359: Ahimsa in Times of Conflict with Rula Wardeh

One of the most important yoga teachings is ahimsa, usually translated as non-violence or non-harming. How do we practice this in times of conflict like the one we are witnessing now in Gaza, Palestine? What can we do to make a difference? Rula Wardeh (she/her) shares her perspective on the obligations we all have to show up during times like these.

Rula is a Palestinian yoga teacher, who studied yoga in Canada. She lives in Jordan, an hour away from the Occupied Territory of West Bank, Palestine. She has family and friends in Gaza and her yoga students are all Palestinian. Rula introduced Yin Yoga to Jordan in 2012 and she now leads a unique Yin Yoga immersion course in Jordan & Cairo. Rula is also one of the directors and founding members of the NGO Yoga Mandala Project which provides refugee communities in Jordan with psychosocial Yoga and trauma related sessions.

In this conversation, Rula shares what her experience has been like holding space for Palestininans as Gaza continues to be bombarded and held under siege by Israel. She speaks about yoga activism, how she draws on the teachings of yoga and the 8 limbs for support as she continues to speak up for ceasefire in Palestine, and what yoga teachers can do in these times to make a difference.

If you have been wondering how you can show up and practice ahimsa as a yoga teacher in times of conflict, this episode is for you.

Key Takeaways:

[2:05] This podcast is sponsored by OfferingTree and Pelvic Health Professionals.

[2:55] Shannon introduces her guest for this episode – Rula Wardeh. This episode originally aired as a live conversation in December 2023.

[5:22] What does Rula do as a yoga teacher?

[8:16] Shannon shares some context about the 1948 Nakba in Palestine.

[10:38] Rula shares how she started serving the population of urban refugees.

“Anger was an agitation, [it] was asking us for action more than sitting down on the mat.” ~ Rula Wardeh

[13:03] How has it felt for Rula to hold space for Palestinians or people who have family in Palestine? What has she learned from the experience?

[21:08] Rula speaks to her experience of yoga activism: How do we implement what we have learned and what we teach in yoga?

[25:26] We can start feeling disconnected from what is happening in Gaza when we only focus on the numbers. We need to also focus on the individual, personal stories coming out of Gaza.

[28:55] What can people do when it feels to dysregulating to look at the news?

“That’s the dilemma. It’s not about us. Why am I taking care of myself right now?” ~ Rula Wardeh

[32:38] Rula explains how we can practice ahimsa in times of conflict.

[36:17] We can draw on teachings from the eight limbs of yoga to guide us in how we should show up in times of conflict.

“How can we do less violence?” ~ Rula Wardeh

[41:18] Shannon shares a comment from a live listener: How we feel is quite frankly irrelevant in the face of people being murdered. We should not be centering our feelings, especially not on social media.

[41:58] How can you seek out the real truth and not fall into the trap of confirmation bias?

[44:00] Watch the rest of this full interview with Rula on YouTube.

[44:35] People are not their religion, their culture, or their government. We need to be mindful of conflating those.

[46:47] What should we do if we’re afraid to speak up or if we spoke up and got attacked?

[50:10] Shannon reflects on her biggest takeaways from this conversation with Rula.

[56:29] Hang out live with Shannon inside Pelvic Health Professionals.


Gratitude to our Sponsors, OfferingTree and Pelvic Health Professionals.

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