On Saturday 3rd April, 2010, a group of yogis and yoginis gathered on the deck at the stunning Anamaya Resort & Retreat Center. As darkness fell, the resort's gifted and inspiring yoga instructor, Daniella Cotreau, led us through a wondrous heart-opening practice, while mother nature provided the most beautiful backdrop and soundtrack we could have hoped for. Followed with a song and chant of prayers for peace, by special guest Adam Bolton, and topped off with a delicious organic feast prepared by the resort's chef, it was a beautiful evening.
This wasn't just any yoga class, we were joining a community of yoga practitioners all around the world taking part in the 'Yoga Stops Traffick' event run by an organization called Odanadi based in Mysore, Southern India. The purpose? To take a stand against human trafficking & show support in spreading awareness about the serious, rapidly escalating exploitation of women and children in India & help raise funds to support Odanadi's crucial work in the field of prevention, rescue and rehabilitation. At Odanadi they believe that building relationships is the most effective way to fight this issue, and aim to create a people's movement against human trafficking and modern day slavery.
What started as just an idea to hold a local event at Mysore Palace, has spread like wildfire throughout the global yoga community . Following on from the main event in Mysore on 13th March, 2010, satellite events have been held in more than 50 countries across the world with over 1500 participants. From the USA and Canada, throughout South America, Europe and the Far East, to Australia and Tahiti. People uniting to breathe in the world's suffering, breathe out love and let compassion blossom.
There are an estimated 27 million people trapped in slavery today. Half of them are children. In India, you can buy a child for a little as $5 or $10. Every year an estimated 2.5 million people are trafficked around the world - the majority of them are 18-25 years old, but the age in India is much younger. The United Nations Development Fund says child brides account for more than 60 percent of India's prostitutes, and almost a quarter were forced into brothels as children under the age of 16. It's a sad fact that human trafficking exists in the world. But where there is despair, there is hope when organizations such as Odanadi exist.
Odanadi means 'soul mate', one who walks hand in hand with you through life's journey. For the past 20 years, Odanadi has been committed to providing a safe haven for survivors of human trafficking, sexual exploitation, slavery, domestic abuse and destitution.
The organization works for the rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration of trafficked women and children. They have rescued more than 1850 people, exposed 57 trafficking networks and brought more than 137 traffickers to justice.
Every resident at Odanadi has a different heartbreaking story to tell - they have risen above and overcome the worst possible exploitation; many have been rescued from brothels & sex traffickers, others from abusive homes, child marriages, or domestic and commercial servitude. Residents are provided with the skills they need to heal, empower, educate and eventually reintegrate themselves back into mainstream society. Odanadi's aim is to reunite trafficking victims with their families, and to give them the necessary tools to face the world as strong, confident, empowered individuals.
These women and children represent India's most under-privileged class. They are considered 'polluted' by Indian standards and unworthy of learning yoga. As part of Odanadi's renowned rehabilitation and empowerment program, innovative psycho-therapies, which include art forms such as classical dance, drama, meditation, karate and yoga, are part of every day life. As I have witnessed first hand, yoga has played a vital role in their rehabilitation. Yoga goes beyond just physical exercise. The poses, the breathing, the quietude. A lot of healing can be found, building physical and mental strength, and blessing them with peace, confidence and self-worth. Physically, yoga is the king of therapy; mentally, it is the master therapist.
Most people don't realize the magnitude of human trafficking and think it only happens in far off places, but I can tell you that this epidemic spreads from the slums of India to the lush green jungles and rainforests of Costa Rica. But what's more powerful than any trafficker, slave owner or idea that this issue cannot be stopped? Union….compassion…..love. And what could be more perfect than an event revolving around something that embraces all of those values. Not only is yoga a union of body, mind and spirit; it is a call to join together and unite as a local and world community, and show that we care to help make a difference.
The first thing I learned from the kids when I walked through the gates of Odanadi, is that everybody is your brother and sister. We would never allow this to happen in our own families, so may we remind ourselves every day that this is our earth, our people.
I would like to extend a huge thank you to the owners and staff of Anamaya Resort & Retreat Center for their kindness and support in offering to host this event & creating such a beautiful evening.
If you are interested in hosting a Yoga Stops Traffick Event in your Yoga Center in Costa Rica, to unite with us, take a stand and give a voice to those who are desperately seeking freedom but have lost theirs, you can contact me at
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