We had the honor to work with 16 women between the ages of 22 and 49 over a nine-day immersion in yoga-based skills for healing at no cost to the participants. The women are all Palestinians living in West Bank cities and villages including Bethlehem, Nablus, Ni’ilin, Beitin, and Za’atara. They are mothers, sisters, teachers, nurses, homemakers, community leaders, students – and now, yoga teachers. Many of these women had been trained in fitness and nutrition by the Jazoor Foundation. The Anahata International yoga training expanded their expertise and allowed them to work with a wider array of the population such as elderly and children.
Our training emphasized the therapeutic aspects of yoga and meditation, and sought to make self-care skills available to all community members while empowering women as local community leaders. Specialized topics covered during the training included: prenatal yoga, yoga for school teachers, and meditation for anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues that results from living in a stressful environment with frequent exposure to traumatic events. Participants were trained in techniques that can be modified based on the population in need, and empowered to construct safe and comprehensive yoga classes. All participants received a teachers’ manual and continue to be provided with extensive resources in yoga and meditation – all through the support of public donations
Anahata International partnered with Farashe Center for Healthy Living in July 2012, to support Farashe’s mission to bring safe and accessible yoga to people living in the West Bank. Anahata, whose mission is to bring yoga to underserved and trauma-affected populations, developed a specific teacher-training curriculum (that was then translated into Arabic) for the population that Farashe Yoga Center targets (local Palestinians). Anahata’s senior teaching team facilitated the first comprehensive foundational yoga and meditation training to individuals living throughout in the West Bank.
As a not-for-profit organization, Farashe’s class fees are reinvested into yoga outreach programs in surrounding villages and refugee camps, as well as community development projects. Since that training, Anahata has continued its support by committing to the development of ongoing mentorship and additional resources for the training graduates.
Farashe and Anahata are currently fundraising for a second training – set for Summer 2013 – in order to further empower the graduates and train new community yoga teachers. Anahata International is committed to the growth of a self-sustaining yoga community in the West Bank where high quality teachers are able to utilize the practices in whatever way fits their needs of the community.
Anahata International is not politically affiliated. Our core belief is that every person deserves a path to wellbeing and self care. By offering teacher trainings in communities that have been affected by armed conflict, we endeavor to provide individuals with skills that lead to lasting inner peace, even if the environment that they live in is in conflict. At Anahata International we work directly with individuals who come from a wide array of religious, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds. We strive to maintain a high quality of cultural competency and respect. While we acknowledge the complexity of socio-political situations around the world, we endeavor to introduce yoga as a means for many to heal and find peace on an individual level.
Having taught yoga for many years prior to traveling to the West Bank, Anahata’s teacher trainers were deeply touched by the spirit of dedication and perseverance of the women who participated. Faced daily with the challenges of living under highly politicized and often violent circumstances, these women represent the opportunity for humanity to shine through adversity. They serve as a universal reminder that we are much more alike than we are different. Before the training, many of the women already embodied the yogic concept of “seva” – selfless service – in their work as counselors, teachers, nurses, and community leaders. Now, they can all say that they are yoga teachers. As they strive every day to bring wellness and healing to others, they can now not only draw from a new skill set, but from a deeper connection to themselves and the world around them.
It has been amazing to watch these yoga teachers put their newly acquired skills to work. All 16 of our graduates immediately began introducing yoga to their school systems and local health organizations, and are quickly becoming local leaders in health and wellbeing – some of them teaching as many as 10 classes per week. Specific populations reached include school children, elderly, and people who would otherwise not have access to yoga due to location in the West Bank where there is a lack of availability to healthcare and financial constraints. Two graduates are currently working to open the first local community yoga centers in Bethlehem and Nables. Anahata is eager to provide ongoing support to our graduates’ continuing education with an expanded second training next summer and mentorship program that links these new yoga teachers to the global yoga community. Firm numbers on the impact of our work will be obtained during our return visit this summer when we conduct a project review.
Ultimately, our goal is to create highly-trained, self-sustaining programs that can provide ongoing support for physical, emotional, and community wellbeing.
“I first heard about [yoga] on TV. But when I tried it, I noticed a harmony between my mind, body and soul.”
- Shamieh Srour, a 40-year-old woman from Nilin
“I stopped being angry. I no longer have racing thoughts that keep me worried and awake through the night. I have this tranquility inside of me that I didn’t have before I started yoga.”
- 25-year-old Abeer Abu Amrieh from the village of Zatara, near Bethlehem
“We have learned to listen to one another, to be disciplined – and more importantly, we have learned new effective ways to de-stress.”
- Abu Amrieh, a history and geography teacher
It is only through the support of volunteers and donors that we are able to share the transformative benefits of yoga and wellness with people who would otherwise not have access to these services. As we direct our energy to continue our work in the West Bank next summer, the best way to support us is to jump in and help us raise funds for the project.
We could also use assistance from anyone with both Arabic translation skills and knowledge of yoga to help us translate materials and support our graduates through Skype.