Hot day in East London, not a cloud in the sky, Yoga this morning for the British Red Cross’ Refugee Women’s Group in Dalston… Love to post a photo of beaming smiles but, due to sensitivity, chilled out feet will have to suffice.
Most of the women in this group have experienced ‘gender based violence’ (think rape, sexual violence, FGM, etc.) and are seeking asylum in the UK because their human rights have been abused. They’re registered with the UK’s Home Office and going through the system, often absolutely alone, in poverty and without most basic needs met.
Yet, the women I taught today were strong, impressive and seriously bright.
I can’t imagine what it must be like to be forced to leave your homeland, come to a country where you know no one, let alone the language, and then embark on another voyage – of ‘settling’ – against the backdrop of constant uncertainty. Ie You might be told you have to return to your homeland at any point where, most likely, you would fear for your life. Plus there are the memories and, maybe, physical scars of what led you to make that life-changing decision to leave your country in the first place.
I am not religious but pretty much every day I count my blessings: that I am alive and well, and living in a country in peacetime, with my family and friends around me, where opportunities are open to you if you work hard.
Two of the women from the class, who had never practiced Yoga before, will now be coming to our weekly service at Hackney City Farm, where we also offer healthy lunch, English support class and signposting to other services (all free and with travel refunded) and we look forward to welcoming them very much.
People often think Yoga is about dressing in white, being super flexible and saying ‘OM’… but this couldn’t be further from the facts. Yoga is about connecting the mind, body and breath; and when you get that right, the result is peace.
Yoga helps to ‘ground’ people in reality. On the mat, Yoga practice helps boost innate qualities, including patience, self-respect, perseverance, resilience and determination. Bit-by-bit, this tends to reflect in life off the mat and in feeling more comfortable in your own skin and, therefore, more comfortable with the rest of life.
As one woman said after class today, ‘That was not easy, at all! But I really enjoyed it. I feel better now.” And that’s the point.
By Emily, Hackney Yoga Project founder and Yoga teacher