UN Uses Yogis, Not Soldiers for Peace

According to the United Nations Development Fund for Women, up to 3 out of 5 women across the world have been physically or sexually abused. In many parts of the world, like in Rwanda, these numbers increase during times of war and they carry with them not only the effects of personal and social trauma, but also HIV and AIDS.

This is not a problem of individuals, this is a systemic and global trauma.


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By disabling a woman’s ability to cope with stress, to sleep well at night or to concentrate (all symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder), her ability to take care of her children, obtain an education, keep a job and lead her community are inhibited.

What does this have to do with Yoga?

Project Air is taking yoga to places like Rwanda. It is the first yoga program to be sponsored by the UN and they are using yoga as a way to treat trauma in women who were sexually abused during the genocide.

Why Yoga?

According to their website and the personal accounts of Rwandan yogis, the women who take these yoga classes:

  • sleep through the night for the first time since their abuse
  • regain their appetites
  • stop feeling exhausted all the time
  • start feeling young, strong and flexible
  • feel their depression lift


This is healing by empowerment. There are lots of organizations and governments sending money and aid to countries that are war torn and devastated by corruption and natural disaster, but is that effective?

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Creative Commons License photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography

Project Air is moving one life at a time with a few simple poses and then watching these women walk back into their lives, care for their children, hold their jobs and participate in their communities.

That’s the kind of healing we all need. If we could re-mobilize the 30% of our global population who is potentially inhibited by abuse, we would no longer need to send aid or fight wars for freedom.

But can yoga do it? Can you?

What do you think? Is yoga as a force for healing powerful enough to heal the world? Or are we fooling ourselves believing this practice might help eradicate poverty, smooth rifts between nations, and end sexual violence?

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- who has written 31 posts on Yoga Modern.

Lauren Znachko is a yogi and writer in Chicago. She travels to the jungle, lives in the city and although she begins each day with a cup of coffee and never leaves the house without her iphone, she finds at least a moment each day with the page and on the mat. The art of combining an embodied life experience and expressing that it with crafted word is what inspires her to teach and write in a way that brings unity to the many communities of which she is a part.

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