Whole societies have been traumatised by war. A new generation is growing up that has never known peace. According to some measures, half of refugees are experiencing psychological distress and mental illness. We aim to introduce the tools of yoga to refugees and asylum seekers who are suffering from stress, anxiety and trauma, so that they can live balanced and productive lives.
With tools to manage stress and recover from trauma, the widespread mental health problems among refugees can be reduced. The various yoga techniques taught in our classes work on the nervous system to bring about profound relaxation. The parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated, strengthening the relaxation response, while the sympathetic nervous system with its stress response calms down. This reduces such symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder as insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, anger and stress-related physical ailments.
Since January 2017, Tools for Inner Peace has been volunteering in Bekaa valley, Lebanon, where 800,000 Syrian refugees live in informal camps. We have been delivering yoga and relaxation techniques to women and children, as a way of providing relief from war trauma and helping them cope with their daily lives. This work is currently supported by the Kamynu Trust.
We have also been receiving funds from the Big Lottery Fund and Sport England since summer 2016 for a series of classes, as well as a retreat, for UK based refugees and asylum seekers to promote their mental and emotional wellbeing. We are currently offering free yoga classes in London and Liverpool. To meet the widespread need, our project is training additional yoga teachers in the the therapeutic use of yoga to alleviate suffering and release trauma.
“Every moment was full of joy and excitement. I did yoga for the first time in my life. I learned how to go deep down inside my brain and soul and search for the peace of my mind; I learned to communicate with nature in silence. The last day we had a party for which we prepared our best Afghan food. The food, the atmosphere, the music and dancing were amazing.”
– Zobaida Sakandary, Restorative Retreat for women refugees, June 2017