To Rwanda and Back

What sort of charity needs a HIV-positive, black, rape victim in the centre of Africa, having to care for herself and her children?

I guess she’d benefit from food, shelter and access to free health care, psychological support, access to the labour market, good education facilities for her children and an environment promoting female emancipation.

This list would keep a number of charities busy. Imagine how surprised I was when I heard a few months ago, that a charity in Rwanda offers yoga classes to such women. It is so successful, that it wants to expand due to growing demand. Participants feel that their quality of life has improved, even blood parameters of HIV carriers.

Yoga has quietly found its way into Western medicine. Like acupuncture, which has been recognized by the school medicine years ago, it has been practiced thousands of years; a fact western medicine never will be able to claim. Yoga in modern medicine is used as complementary therapy, offering additional relief to standard treatment. It brings together mind and body through controlled breathing and movements and through meditation.

The quiet precise movements in yoga help to focus away from troubling issues, thus reducing stress. It increases fitness levels through learning and refining the poses, giving cardiovascular benefits, physical strength, joint flexibility and improved balance (the latter ones being equally important to cardiovascular fitness in older age). Yoga has been shown to be beneficial in many chronic health conditions like cancer-related symptoms, depression, anxiety, insomnia, pain management, weight loss, fatigue, high blood pressure and asthma, but only expect relief; not cure.

Yoga is considered to be safe for everybody and free of side effects, however start gently.

There are different styles of yoga. Hatha yoga, which apparently is very common, uses slower movements and easier poses compared to other styles, which sounds ideal for beginners.

When you learn yoga in a class, talk with the instructor about your needs and concerns and about your suitability for the particular class. Ask about qualifications and teaching experience. Talk about your illnesses if in doubt, particularly balance problems, severe osteoporosis back problems and arthritic or artificial joints. Some eye conditions and uncontrolled high blood pressure may need treatment before starting with yoga. You do not have to do every pose demonstrated and never do poses that are uncomfortable or you can’t hold for long enough. Just skip them and focus on your breathing until the rest of the class moves on.

What a Life
A big thank-you to Craig Venter and his team; didn’t he manage to present an artificially created bacteria last month? This is absolutely the right contribution to the year of biodiversity proclaimed by the WHO for 2010.

Only one thing would have been even better; he should have talked with BP instead.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *