Yoga is incontestably a practice dear to many Boulderites' hearts, so the Boulder-Nablus Sister City Project is asking the local yogi community to share its love and knowledge of the practice internationally.
Suheir Tannous from Ramallah, the capital of Palestine on the West Bank, and Mirna Al Alhindi from Nablus are visiting Boulder through Wednesday. Tannous and Al Alhindi are yoga teachers hoping to obtain certification in children's yoga therapy during their stay so they can bring healing back to their region.
Dee Marie, director of local Calming Kids Yoga Teacher Training, will teach Al Alhindi, Tannous and other yoga or youth educators who wish to participate in her five-day training.
"We were sought out by the Nablus Project because many of the children in these two women's areas are dealing with so much trauma. They're being raised in a very violent world, so we're going to use yoga therapy techniques to help with some of these issues," Marie said.
The partnership is underway, despite the fact that the Boulder City Council last June voted to reject a request from a community group that includes many pro-Palestinian activists to make Nablus a sister city of Boulder.
Calming Kids conducted four years of research proving the effectiveness of yoga for elementary-aged children. After six 45-minute sessions of yoga in the school day curriculum, fourth and fifth grade students reported a 94 percent decrease in violent or aggressive behavior, 87 percent increase in ability to focus and a 65 percent decrease in general feelings of anger.
Marie made the distinction that while yoga is generally a spiritual practice, her yoga therapy takes out the spiritual aspects so it can be taught in schools and focuses primarily on the health and emotional benefits. She said it is these benefits that make yoga therapy so healing.
"Yoga brings about self-awareness of the breathing, self-awareness of the posture, as well as awareness of our behaviors — how we think and how we act. The exercise of yoga, in general, has been shown to improve cardiovascular health and physical functioning. The thing about the yoga therapy is because of the concentration practices we do, it improves attention and the ability to have emotional control," Marie said.
Essrea Cherin, co-founder of Boulder Nablus Sister City Project, said she sees two main benefits to Al Alhindi and Tannous's visit.
"I'm mostly motivated to see how this is going to help more people in their community. My main interest is hearing the stories of how the children are responding favorably to the techniques that are being used," Cherin said.
"On the other side, I'm really excited that they're going to be able to tell their story to American audiences. I think most people in Boulder may not have ever met a Palestinian and to find that Palestinians are just as warm and kind and funny and your regular human being may help dispel some stereotypes that people may have without even knowing it."