Hackney Yoga Project is a pilot project based at Hackney City Farm, which has created a safe and respectful space for refugee and asylum-seeking women to practice the powerful and transformative practice of yoga.
In doing so, the pilot aims to develop a best practice model for working with yoga and the refugee and asylum-seeking community.
This includes looking at how best to remove barriers to participation, including transport and class cost, childcare, language and misperceptions about yoga.
Finding freedom from the past
The women are referred to Hackney Yoga Project from organisations including the British Red Cross, Freedom from Torture and Poppy Project. Some are destitute and many have experienced gender based violence. The women are determined to make better lives for themselves despite circumstances.
“Yoga makes me ready to fight the world in a very positive way,” says M. a Hackney Yoga Project regular.
“There are a lot of problems in the world, I don’t understand why,” says T. another regular. “But yoga help me, it is very very good. My legs pain, my head pain, everywhere pain, my back… When I exercise in the yoga class, I feel free. My body free, my mind free, like a bird. My heart feels different.”
Since its establishment in March 2011, the pilot has grown to include English language and textile printing sessions. The women also have a hot seasonal healthy lunch, provided by the farm’s Frizzante cafe. For some, it is their only hot lunch of the week.
The pilot takes place in Hackney City Farm’s cosy strawbale building, looking out to the garden and trees; with the woodburning stove for colder weather.
Hackney Yoga Project was set-up initially using funds from Hackney City Farm’s Big Lottery funding. In 2011, funds were won from the British Wheel of Yoga, the UK’s governing body of yoga. Kit has very kindly been donated by Yogamatters.
Yoga itself is a powerful and transformative practice that is at least 5,000 years old. It has many widely recognised theraputic benefits, including being more relaxed, having more energy, becoming stronger and more flexible in body and mind, and improving self-esteem and confidence.
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