I recently had the privilege of being invited to Papua New Guinea to teach and see what was happening with Yoga in that country. Fiona Crockford has been living in PNG for the last 3 years and has been supporting the development of Yoga in the region through the Active City Program funded by the Governor of Port Moresby. Active City is seeking to change the health of individuals through group walks (walk for life), teaching yoga, acrobatic and circus skills (Yogabatics), along with cultural change.
As many will know, PNG has high rates of poverty, unemployment and violence. Many young men become part of Raskol gangs and carjackings and shootings are part of daily life here. The more wealthy people use security escorts when traveling outside their compound. Roads beyond the major centres are patchy and services non existent for the majority so many people have little chance of making significant change in their circumstances. Overall the diet is poor and health outcomes too with many dying young (life expectancy men 63 years & women 68 years). Diabetes is growing exponentially.
Violence is a huge issue here both on the street and within families and there are many NGOs seeking to address violence against women through education. The churches are a major influence and provide much of the service delivery into remote areas and are working actively to change this culture of abuse.
What I saw on my visit was extraordinary. Active City was promoting Yoga as upholding the 8 limbs of astanga underpinned by the Yamas and the Niyamas. It’s central message is that through yoga we can be better people: for ourselves, our family and in our community. Yoga is helping individuals deal with stress and anxiety as well make better choices in their lives. Young people through to grandparents participate. The practice of yoga was something that can be done by an individual to give them the physical and emotional strength to cope with, and to change their circumstances. Classes end with individuals standing up to make statements about how they feel or to give thanks.
During my visit I was able to teach alongside local teachers at the International Day of Yoga celebrations in Port Moresby, in a prison in Goroka (Eastern Highlands) as well as a community class for youth. What was evident was that the physicality of the practice provides a stabilising factor in these stressful life situations. Due to scant resources in the prison system there are no structured programs with the inmates simply being held for long hours each day. Boredom and despair are daily challenges. The head warden asked if there was anything we could give them to make practice a part of the daily routine.
In the coming months Yoga Mandir plans to deliver resources to the PNG community by assisting the local teachers in their work. We will support these teachers by developing Q-cards of sequences for specific conditions (sore back, fatigue, menstruation etc), along with short practice videos that can be played on the prison TV (and elsewhere) as part of the daily routine.
Yoga Mandir does not have the financial resources to sponsor PNG teachers to come for teacher training in Canberra but we will do our best to provide whatever support we can. We will seek partners who wish to work alongside us in the project
We will keep you informed …