Have you ever driven by the Bachelder Library in East Andover on a Thursday night and wondered what was going on? I teach a community yoga class on Thursday evenings, and the class will start up again in September. Participants gather weekly to practice gentle yoga postures and simple breathing techniques. The 75-minute class helps relieve stress and promotes general well-being and self-care.
I used a portion of the proceeds from last year’s classes to support my service project “Breathing for Peace: Ukraine.” This project was a culmination of my service work in the Peace Corps in 2012 and 2013. While serving in the Peace Corps, I taught English at a Teacher Training Institute in Chernigov, as well as at a Technical University in Zhytomyr.
I was also fortunate enough to begin weekly yoga classes at a start-up school for young journalists as my secondary project. Yoga is relatively new in Ukraine, and classes are generally only available to those who can afford them, so free classes are always attended with enthusiasm and deep appreciation.
The Breathing for Peace project began as a way to train participants in relaxation and breathing techniques for people living in a country where the last years’ turmoil has created significant uncertainties and distress. When working with my students, both in English classes and as a yoga instructor, I was often reminded that many Ukrainians had never experienced any breathing techniques, guided visualizations, or introductory mindfulness practices.
Despite these challenges, my students soon learned to trust in their experience, and as a result found deep peace and transferable, sustainable skills.
While in Ukraine this past June, I offered workshops in Kyiv, at America House, in Zhytomyr, at TriYoga, and at the State Technical University, as well as in Vinogradiv, a beautiful city on the border of Hungary and Romania. Over 125 people, ages 14 to 76, participated in the workshops.
Participants included teachers and therapists who work with the elderly, disadvantaged, and PTSD patients and clients, as well as obstetricians and general PC doctors. The workshops were well received and well attended.
I would like to thank the supporters in the Andover and Warner communities for showing up to class despite rain, wind, sleet, and major snowstorms. I hope to see you all at the next class, starting up on Thursday, September 8, at 6 PM.