THE USHA YOGA FOUNDATION
While visiting her Grandfather in India, Reema's Grandfather, "Bapuji," reminded her that "Service and Spirituality go hand in hand. Yoga makes us personally perfect and socially useful." Inspired, in 2005 Reema created the Usha Yoga Foundation in memory of her Grandmother, a yogini who exuded peace despite any and all life challenges.
The Usha Yoga Foundation supports yoga teachers to bring yoga to marginalized communities worldwide. The foundation has helped bring yoga to schools, prisons and shelters in North America, India, Africa and England. Below are stories straight from the field from Usha Yoga scholarship recipients.
Mysore, India, Survivors of Sexual Exploitation and Human Trafficking, Nancy Yu
At present, we take care of 95 rescued children with the intention of protecting them from the clutches of the flesh and sex trade. We provide shelter, education and skills development training to make them independent and self-reliant. I teach yoga to small girls under 12 years of age at 7am 5 times a week, and hold self-practice class every weekday for teenage and college girls and every weekend for the older boys.
I am inspired by the lifelong renewal of the body and mind that the yoga practice cultivates. I am constantly amazed by the energy, determination and unbounded love that exudes from these children. Some have lost their voice or are depressed. Some are so deeply traumatized that they are very sensitive to touch. Some measure their self-worth on their past experience or how much attention they get. I just want them to realize that each of them is special, capable of being loved and finding deep joy. I know that yoga is transformative in this way.
WE-ACTx Rwanda, Yoga for Trauma Recovery, Umuraza Nasim
WE-ACTx is an international medical organization that works to bring HIV and other medical care and treatment to genocide rape survivors and their families. The organization is providing Yoga classes to HIV-positive women and children. The classes offer traumatized women and their children the chance to not only use and regain control over their bodies, but to find some equilibrium and peace of mind.
Yoga instructors are teaching a wide range of people, including a large and enthusiastic co-op of seamstresses and the patients of Icyuzuzu, a WE-ACTx-run clinic, as well as some of the 300 HIV-positive orphans who meet on weekends and WE-ACTx’s own staff in Kigali.
VINAY MANDIR girl's HIGH SCHOOL & Gramshree Women's cooperative, GUJURAT, INDIA, RIPA AJMERA
At the Vinay Mandir High School, I taught thirty-one students ages thirteen-sixteen three times a week. They said that practicing yoga helped them concentrate better in school and feel more peaceful. 94% of participants reported practicing on their own. It was wonderful to learn that this program is sustaining itself, with the school principal teaching the girls in the mornings now.
The women’s work hours at the Gramshree Cooperative made regular classes a challenge, but the average number of participants was 20 and staff joined the classes. By the end of one month, the women were able to lead each other in doing some of the asanas. They were grateful to be able to know how to practice on their own after our time together.
La Palma Correctional Facility, Eloy, AZ. Geoff Eddy
"I have been in prison for 10 years. Meditation and yoga has allowed me to slow my mind and calm my breath. I feel refreshed and happy. The daily stress and drama of Prison no longer affects my mood. Before you know it, I am teaching other inmates yoga... " - Evan I., student of Geoff Eddy
Yoga for Anxiety and Depression
Norwich, England, Marie-Claire Jenkins
Three years ago I was diagnosed Bipolar II (manic depression). Years of medication made me very sick After one year of regular yoga practice, I was described as calm, confident, self-sufficient, and strong mentally. I no longer needed doctors. I now take immense pleasure in supporting others who experience depression, anxiety, stress and other emotional issues. As people experience yoga, they see that so much more is available to them. My students report feeling a sense of grounded calm, greater security and possiblity, a more positive outlook and a sense of community after having felt isolated for years.
The Community Head Injury Service
Aylesbury, Bucks, U.K., Dr. Giles Yeates
I am a clinician in the UK working with adults who have sustained an acquired brain injury (ABI) from a traumatic event, stroke and other causes. I am also a yoga practitioner and work within a multi-disciplinary team of other clinical neuropsychologists, speech and language therapists, physiotherapists, medics, occupational therapists and vocational consultants. Our team aims to provide a holistic community response to ABI, integrating physical, psychological, family and community perspectives.
Following ABI, survivors often struggle to cope with ongoing physical (pain, altered sensation and mobility restrictions), emotional (depression, anxiety, anger), cognitive (difficulties remembering, thinking, concentrating) family (relationship breakdown, divorce, separation, isolation) and wider social restrictions. We are constantly seeking to develop new initiatives in our clinical service and thanks to the Usha Foundation, we are keen to establish a regular yoga session for the people who use our service.
Usha Yoga Foundation is a registered tax exempt 501(c)(3) organization.
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