Survivors Learn Yoga, Breathing Exercises to Relieve Tension

by Aneeta Rai, Community Outreach Intern

Many survivors are faced with the pressures of everyday life. In order to deal with their stress in a healthy way, Sakhi hosted a relaxation workshop for survivors on July 16th as a part of our monthly support group. Survivors engaged in several yoga exercises and various breathing techniques, all intended to alleviate tension.

Meena Jagannath, a Policy and Direct Services Intern, and Mekha Rajan, a Domestic Violence Intern, led this month’s survivor support group and witnessed the immediate impact these techniques had on those who attended. Many survivors said they carry the heavy burden of familial or society’s expectations of them, and expressed that a large part of their stress comes from worrying about their children or their finances, in addition to violence.

“Survivors felt the yoga and breathing exercises were really helpful. They wanted more of these events, and asked for resources for free yoga classes,” said Meena. “Many survivors said they don’t find the time or space to do yoga by themselves, so doing it in a group makes them more likely to do it,” added Meena.

Survivors openly discussed the causes of their stress in order to formulate ideas on how to creatively cope. Both Meena and Mekha agreed that they were overwhelmed by how much support the survivors offered one another. “One survivor would share her story and another would respond with ‘Yeah, I had that experience, and this is how I dealt with it,’” said Mekha. “It made women feel a lot less alone in their experience of stress.”

Survivors in attendance generated a list of the ways that stress can affect them both physically and mentally, followed by creative solutions for dealing with their stress. Meena and Mekha helped survivors come to the realization that if they did not find a way to cope, they were at risk for health complications such as high blood pressure, depression, and insomnia. As a result, survivors brainstormed ways they can alleviate the tension they have through healthy avenues.

For example, one survivor recommended engaging in leisurely activities such as listening to music or going for a walk. Other survivors recommended talking to others and being open about their stress. “One woman shared that she felt like she couldn’t talk to anyone for a long time, so one day she sat down and wrote it all on a piece of paper. She felt free afterwards because she did not feel so weighed down by her stress anymore,” said Meena.

However, several survivors shared that speaking about their stress is at times difficult and overwhelming. Doing yoga can be a healthy and cathartic way for survivors to rid themselves of some of their tension without having to discuss it. “I would like to give survivors more of these outlets,” Meena noted.