Outreach Yoga

December 31, 2017
Dear Friends,

The Palestinian Yoga Teachers project is our international yoga outreach program in partnership with Farashe Yoga studio in Ramallah,West Bank.  In the initial trip to the West Bank with Rama Jyoti Vernon in 2015, we taught yoga to UNWRA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) psycho-social counselors and with a phone call, ended up teaching in five refugee camps the last week as news spread about the yoga classes.

First yoga workshop at Farashe studio 2015 with Rama

Our contact with Palestinians showed us people that were curious, humorous,philosophical, deeply longing for a happy life for themselves but even more for their children. Most of all they wanted to improve their lives and their health.  As we taught about breathing and the spine in postures it became clear that a therapeutic yoga approach was effective and many students expressed a need and  desire for more.

Upon my return to Sedona, I agreed to train and mentor five Palestinian yoga teachers to the 500 hour level of therapeutic yoga.   Therapeutic yoga classes are designed in series to build and maintain health for students of all ages with a chosen focus for example on digestion, joints and muscles or common respiratory conditions. The teachers are also trained to create longer term therapeutic yoga programs for individuals recovering from illness, accidents or surgery including reviewing food choices based on Ayurvedic nutrition. They also learn the practice of yoga nidra and personal conflict resolution based on the yoga sutras.
Agreement:  With the help of scholarships (and supportive family), five women committed to becoming yoga teacher trainers in Palestine through the 500 level of training at 7 Centers Yoga Arts in Sedona.

To date:      1) All five women have completed their 200 hour foundational level of yoga training.

2) Shadan and Lana have completed the 500 hour therapeutic yoga program

In 2016 Shadan Nassar partnered with a nutritionist to deliver this pilot program of diabetes prevention into several refugee camps. She has since been hired full time to continue this work and also organizes and serves in Vipassana meditation retreats in Palestine.  Since returning from Sedona Lana has been offering classes within her community and writes, “I am so happy I am helping these women; it is amazing to observe their transformation, while they do come to yoga to practice asanas, and concentrate on the physical body, but when they are encountered with breathing techniques, yoga nidra, meditation and the postures, they leave with a much uplifted spirit. Yoga reduces stress, promotes healing, and enhances quality of life. Some of the students asked to have classes to discuss the philosophy of yoga. I believe there is a hunger for spiritual meaning to our lives, especially in the current political situation; at least, yoga could offer peace of mind and a sense of calmness, even though we do not experience those in our own country. Yoga elevates the sense of responsibility towards our community and the society.” Lana will be joining another teacher trainer, Nahed to offer yoga classes at Duheishah refugee camp in Bethlehem starting in 2018.
*There was a rewarding 3 week  trip to  Israel and the West Bank with Mira Murphy in April/May of 2017. We offered yoga workshops including a 3 day conflict resolution seminar while Mira introduced Ayurvedic teachings for yoga practitioners for the first time in the West Bank. We also learned how to shop in the markets and are learning the Arabic names of spices!
1)  Majdal and Maha plan on completing the 500 hour therapeutic yoga training in May (God willing!)
2)  All five women will work to gain experience in therapeutic yoga by teaching jobs in one or more refugee camps.
3)  Mira and I will return to the West Bank and continue teaching yoga and ayurveda  for stress, anxiety and depression as well as cardiovascular health for the community while mentoring the new teacher trainers as they assist us in workshops.
4)  Find a way to teach men’s yoga in Palestine (the interest is there, the visas are not)
1) Create, translate and offer the first 200 hour yoga teacher training taught by Palestinian yoga teachers.
It is an ambitious vision but slowly slowly it is happening!! It is difficult to stay  practice the yogic way of being centered and nonreactive in the kind of political, economic and cultural turmoil that presents on a daily basis through this long entrenched conflict between Palestine and Israel. We are so proud of these passionate and dedicated yoga teachers and the healing, education and inspiration they are bringing back to their communities.
If you feel inclined to contribute to this ongoing project, donations are tax-exempt through Mystis, Inc.  With the generosity of donors, over $17,000 in scholarships have supported this project in the last two years. The students are matching their scholarship by paying for travel and housing. This is a small personal project. We stay in touch through email and Skype conference calls. It is out of love and hope for the future that everyone continues.  Not unsurprisingly, the teachers are finding that they are influencing and affecting the lives of everyone they teach yoga to. To me this the essence of what outreach yoga is.
Many blessings for the New Year!
Sraddhasagar  (Ruth Hartung)
Director of 7 Centers Yoga Arts
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