A Trauma Informed Yoga Model Helping Heal Refugees Worldwide


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The life of humanitarian worker Julia Midland came at a cross-end after her body’s health took a toll on her. Years of working in refugee camps and on several jobs in the humanitarian aid and development sectors, she enrolled in a yoga teaching training program to discover and heal her traumatic experiences and PTSD.

Breath is the source of life and a way to help others connect with their bodies.

Conscious of her privileges and access to trainings and alternative healing methods in the United States, Midland founded The OmPowerment Project three years ago to provide free week-long trauma informed trainings to the some of the most vulnerable and marginalized communities in the world: refugees.

“Yoga did save my life and I was able to access that because of who I was, where I have lived and where I was based,” Midland said.

The organization developed organically as a community-led intervention seeking to distance itself from the band-aid solutions found within the international development sector.

By teaming up with local grassroots movements, wellness specialists and activists, the aim of the initiative is to create a long-lasting impact with free trauma informed yoga trainings on the ground.

At first, the train the trainer model focused on the refugee population but after months, The OmPowerment Project found giving free trainings only to this group could trigger certain resentments from people of the host country.

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According to the gender and conflict specialist, there must be a demand from the host community and logistic feasibility for trainings to happen, two of the most important deciding factors. 

“By including a coordinator in the community, people are more willing to continue the practice because they have seen it and its impact”, Midland said.

After the 35-hour trainings, participants have seen benefits in their wellbeing and health.

Some of the immediate positive effects of engaging in trauma informed yoga exercises have been the feeling of safety and community-building, better sleeping patterns, calmness and pain relief.

Midland has also worked with survivors of the harshest cultural practices of gender-based violence for as she explained, “yoga is the vehicle to invite people to their bodies”.

In Kenya,  The OmPowerment Project worked with a group of survivors of female genital mutilation and in Uganda with human trafficking victims with local therapist coordinators providing psychosocial support to participants long after the week ends.

With Yazidi and Afghan female refugees, some of which had experienced sexual violence, the trainings were able to give women a new method to re-connect with their bodies through movement.

Midland understands that every refugee and women experience is different and though not all get invested in continuing the practice, access to yoga is provided nonetheless as a method to available for them to use at any time.

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The commitment to help refugees worldwide will grow even more this summer with the partnership between the UK registered charity and European Yogi Nomads will host a fundraising event in London on June 5-7th where all profits will go to continuing the free training programs across the globe.

The topic? Build bridges not borders.

Midland hopes to continue expanding the organization’s outreach with online training courses and exploring new countries with big immigration issues including the UK and the US-Mexico border, a trip she is planning to undertake soon.

You can learn more about The OmPowerment Project click here: https://ompower.org/

Photos Credits: Julia Midland, The OmPowerment Project

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