Healing Trauma with Yoga

Thanks to the Mandala Project, our beneficiaries have been using yoga to strengthen their body and mind and finding ways to cope with their PTSD for years. The program is very popular, and some of the students have even gone on to do formal training of their own and have returned to CRP as teachers. Mandala Project supports our yoga program with wonderfully trained instructors, who specifically teach trauma-informed yoga, such as Bella Hancock, who makes special visits to Amman from her home in Ireland twice a year.

Sleman has been doing yoga for two years now. He says “I come because it helps my health and strengthens my body. My mind is always busy during the day so I come to yoga to relax my mind.” The movements are slow but require a focus and calmness that takes the mind away from the stresses of the day. Sleman is part of the men’s yoga class, but there is also a women’s yoga offered separately.

Some of the men have serious physical inhibitions, but this does not stop them from staying in tune with their bodies and minds.

Bella says, “In a regular yoga studio most people who come to a yoga class have had some experience with yoga, or people will at least know what it is. But my experience here, especially when we first started the program, was that most people had never done yoga before.” She explains, however, that this can actually be a strength because the beneficiaries come with a much more open mind. Although the movements are new to them, they are able to listen to Bella’s instruction and allow it to guide them.

Keeping an open mind is vital to the practice of yoga, which is why it has been effective for many members of CRP’s community in coping with trauma. As Bella guides the class through keeping an open mind, she encourages them to let their trauma and fears go for the moment. Bella’s objective in bringing trauma-informed yoga to CRP was to give refugees with PTSD or physical difficulties a way to cope and heal, which is why refugees like Sleman have stuck with the classes. The beneficiaries have found a way to heal from different types of wounds in her classes.

Bella leads the class in the “om,” which is a sound made to represent the union of mind, body, and spirit that is at the heart of yoga.

Many of the refugees have been so influenced by Bella’s class that they have become certified yoga teachers. Safa’ started taking classes in 2014 and after having limited teacher training through the Mandala project, she was offered free training in a 200-hour teaching training session. Safa’ has now returned to CRP and teaches her own yoga classes.

At the end of class, Bella leads the beneficiaries in relaxation and chanting. This is where the participants incorporate their faith into their yoga practice. While chanting, Bella encourages them to release any stress and connect to their faith. CRP believes in the connection of mind, body, and spirituality and has been honored to host the Mandala Project for the unique healing they offer our beneficiaries. With their help, we are finding new ways to help refugees heal from their trauma.

Bella and the participants of the men’s yoga class being sent off in peace at the end of class.