GBYF & Niroga Institute Bring Yoga to the Next Generation in Palestine

In August, Give Back Yoga Foundation awarded a $10,000 matching grant to help the Niroga Institute bring its Transformative Life Skills curriculum to educators and other professionals working with children in the politically unstable region of the West Bank. A dynamic mindfulness program that integrates yoga, breathing techniques and meditation, the TLS program is designed to help at-risk youth better cope with trauma and stress. We caught up with Niroga Institute founder BK Bose after his team’s trip to Palestine to learn how TLS is having an impact in the Middle East, and how the Niroga Institute is building a more resilient and peaceful next generation.

Yoga in the Middle East

“This is exactly what we need! It is evidence-based and trauma-informed, and our children have so much stress and trauma. Will you help us bring this into our schools?”

This plaintive plea arrived in the summer of 2012 in an email from Maha El-Shawreb, a public health professional in Palestine, upon seeing our curriculum and the compelling research results supporting it. A few months later, Maha sent a representative from the Farashe Yoga Center in Ramallah to be trained at our day-long Transformative Life Skills (TLS) training. She, in turn, trained 15 newly certified Palestinian yoga teachers – and one of the yoga teachers, Mirna Ali, took TLS to four public schools in Nablus.

“The results have been remarkable,” noted Maha. “Students, teachers and parents consistently report that TLS has improved the students’ focus and concentration, enhanced classroom climate and school-wide learning environment, and improved interactions at home between children and their parents and families.”

This three-pronged feedback trickled up to educators and administrators at UNRWA, and they want to substantially expand the TLS program in schools across the West Bank.

With grant funding from the Give Back Yoga Foundation, a team of trainers and researchers led by the Niroga Institute recently went to Palestine and conducted a series of TLS trainings for over 200 educators, health professionals, social workers and refugee service providers throughout the West Bank. The response has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic – some participants have already started teaching TLS in their schools the day after receiving training, and they want Niroga trainers back in 6 months!

I dream about the possibilities for abiding peace throughout the world if we could bring TLS to an entire generation of children caught in conflict, as well as the adults around them. TLS could help them regulate their emotions and make them more resilient in the face of chronic stress and trauma, rewiring brains and changing behavior one breath at a time. TLS could help in bringing joy where there is sadness, shedding light where there is darkness, sowing love where there hatred, and building hope where there is despair.

It will require all of our passion and compassion, vision and imagination to bring yoga where it is most needed throughout the world. Share your time, talent and treasure with us so that we can scale and sustain these time-tested practices, and help change the world one breath at a time.

Bidyut K. Bose, PhD
Founder and Executive Director
Niroga Institute

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You can help Niroga Institute to change the lives of teens by making a donation through Give Back Yoga Foundation to support At-Risk Youth. To see how Niroga Institute is “changing the zip code of yoga” and helping youths across the globe to overcome challenges, check out this powerful video.