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Two independent pieces of research reveal significant benefits of yoga in alleviating a number of mental health issues for refugees and people seeking asylum
48% of client base surveyed at refugee non-profit in London were experiencing suicidal thoughts nearly every day for two weeks or more
90% of client base surveyed at refugee non-profit reported increased confidence after their yoga practice
29% of clients surveyed noticed increased happiness and 16% experienced “hopefulness” after practicing yoga
6th October 2018: Ourmala, the humanitarian non-profit organisation that supports refugees and people seeking asylum through trauma-informed yoga and other services, has released two independent reports in advance of World Mental Health Day which demonstrates consistent and compelling evidence that yoga is extremely beneficial for treating mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, insomnia and loneliness.
The latest independent report, released in August 2018, reports findings from surveying 44 clients asking them to respond to 18 statements before and after specialist yoga classes offered by the London based charity. 93% of 44 clients reported a reduction in stress, depression, anxiety or nervousness. Depression reduced by an average of 42% across all clients. 41% was the average positive difference to headaches they were experiencing in their day-to-day life.
The findings from this report closely follow that from the first independent report that evaluated a year long study in 2017. 60% of the 30 clients who participated in the research conducted by independent healthcare expert Dr. C. Bernard Colaço, Senior NHS Consultant Rheumatologist Central Middlesex Hospital London, stated that they had experienced a major depressive episode. Worryingly, 48% had experienced a suicidal thoughts nearly every day for two weeks or more. After participating in yoga classes offered by Ourmala, 90% reported a reduction in at least one of their reported mental health issues as well as increase in their confidence levels and reduction in isolation.
Working with both male and female clients representing countries including Afghanistan, Albania, Congo DRC, Eritrea, Iran, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Syrian, Uganda, Ourmala strives to support clients who have experienced unthinkable traumas, by offering them a safe and steady space to breathe in. While Ourmala works with a growing list of client referrals, each client has a highly personal and unique story. From Congo DRC to Iran, many of the human beings that Ourmala works with have fled war torn countries, experienced torture, modern slavery, human trafficking and much more. The result of these horrors can mean depression, anxiety, PTSD, insomnia, low self-esteem, loneliness and suicidal thoughts.
While both reports uncover the critical and worrying state of the mental and psychological well being of many refugees, the benefits of yoga and a sense of community offered by the non-profit show that positive change can be achieved. The findings from both reports meet the mission of Ourmala: to provide immediate and lasting change for refugees and asylum-seekers through therapeutic care, educational services and access to critical resources.
Alongside the specialist yoga classes which are meticulously planned to be sensitive and respectful to clients’ needs and mindsets, Ourmala offers a welcoming community with regular meet-ups, nutritious meals, English lessons and access to other support service from legal advice to donated clothes and sanitary products.
Alongside the quantitative findings reported, clients were also offered the chance to explain, in their own words how yoga made them feel. One male client, Eber**, said: “The yoga is same as exercise we can do in the gym, you know stretch and balancing. Butthe difference between yoga and the exercise is transferring the energy. Yoga is like a meditation it wakes up the mind more than the physical. That’s why I love yoga…..When we chant, it’s really positive energy.”
Another client, called Carmi**, said: “the difference – counselling goes through your life, everything you’ve been through. Sometimes it can be very difficult to go back to a painful event in your life. Yoga is something different, it brings you back to yourself…brings you back to confidence and believing in yourself by doing yoga.”
Emily Brett, founder of Ourmala and yoga teacher said: “Our clients are brave and inspiring. Many face serious mental health issues which are not sufficiently addressed by the current system. Many are now dedicated to yoga as this practice is empowering and enabling them to heal, feel more in control and slowly start to rebuild their lives, one breath at a time. Yoga is a low cost and extremely effective intervention for improving mental health for everyone. I hope the findings from this stoic community of people who have faced such adversities in life help to demonstrate that.”