Yoga: A Refuge for Everyone


Wouldn’t it be good if everyone in the world practiced yoga? How calm, kind and reflective would the planet be? Lenny Smith of Ourmala writes.

More and more people know about the healing powers of yoga, as more studios pop up across London; more online tutorials appear for people to practice from home and thousands of Instagram accounts offer inspiration and demonstrate correct alignment. The more the word spreads, the better, as far as I am concerned.

I am aware of how lucky I am to be able to roll up my yoga mat, set off to my local studio and experience the sanctuary of a 90-minute restorative yoga class. And then equally grateful if I treat myself to a healthy £5 green juice on the way home. I step onto the mat and practice every day now – even if I can only create a 20-minute window to do so – in order to check in and bring perspective, reflection and focus into my life. I understand that yoga is a lifelong, selfless friend. Whatever thoughts are occupying my mind, be it career worries; concerns over loved ones; health anxieties; social pressures or even concerns about my future, I know I can step onto the mat and my shaky world becomes still for that time, as I focus on me. I simply move through the graceful poses with my breath guiding me. I find strength in my yoga practice to smile and know everything is going to be OK.

Overall, I feel quite privileged to have the types of worries that I have.

But what about people who are severely stressed, depressed or anxious and cannot gain access to yoga; those who can’t afford to buy a yoga mat, let alone wander down to their local studio and pay £15 for a class?

One such group is refugees and asylum seekers

These people have fled for their lives as it is no longer safe for them to live in their homeland. They are grouped together by the term refugee or asylum seeker as if they are all the same. What each person has been through is completely unique, personal and, often, highly traumatic. One may have been a highly educated lawyer in Iran. Another may have been brought-up on a farm on The Ivory Coast and never had access to any education. Most have experienced unthinkable trauma and are recovering from torture, human trafficking, sexual violence in conflict and other unthinkable cruelties. Day-to-day, hour-to-hour, even minute-to-minute symptoms can include loneliness, a sense of hopelessness, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression and insomnia. Living in a foreign country, struggling with the English language, not feeling part of a community and battling physical and emotional stresses.

Ourmala is working to try and make a really positive difference to the refugee crisis today

We are a small charity that help refugees rebuild their lives with yoga at the heart of our approach. We offer a safe space to breathe, therapeutic yoga classes, a hot meal, English lessons and other support services. We also offer a safe community that these ladies can feel part of and safe in.

The good news is that we are making a difference

Our clients are benefitting from regular yoga practice and support. One of our clients (we don’t reveal names, in order to protect their safety and identity) told us “When I practice yoga, I feel free. My body is free, my mind is free like a bird.”

Another client told us “Practicing yoga helps me concentrate for English class. Sometimes, when I have bad feelings about the past I forget the bad things and I’m feeling relaxed and I change the memory.”

Whenever we share our story with the yoga community, we are always, unsurprisingly, met with such kindness and warmth and offers of support.

There are lots of ways you can help us here at Ourmala:

  • Attend a public community class

We have recently launched classes at four major yoga studios across London including lululemon, The Life Centre, The Shala and Hotpod Yoga.

These studios very kindly donate all of the proceeds from these community classes to Ourmala. So, you can practice yoga for yourself and help two refugees to attend an Ourmala session at the same time.

>>You can view the class schedule on our site>>
  • Organise your own donation-based yoga class

Whether you are an independent teacher, newly qualified or have your own yoga studio, you can put on your own class and promote it and donate as much of the proceeds as you like to Ourmala.

  • Become a volunteer

Our staff is mostly comprised of volunteers and we are always on the lookout for another pair of kind hands. Volunteering is what keeps Ourmala ticking and so this group of supporters are so valuable to us. As the word spreads and we grow, so do our ambitions to help even more refugees. If you would like to enquire about volunteering you can email

  • Buy an Ourmala T-shirt

Practice yoga in your very own Ourmala t-shirt. Not only will you be adding some fine threads to your wardrobe with your limited edition Ourmala, but you’ll have helped two refugee mums and babies integrate into our London community. Our ethical t-shirts are hand painted with love in London by Ourmala’s design volunteers, including refugee women. All are slightly different, reflecting the variety of cultural influences across our design team. At Ourmala, we like it easy and spacious so please note these t-shirts come-up on the loose side, ready for your personal styling. Think sleeve roll-ups, yanked necklines, side knots etc.

>>Buy A T-Shirt>>


This post was written by Lenny Smith, Head of Marketing & PR at Ourmala.



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