By Emily Brett, Yoga Teacher & Founder/CEO Ourmala
Being a baby of the 1970s, if someone mentions ‘Something inside so strong‘, I automatically start singing, swaying and clicking my fingers. Remember – “The higher you build your barriers the taller I become… The farther you take my rights away the faster I will run… Deny my place in time, you squander wealth that’s mine… My light will shine so brightly, it will blind you ’cause there’s… Something inside so strong!’
Brilliant lyrics. Anyway, I’m just back from teaching yoga to women and men recovering from torture, which is what I do at 11am on Fridays in North London. This is one of Ourmala’s weekly therapeutic yoga classes for refugees and asylum-seekers. This one’s held in partnership with Room to Heal, the small charity I love so much that’s made a healing community for refugees and asylum seekers who have survived torture and other forms of organised violence. The people who work there are really cool. They deal with some of the darkest and heaviest aspects of humanity yet they retain their lightness and compassion.
End of class, I told the students that on June 21st this year, Ourmala will be holding a massive fundraiser (you heard it here first!), that a famous music producer is writing a soundscape especially for us, that there will be fantastic yoga teachers and around 450 people practicing yoga in the most gorgeous space with a glass roof and yes, of course it will be over Refugee Week. Are you in?
I’m excited about this but the bit I’m looking forward to most is seeing my refugee and asylum-seeking students being the guests of honour at this beautiful event and being honoured and being shown that they are not alone and that some people do care immensely. It will be a far cry from the daily life most of them lead and the hell they have escaped from. Perhaps the most important point, though, is that rather than this event just being a big do on Midsummer’s Eve, with the funds we’re aiming to raise, our intention is to keep the flame lit throughout this year and next and so on, to keep our practical support and care alive for this precious and so hugely under-represented part of our community.
Light in all eyes… Then we got onto the subject of Room to Heal’s summer party, which is held in this garden full of hollyhocks, roses and jasmine in Islington – the Culpepper Community Garden. One of the students (who travels three hours each way) to get to Room to Heal and our Friday yoga class, said,
“Oh, last year we sang ‘Something inside so strong’ and everyone in the garden was singing…”
“Oh my God!” I replied. “That’s one of my favourite songs in the world, please will you sing it to me?”
So as we cleared up the mats and blocks, she sang it to me. The other students smiled a lot. And then – because I’m not a natural at remembering song words – we sang it very loudly together. Her singing one line, then me copying. Then we decided to brighten up the day of the Room to Heal office team, in case they were working too seriously on fundraising applications, by bursting in on them in song. Well, the singing yoga student did. She delivered a solo rendition, hand on heart, brow furrowed with emotion… The team didn’t stand a chance and were the ideal captive audience at their computers. Needless to say, the room was left beaming. In fact, at that moment, if you’d been in space, you would have seen streams of light emitting into the vast dark sky, all coming from a little dot that we know as Ourmala’s yoga class at Room to Heal in North London.
Labi Siffre, we love your song. Thank you for writing it and inspiring us with your words. And while I’m at it: thank you to all of the artists in the world, including my dearest Mum and Dad, for your inspiration and example that there is so much more to life than working yourself into the ground in pursuit of ‘security’ and financial gain. #JustSaying #Ourmala #RefugeeYoga #RefugeeWeek2016