Yoga as a cure for social exclusion

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Elizabeth Parcerisa
  • Yoga Teacher Training in South Africa.
    Yoga Teacher Training in South Africa. Source: Yoga Sin Fronteras.

Yoga Sin Fronteras opens an international cooperation course of action with Yoga Teacher Training for vulnerable groups to ensure the sustainability of the project and improve the social impact in the communities.

Yoga and its benefits have nothing to do with age, gender or social class. Its practice is an “empowerment tool that helps heal and draw emotions, makes us feel strong and know that it is possible to start over”, describes Meritxell Martorell, founder of Yoga Sin Fronteras.

Yoga Sin Fronteras (Yoga Without Borders) is a Spanish non-profit association that was founded about a year ago and already has fifteen volunteers. Its mission consists of sharing the practice of yoga with the most vulnerable groups in order to achieve a fairer world. To this end, they especially work with children, refugees, the elderly, women and people with disabilities.

“It has emerged from my enthusiasm and personal work” and with it “I am merging my passions: journalism, cooperation, and travel. I think yoga has helped me to find this path”, the founder explains.

The project arose in Tanzania when Meritxell began teaching yoga in an orphanage and spreading the practice among battered women’s centres, refugee camps, geriatric homes and people with addictions centres. In this way, without even noticing, Yoga Sin Fronteras was born with the aim of providing the benefits of yoga where they are most needed by helping to reduce stress and improving mental and physical relaxation.

The task of Yoga Sin Fronteras is basically national due to the collaboration with other organizations such as Casal dels Infants, Escola Lexia or Clínica Coroleu and sponsors such as Shambhala BCN. Although, international projects are on the rise in territories like Tanzania, Lesbos, Palestine or Morocco.  

New projects

The association has begun the new year with an additional international cooperation course of action focused on offering Yoga Teacher Training to ensure the independent sustainability of the project and create job opportunities for people at risk of social exclusion and improve the social impact in the communities. Thanks to the international collaboration with Sampoorna Yoga and Health Warriors, the first experience has taken place in South Africa this January with a 200 hours training certified by the Yoga Alliance.  

South Africa is the chosen location because it is the main focus of Health Warriors and due to its particular characteristics: “Mental illness affects one-third of South Africans and, besides, South Africa has the largest income inequality in the world and unemployment often runs at close to 50% for young people in the townships”, explains Geoff Barkley, cofounder of Health Warriors.

The training was given to 24 people in Langa, just outside of Cape Town “where racial differences between white people and black people are very noticeable”, explains Meritxell Martorell. For example, “a yoga class in Cape Town costs approximately ten euros that students simply cannot afford”.

With a view to diminish inequality and initiate this international project, the Yoga Sin Fronteras team raised 2,500 euros through crowdfunding that, along with the amount collected by Health Warriors, could be used to provide the training in addition to transport, accommodation, and meals.  

Shared Training

The social basis of the Yoga Sin Fronteras project is to provide free training to youngsters from South African townships thanks to other students’ contributions.

In this way, people like Amanda Guma from Cape Town townships have been able to become yoga teachers thanks to the contribution of other students like Chris van Rensburg. Chris wanted to participate in the program due to its approach to mental health through yoga and because “I also saw it as a way to finally start giving back to the yoga community that has given me so much already”, he says. “It feels like I am truly part of something special. We have become a family”.

Additionally, Amanda’s community is “divided: it has places for poor people and for affording people”, she regrets. Owing to the Yoga Sin Fronteras training she hopes to reverse this situation and impact her culture and community in a positive way by making yoga “very accessible and easy to join so basically it won’t be about the money but about the wellbeing, healing and understanding how everything can make sense through yoga”.

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