How a Yoga Teacher and Therapist is Giving Back
A few days ago, I published a blog about my recent visit to the Deenabandhu Trust Children’s Home, an organization in Karnataka, South India that’s committed to building brighter futures for orphaned and destitute children. Today, I’d like to expand upon the giving efforts of Anouk Prop, a psychologist, yoga teacher, and trauma-healing therapist from the Netherlands who has been volunteering at Deenabandhu for the past four months. I feel so fortunate for the time I spent with Anouk and the ability to witness her work. Additionally, I’m excited to share a little about an art as therapy workshop I led at Deenabnadhu as an extension of Anouk’s trauma resolution therapy.
In 2011, Anouk became an ambassador for Yoga Gives Back, a non-profit organization that has been providing invaluable support for Deenabandhu since 2010. After leading a number of successful fundraising events in Europe, Anouk decided to make a dramatic life change in order to volunteer in a very hands-on way. She committed to taking a year away from her private practice, located in the Dutch city of Maastricht, to create and manage a yoga and therapy program for the kids and staff at Deenabandhu. Plus, she’ll devote some of this time to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with her father next month to raise funds for the kids. Then, she’s headed to Cambodia for a couple months to work with destitute women and children. Pretty inspiring, huh?
Anouk lives everyday at Deenabandhu to the fullest. She greets the morning bright and early with a warming little cup of South Indian coffee and then heads out for an 8 to 10 kilometer run, followed by yoga. As she told me, this ritual has been an important way to train for next month’s climb and prepare her body and mind for the day ahead. Next, Anouk heads to the Deenabandhu school to lead workshops or teach yoga for the students and staff. I felt privileged to observe her group therapy sessions for children with dyslexia and other learning disabilities. Anouk, through the assistance of translator Mahesh Kumar, gracefully guides the children into a space of empowerment, where they are more aware of their special gifts, strengths, and possibility. These sessions also offer a safe forum for children to discuss their emotions and feelings, something that hasn’t historically been prioritized in the Indian academic system. Three days a week, Anouk leads the 5-7th grade children in yoga. As you can see in these photographs, this practice lights up their day! She also teaches yoga to the staff once a week and has been working with them to set up a school-counseling program.
In the evenings, Anouk teaches yoga at the Deenabandhu Children’s Home. She alternates between the boys and girls and divides the sessions up according to age. The children are so eager to practice and the room is full of a healing blend of meditative focus and laughter.
Anouk is a specialist in Somatic Experiencing and has also been doing trauma resolution work at Deenabandhu. Tragically, many of the children have faced significant hardship before arriving at this safe haven. Some were victims of neglect and abuse; others have witnessed the death of a parent. In brief, Somatic Experiencing is a form of mindfulness-based therapy created by Dr. Peter Levine. It seeks to restore healthy regulation of the nervous system by helping the client better understand how and where trauma resides in the body. Its body-centric approach not only makes it less dependent on complex language, but also inviting, accessible, and effective for children. Some of the changes Anouk has witnessed during her stay include increased confidence and greater comfort communicating feelings and emotions. Please, stay-tuned for an upcoming book she is writing with Deenabandhu founder Mr. G.S. Jayadev about this trauma resolution work.
Prior to my visit, I had been in contact with Anouk about organizing an art as therapy workshop that would complement her work (I am currently pursing my master’s degree in art therapy and counseling). Something that emerged in our conversation was the fact that many of the children are troubled by nightmares. As a result, I decided to lead two workshops on making dreamcatchers, one for girls in 6th grade and above and the other for those who are younger. Dreamcatchers are a traditional Native American art object that originated from the Ojibway (also referred to as Chippewa) tribe. To make a dreamcatcher, one weaves a cord web within a small round or tear-shaped frame, leaving a hole in the center. As legend has it, bad dreams are caught within the web and the good dreams filter through the tiny opening.
The workshops were a success. In fact, a number of the girls were eager to tell me that they had more positive dreams than usual in the days that followed. Making the dreamcatchers wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Anouk, as well as two inspiring volunteers from Germany named Teresa and Johanna. Most of all, I am thankful for the support of Deenabandhu’s own Lokesh Rao Jaydev, who acted as my translator. Lokesh, who is 21 years old and recently completed university, grew up at Deenabandhu. He has been staying at Deenabandhu while waiting to hear back about acceptance into various higher education and work programs in India and abroad. Lokesh is highly intelligent, motivated, and wise beyond his years and I’m eager to see what he does next.
To learn more about Anouk’s incredible work and her Mount Kilimanjaro fundraising efforts, please visit the Expedition Kili website.
To learn more about Deenabandhu, please visit www.deenabandhutrust.org
by Sophie Slater