Beyond the individual: Yoga as a community healing practice for social transformation
By Allie Middleton
Even if it’s your first time, yoga or other mind-body practices can shift how you feel, maybe even helping you tap into your creativity! In addition, engaging in these practices may inspire you to experiment and innovate in communities, groups, or organizations you care about.
Plenty of opportunities for community healing and social action projects are indeed happening in the yoga world. It’s a natural fit, as the word yoga is often translated as “union,” and yogic practices naturally lead us to experience increased connections within ourselves, with others, and with the world around us. Yoga can be successfully adapted for healing and change in large systems, just as it works in the bodies of individual practitioners.
Examples of change-making yoga-based projects we discussed during a recent International Association of Yoga Therapists conference:
- Yoga Therapy as a Health Promotion Strategy for Underserved Communities Yoga therapists and yoga therapy interns provide services in a primary-care setting that engages Spanish-speaking communities.
- Supporting Syrian Refugees in Our American Communities Working with women and families, this project cultivates an understanding of self-value and courage to assist refugee communities in cooperation with other community groups such as a local yoga studio.
- A Year of Prison Yoga at a Women’s Prison: Findings, Insights & Lessons Qualitative research questions guided the collection of information in this study and helped build collaborations in a state correctional system. Both personal and institutional transformational change strategies were explored within this challenging environment.
- Yoga as a Peace Practice, an initiative of the Black Yoga Teachers Alliance, offers a self-help intervention to address the impact of trauma in individuals and communities where there is dysfunction, chaos, and violence. This contemplative approach to yoga can illuminate new ideas and strategies to create resilience and compassion and to expand personal and group awareness.
- Universally Inclusive Yoga: Best Practices for Yoga with Survivors of Sexual Trauma The Yoga Service Council, with support from Omega Institute, is a grassroots national project dedicated to transforming traumatic experiences through community engagement and yoga-based practices.
- POC Yoga for Resilience and Well-Being This project seeks to creating safe space for people of color (POC) in healing work through awareness and validation of lived experiences that acknowledge micro-aggressions and other forms of discrimination.
These innovative projects demonstrate how personal transformation through yoga practice can lay the groundwork for community healing initiatives.
As yoga therapy evolves as a professional discipline, we are collecting and sharing experiences and research on how yoga-based practices can assist in personal health challenges. It’s also becoming clear that communities and care systems benefit from integrating yoga into existing healthcare practices. We might think of this development as moving from me to we—toward union.
#movingyogafromMEtoWE, #yogahealscommunities, #sociallyactiveyoga
Allie Middleton is a passionate healer who maintains a private yoga therapy and body-centered consulting practice. She brings change-making skills and successful innovation strategies to diverse health and business teams to enhance well-being through yoga-based practices. https://www.linkedin.com/in/alliemiddleton