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
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.
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
Shukreya, one of our yoga trainees in Bekaa valley, Lebanon, asked for videos of the yoga practices she was learning. She does not know how to read or write, but has a quick mind and absorbs everything she is taught. Eager to share the the yoga practices that she learns with her neighbours in the refugee settlement, we had chosen her as one of a select group of yoga trainees who would be taught to teach yoga to others. To respond to Shukreya’s request, we produced a set of Classical Yoga videos, with Arabic language dubbing, during the spring 2020 lockdown. These videos have also been shared to other refugee communities in Bekaa valley through our partners at Salam LADC and ClimbAid. We hope these videos will also be useful other Arabic speakers and for yoga teachers working with Arabic speaking refugees across Europe and the world. Click here to access the playlist of Arabic language yoga videos on our YouTube channel. You can find our English language playlists by clicking here.
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
“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
This course on Yoga for Relieving Stress and Anxiety is a free offering from Tools for Inner Peace. All you need to do is click here to sign up. Optimize your health We are all living together these strange and uncertain times where optimizing our mental and physical health is a priority. Keeping anxiety at bay – as individuals and collectively – helps us maintain a stronger immune system for ourselves and to protect the people around us. This course offers simple and effective skills to help us cope with the negative effects of anxiety and stress, both of which are currently on the rise given the COVID 19 virus pandemic. Social distancing and hygiene help bring down the possibility of exposure, yes. They help us manage our space and avoid contamination, yes. But, in the meantime, how is our state of mind? Are we keeping our inner environment as spotlessly clean as our outer one? Anxiety fills our body with stress hormones, adrenalin and cortisol. These hormones keep the body tense and geared for action against... read more.