After more than 50 years of war in Colombia, one of the biggest challenges is dealing with its effects on the mental health of victims and ex-combatants.
PASO Colombia recently hosted a workshop: "Self-care and Care for Others," designed for professional peacebuilders and people working on the reincorporation of ex-combatants. The session was led by Swami Ahimsadhara Saraswati, an Australian yoga teacher and writer who brought the techniques of integral yoga from India. She has worked for more than 20 years with war veterans and believes Colombia is a world leader in the use of integral tools to mitigate the wounds of war.
The workshop demonstrated how using simple yoga practices can contribute to the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the emotional scars left by war. This practical approach, that takes in consideration the bodily experience of each individual, is an important contribution to the construction of a sustainable peace both individually and collectively.
Ahimsadhara explained to the participants how the mind and body are “like milk and water, inseparable from each other” Our psychological and physical problems are completely interweaved and should be addressed together. In the case of PTSD, the body is trapped in the stress responses triggered by past experiences, disrupting breathing patterns and keeping the nervous system on permanent alert, always in fight or flight response mode.
Proper use of yoga’s breathing and meditation techniques can strengthen the response of the parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for generating and maintaining relaxation states in the body. It is an integral and ancient practice that helps regulate the body, mind, and emotions
This introductory session addressed a variety of yoga practices including:
- simple yoga postures to relieve physical tension and pain
- breathing techniques to calm the nervous system and the mind
- guided relaxation for stress and insomnia reduction, and
- adoption of new mental attitudes to let go of past pain.