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The notion of taking yoga off the mat and into the world, as so passionately modeled by Seane Corn, Hala Khouri and Suzanne Sterling’s organization of the same name, has become a powerful catalyst in the yoga community. It has now launched the Palestine Yoga Movement (PYM), an organization created with the goal of sharing yoga with people laboring under endless financial, political, and social strife, and to and enfold practitioners there into an international yoga community. PYM was founded by Bex Tyrer, a British social activist and yoga teacher currently living in Ubud, Bali, and has a core team of seven international teachers and artists of various media who are helping to spread the group’s message.
Tyrer first traveled to Palestine with The Peace Cycle, a group of international cyclists who pedaled their way from London to Jerusalem in support of Peace in Palestine, in 2004. She stayed for two years working as a journalist. She later went on to become a yoga teacher and has taught yoga everywhere from India to Indonesia. This past June, she returned to Palestine and reached out to the activists she’d known when she lived there; they helped connect her to places where she could teach yoga as a way of helping the people there to deal with the intense conditions of their daily lives. Her students were both Christians and Muslims (though not always at the same time), and her classes were held in Ramallah, Jenin, and Bethlehem, as well as in refugee camps and in dance clubs. It was during the planning of this trip that she was inspired to start PYM.
“Teaching in Palestine is an incredible gift,” says Tyrer. “We are providing a proverbial bridge from our spiritual community [that has] First World freedoms and wealth to a community living in conditions where even physical mobility is limited.” Yoga helps the people of Palestine tap into that infinite source of internal peace and freedom, she adds.
This month the group will lead classes throughout the West Bank, working with Palestinian teachers. Tyrer hopes to plant seeds for a permanent space for yoga and movement, where regular classes and teacher trainings can occur.
Tyrer’s work comes at a time when interest in yoga is growing in Palestine. Last month the Wall Street Journal reported that Palestinian women are taking to the practice to help them cope with the stress of ongoing financial and political turmoil in the region.
“As long as there are still people suffering in the world, we—especially as self-pronounced yogis— have work to do,” says Tyrer. “And as yogis living in a global world, this is the practice that truly counts. Taking yoga off the mat and to where it really can make a difference.”