Niroga Takes Mission to Change the World 'One Breath at a Time' to Palestine

Program Provides a Model for Enhancing Academic, Social and Emotional Learning

Key members of the Oakland-based Niroga Institute arrived in Palestine on November 5 to train educators, health professionals, social workers and refugee service providers in Transformative Life/Leadership Skills (TLS) that have the potential to change thousands of lives. "The Palestinian Ministry of Education has asked us to train teachers so that TLS can be taught in all district schools at the beginning of the next academic year," said B.K. Bose, Executive Director of Niroga.

Enhancing Resilience to Stress and Trauma TLS encompasses simple but powerful mindful yoga, breathing techniques and meditation that anyone can practice anytime and anywhere, Bose said. "Based on independent research as well as qualitative feedback, TLS helps students focus, regulate their emotions, and enhance their resilience in the face of severe stress and trauma. It helps them to learn."

Most children in Palestine deal with chronic stress as well as traumatic and post-traumatic stress from exposure to multiple forms of violence in their communities, explained Jess Ghannam, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Global Health Sciences at UCSF. "The latest research in neuroscience suggests that chronic stress adversely affects brain functioning, damages health, and disrupts our ability to learn and to regulate our emotions."

A member of Ghannam's team, together with Jennifer Frank, PhD, of Pennsylvania State University's Prevention Research Center will join the Niroga staff. Frank concluded in a study conducted last year that 20-minute TLS sessions three times a weeks resulted in "lower levels of perceived stress and greater levels of self-control, school engagement, emotional awareness, distress tolerance and altered attitude toward violence."

'Remarkable Results' For the past year, Niroga-trained teachers have taught TLS in three Palestinian government schools. "The results have been remarkable," noted Maha El-Sheikh, a mental health professional with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). "Students, parents and teachers consistently report that TLS has improved the students' focus and concentration, enhanced classroom climate, and improved interactions at home between children and their parents and families."

"We hope to build TLS community capacity locally, by training over 200 school teachers, social workers and health professionals in TLS on our first two-week trip," Bose explained. "We plan to follow up with them remotely throughout the year, while independent researchers assess program efficacy and evaluate program outcomes. We intend to replicate this evidence-based model throughout the region, even as we dream about the possibility of bringing TLS to children and their parents and teachers on both sides of the conflict."