By Kimaya Singh, CYT 500
Yoga community outreach is a reality around the world. Teachers often give time for the benefit of the less fortunate. There are many lessons from the Yoga Sutras that can be applied to humankind today. Ahimsa, the concept of non-violence, is one of the chief moral restraints (yamas) in yogic philosophy. Non-harming is the basis for almost all of a true yogi's decision-making. Choices about how others should be treated, which food is best, and how one should think of oneself can be boiled down to how closely the options adhere to ahimsa. Yogic philosophy is universally applicable - even in locations in which yoga is not easily accessible. Yoga community outreach programs can prevent violence regardless of the circumstances.
Asana and pranayama practices can teach people to be present and mindful. In West Englewood, Illinois, I-Grow Chicago has set up a safe haven for members of a community riddled with gang violence. Children in West Englewood may go to the I-Grow house to receive breakfast and practice yoga. Members of the community, including some ex-gang members, participate in these public practices. I-Grow helps to stem violence by teaching children mindfulness techniques at a young age, but it also breaks the cycle of violence that results from years of trauma.
Segments of communities that tend to be reactive can benefit from yogic methodologies. Outbursts of violence and emotion are some of the most destructive symptoms of PTSD. Programs such as the Veterans Yoga Project provide trauma-sensitive approaches to asana and pranayama in order to disrupt these outbursts. Veterans are not the only individuals that can benefit from trauma-sensitive yogic methodologies: programs such as Exhale to Inhale aid victims of domestic violence and sexual assault through work on the mat.
The Prison Yoga Project addresses incarcerated individuals, who undergo tremendous stress while navigating the prison system. Providing access to yoga for prisoners can help to decrease violence within prisons, but the techniques can also aid inmates when they must reintegrate with the outside world.
Some community outreach programs are aimed at working with children in schools. Calming Kids is a curriculum designed to end bullying in school through mindfulness techniques. Preventing the trauma of bullying can decrease the likelihood of violent responses to other stressors later in life.
Violence is complicated, and ending it requires a multi-faceted solution. Community outreach programs which include yogic practices are able to tackle the issue at several stages. Whether the practitioner is a child, a former service member, a victim of trauma, or a prisoner, yogic practices can meet people where they are and transform their responses to others.
© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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