Can Yoga Be The Secret to Peace in the Middle East?

Yoga is largely unknown among Palestinians. But over the past two years, more Palestinians — women in particular — have started to embrace the discipline as a way of coping with the stresses of prolonged conflict. These daily stressors include political unrest, commuting through military checkpoints, unstable employment, and restrictions on movement and access.

This spring, the Give Back Yoga Foundation is collaborating with American yoga pioneer Rama Vernon and 7 Centers Yoga Arts in Sedona to support Palestinians’ exploration and use of yoga in everyday life.

On May 23, 2015, lead teachers from these organizations will travel to the Farashe Yoga Center in Ramallah to lead a two-week training for up to 30 Palestinian teachers. The newly trained teachers will then take yoga back to their communities, sharing the practice in urban refugee camps, schools, hospitals, and other venues.

A second phase of this initiative will invite world-renowned yoga teachers to take part in the first international yoga conference, to be held in the West Bank region in June 2016. Visiting teachers will participate in conference activities and lead hands-on workshops for Palestine-based yoga teachers, helping to develop effective yoga programming for students. After the conference, there will be a one-week service opportunity for newly trained teachers to apply these principles in their lives and in the community.

This initiative builds on previous trainings that other great yoga organizations like Anahata International, the Niroga Institute, and Olive Tree Yoga have brought to the West Bank and Gaza.

“We share a common belief that the therapeutic practice of yoga can empower those living with conflict and unrest by providing lasting tools to relieve symptoms of stress and trauma,” says Give Back Yoga Executive Director Rob Schware. “As a tool for inner transformation and growth, yoga can also plant seeds of peace that can blossom into positive change.”

Yoga studios around the world are invited to be a part of this global effort by sponsoring a Palestinian teacher to attend the pre-conference training in 2015, and by attending the 1st International Yoga Conference in June 2016.