Yoga for Peace in Afghanistan

Yoga in schools has been one topic covered here on PeaceLearner, but another area where Yoga and meditation are being used as approaches to peace and nonviolence is actually in Afghanistan, through the Amanuddin Foundation. Started by French human rights activist Amandine Roche, Amanuddin facilitates yoga programs for Afghan people. The program there is called Sola Yoga – “a peace initiative based on the ancient/ancestral science of Yoga and meditation,” where “participants will develop the tools they need to control their feelings and temper negative emotions such as frustration, anger, hatred, and revenge.” Sola Yoga focuses on teaching breathing exercises, concentration exercises, and non-violent practices.

Roche told Reuters: “It’s a new solution to an old problem. War starts in the minds of men, so peace starts in the minds of men. You cannot bring peace with the means of war, it’s as simple of [sic] that.” Roche believes that peace cannot be imposed from the outside, but must come from the inside of an individual.

Roche is also focused on bringing yoga to Afghans because she believes it will help them begin rebuilding their society after the devastations of war. While some might call Roche, who was detained by the Taliban in 2001, crazy for working with these gunmen, she says: “My vision is to teach meditation to all the insurgents, to organize vocational training for them to become mediation teachers, so … they can go back to society, they have a job, they can reintegrate, and they will become peaceful” (Reuters). Roche has worked with the Dalai Lama and members of the Gandhi family to learn about non-violence and meditation. She also worked for the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping and helped to organize the first Afghani presidential election.

The Amanuddin Foundation is just getting started and will surely be growing in months to come. The foundation has gotten a lot of press in recent days – to read more, see these articles:

Can yoga and meditation help bring peace to Afghans? – Reuters

Sola Yoga: Can Meditation Bring Peace to Afghanistan – Huffington Post

For This Yogi, Afghan Peace Plan Needs More Downward Dog – Wall Street Journal

Reading about the Amanuddin Foundation can be a meaningful way for learners to realize the power of nonviolence and have an example of just how effective and helpful the practices of Yoga and meditation can be. By seeing how Roche and her colleagues are affecting peace in Afghanistan, we can explore different approaches to peace and possibly adapt them to use in our own contexts. Amanuddin’s work is also a moving example of the nonviolent transformation of conflict – especially Roche’s goals of arming insurgents with vocational skills to help them rebuild their lives in Afghanistan.

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