A group of people sitting on the ground Description automatically generated with low confidence What links yoga, women in India & the issue of human trafficking?

With this blog, we hope to give you some insight into what human trafficking is, what our work has to do with it, and why this cause is so important! You may have thought already about the link between yoga and human trafficking? Although they may seem like an unlikely combination, yoga is an effective way of promoting rehabilitation, mindfulness, and mental health for survivors. 

Women and children who have faced physical or emotional abuse, often need the means to reconnect with themselves and their bodies. Mind-body practices can be a powerful medium to achieve this goal since they target stress and relaxation through breathing and movement. This enables yoga to act as a medium through which to cope with trauma when words are insufficient. The positive link between mind-body practices used alongside other more traditional therapies such as talking therapy is becoming increasingly acknowledged in studies, such as (‘Mind-body practices for recovery from sexual trauma’, https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=psyh&AN=2011-24476-014&site=eds-live ).

The values and practices that yoga fosters, are rooted in therapy, relaxation, and healing which can help survivors develop the mental resilience they need to rebuild their lives. Ashtanga Yoga plays an important role in the lives of the women and children at our Indian grassroots partner’s safe houses in Mysore, South India. Regular yoga practice helps the survivors reconnect to their bodies as well as helps them build confidence, physical and mental strength. Victims of human trafficking in India face stigma and societal prejudice and as a result, experience feelings of shame on top of the trauma of their abuse. They can undergo ‘victim blaming’, where it is believed that they put themselves in situations that lead to their being trafficked. This is a myth that needs to be busted.

Survivors of human trafficking are oftentimes targeted and coerced by their abusers into situations including forced prostitution, domestic servitude, or labor. Trafficking gangs target vulnerable families and individuals who may be experiencing extreme financial hardship, have dropped out of education, or become isolated from their community. For instance, women may be promised jobs in ‘beauty parlors’, only to learn soon after that they have been tricked and trafficked into underground brothels. Similarly, families may be promised a hand in marriage for their daughter, a promise that would help to alleviate a struggling family’s financial situation, who will then be trafficked once she has been isolated from her loved ones.

Due to the underground nature of trafficking networks, once women or children are in these situations, they are kept hidden from the world and often threatened, making it hard, if not impossible to escape. This is why, in addition to our charity partner’s rescue missions, empowering women and children through education and greater employment opportunities are key factors in breaking the devastating cycle of human trafficking. Our partners at Odanadi offer vocational training opportunities to the young survivors, including access to training at their mechanics workshop, bakery school, and beauticians training center. These programs provide opportunities for the survivors to learn a trade and become financially independent, making them far less likely to fall into the hands of trafficking gangs again.

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Through Yoga, we can support and empower the women and children who have faced unimaginable hardships. Every year Yoga Stops Traffick brings together yoga practitioners from all corners of the globe to raise awareness and funds for survivors of human trafficking. The funds raised help to provide safe shelter and therapeutic support for those fleeing situations of violence, human trafficking, and child marriage. If you would like to join us in standing in solidarity with the young survivors in India for Yoga Stops Traffick 2022, we’d love to hear from you! Find out how you can get involved here (https://yogastopstraffick.org/how-to-take-part/) or drop us a line at [email protected]

By Sara Pereda. 

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