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
Meet Lynn Mooney (Lalitatirtha). She is our energetic Tools for Inner Peace teacher who has launched four new refugee yoga classes across Liverpool since summer 2018. “My immersion in yoga and spiritual life began in 2010 when I went to live for two years at the Anahata ashram in New Zealand. The emphasis there was on serving others. We ourselves had warm comfortable beds, nourishing food and daily yogic practices. Even the hard mental struggles I went through in the ashram had a beauty to them; they allowed me to grow a little more and to release and let go. The holistic lifestyle of the ashram turned my life around completely. I wanted to offer the experience of yoga practices to others, so in 2015 I began my training to teach yoga at the Mandala ashram in Wales. “I believe that every human being’s needs should be met. We all need love, security, food and a warm bed. We are not separate from one another, although it can feel that way with isolation and loneliness rapidly growing
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
Of the 60 million refugees in the world as many as 50% suffer from trauma and mental health problems. Those we work with – whether in London or in Lebanon – are finding solace in yoga. Their open smiles at the end of each class testify to the benefits.
Tools for Inner Peace trustee and founder, Minna Järvenpää, has written a blog post for Missing in the Mission, a blog site about the process of taking of ourselves and each other by aid workers, for aid workers.
Van der Kolk’s masterful book, The Body Keeps the Score, charts the journey from talking and drug therapies to approaches such as yoga that help integrate trauma and take off the lacerating edge of painful memories.
Emma Hill-French is a yoga teacher offering classes for refugees in London for Tools for Inner Peace. Here is an extract from her blog, Simple Gentle Yoga, where she describes her first time teaching a group of refugee women