Yogis of Palestine

These are portraits of some of our trainees new yoga teachers. They tell us why they came to yoga and joined the training; what yoga brings to their life and how they plan to teach.

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Sabreen, 22 years old, Nablus

“I want to teach yoga to women in the refugee camps in Nablus where I live. There, women stay at home all day. Most of them don’t work or study and have no opportunities to exercise. When I joined my mother to her yoga class [given by Mirna the 1st yoga teacher in Nablus] I noticed the class triggered discussions and questions about health, psychology, etc. As a social worker I joined the yoga teachers training to find answers to these questions and help my community.”

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Hadeel, 28 years old, Bethlehem

“I’m especially interested in learning about yoga for children. That’s what I want to teach. For the last 3 years I have been volunteering in hospitals as a “clown doctor”. I visit kids with cancer, diabetes or kidney failure. Like a clown I parody the doctors and make the children laugh while they are receiving chemotherapy or in general, to make them feel less traumatized by hospitalization. I want to add yoga to help them relax and have fun.”

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Samia, 38 years old, Bethlehem

“When I started yoga a year ago, I immediately loved it. My life is so intense and full of stress: I work and volunteer with several organisations counselling women in rural areas. And I’m a mother of 4. Yoga helps me to release my stress and to remain grounded. I was so happy when I learned I had been chosen for the training! I’ll teach classes to women in villages around Bethlehem. They are under so much pressure… from the family, society, poverty, war, etc.”

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Laila, 26 years old, Haifa

“Thanks to the training I got to know Palestinians from the West Bank especially while living together for these 10-days intensive. I now realize how close we are despite coming from different parts of Palestine. [Laila is from Arraba, a small town in Galilee, and now lives in Haifa, a city in northern Israel where Palestinians constitute 10% of the population]. I’m now thinking how we can build more bridges between our communities, especially focussing on the kids, as I’m an educator for children with special needs. I dream of organizing a yoga class for children from all parts of Palestine, in front of the sea”.

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Fatima, 40 years, Bethlehem

“God put the training on my path just when I needed it. I was feeling drained, out-of-battery, because of my job as a midwife but most of all because of my masters’ research on sexual violence (illegal pregnancies). The more I learned about discrimination and injustice against women the more I felt angry at the taboos and hypocrisy around women’s sexuality. So with yoga I want to help other women. But first I need to focus on helping me, on taking care of myself. Because I love midwifery – literally meaning “with women” – so much, I need to connect with myself on a deeper level to be able to give back, especially to these women still suffering from the culture of silence.”

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Yara, 22 years, Bethlehem

“For me yoga has been a healing tool, a life-changing event, yoga to me is life! Yoga chose me before I choose it. Yoga helps me release the poisons that I get from work; it allows me to connect with all what’s alive and breathing in this great universe; it provides me the knowledge that I look for to explore myself deeper. I now look forward to use yoga with the children I volunteer with in the hospital. These kids are suffering from chronic diseases, especially from cystic fibrosis that eventually lead to death. As a mental health counselor I support them and their families. Yes, it is a heavy work, but I have a lot of love to offer to these children. They are often depressed and I feel yoga can help them finding inner peace, healing and accepting the idea of dying.”

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Majd, 19 years old, Nablus

“When will we have a yoga teachers training for men”?

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Sundous, 21 years old, Ramallah

“With yoga I found many things I was looking for. Most importantly it allowed renewing the dialogue with my body. Here women are not encouraged to listen to their body or even feelings. We shut down how we feel and we bear the consequences… for us but also on our relationships. As a psychologist, I will use yoga as a tool with the people I work with in public spaces, villages, refugee camps and hospitals. I’m just starting an initiative for women to meet regularly in self-help groups to share their experience and build a support base. Yoga will be a great tool to help them get back in touch with themselves: physically, emotionally and spiritually. I hope that once women start to open up, it might trigger some similar process for the men… ”

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Manal, 31 years, Hebron

“Before I was like a candle – I was there for the others but I was giving too much, without taking enough care of myself. Now I’m like the sun! With yoga I get a different energy – especially from doing the sun salutation – and I can give light and power to others and to myself. Yoga light up my life”
Manal, a doctor in HR and development & empowerment expert, started using yoga – mostly pranayama and meditation – with the cancer patients she treats with acupuncture for pain management.

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Margarita, 43 years old, Bethlehem

“The first three days of training were awful. I felt like an old wreck and was about to stop… But I persisted and now I’m thankful. I became more patient, learnt to relax and to listen to my body while doing asanas in order not to hurt myself. I like the principle of yoga: no rushing, no competition.
I would like to teach children in the Russian Center for Science and Culture where I work. We have more than 300 children from different economic, educational and religious background. All children in Palestine are living under permanent stress because of Israeli occupation. Many of their relatives are in prison or have been killed. They can’t move freely outside or within the West Bank – because of the checkpoints where they can be checked in a very cruel way. Yoga can really help our children to cope with the stress”

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