast. Yoga With Impact is a podcast interviewing experts sharing yoga and healing practices in diverse communities.

Triple the Impact

Help Spread Yoga to Lebanon’s Disadvantaged Communities Tools for Inner Peace has reached a milestone in Lebanon. We have gone from one roving yoga teacher with a translator to a team that includes three Arabic speaking trainers. Our amazing trainers – Zena, Sandy and Cara – are now seeking support to put three more aspiring yogis from the younger generation firmly onto the transformative path of yoga and community service. The plan is to offer three scholarships for a year-long training with three residential immersions at the Satyananda Yoga Academy in Europe. In return, scholarship recipients commit to offering their time and skills to communities in need inside Lebanon. The minimum requirement is two hours of weekly service throughout the year during which the scholarship is being offered. This initiative comes at a time when people all around Lebanon are coming together across sectarian lines, with an awareness of the needs of disadvantaged communities: “Today, the entire nation is gearing up for change. Everyone is called upon to define their role and do their part. As yoga teachers

Yoga for Kids in Crisis

Training held in Bekaa valley, Lebanon RYE UK and Tools for Inner Peace 23-25 October 2017 & 4-6 April 2018 Children in crisis All children arrive in the world untainted and open. They are sensitive to every influence, behaviour and emotion around them. This can be seen in their often uncanny ability to sense the unknown, their natural responsiveness to the feelings of people around them, and their sponge-like ability to absorb language and information. There is a spark of the divine in children that needs nurturing. A good home environment and contact with positive people, ideas and experiences gives them a good start in life. The flip-side of children’s openness is that their sensitivity also makes them vulnerable. Even in families living in physical safety and material comfort, children can become lost. Parents who lack self-awareness pass on to their children their own expectations, frustrated ambitions, anxieties and dissipation. At the extreme, living in harsh circumstances where the grown-ups are frightened, themselves broken by material hardship, or undergoing intense emotional and mental suffering can

Refugee Yoga in the UK

“I can safely say if it wasn’t for those classes during last winter I would be sure to be a mental patient by now. Your efforts are greatly appreciated, hope that many others can benefit as much as I did. When God cannot come he sends help.”  – Participant feedback, Liverpool, 2021 We are delighted to be back to face-to-face teaching. While we continued offering refugee yoga classes throughout the Covid-19 lockdowns of the last year and a half, we have been painfully aware that our ability to reach the people who most need yoga for their mental health and wellbeing has been curtailed. This has been due both to lack of devices and data, as well as an intangible something that gets lost over a zoom call. Face-to-face classes have restarted in Liverpool, and we hope to launch new classes soon in Northumberland and London. Do you know of a refugee or asylum seeker group in the UK that would benefit from simple, gentle yoga classes to promote their mental and emotional wellbeing? We