Esra is originally from Ceres Village near Jenin. She graduated with a BA in Physical Education from An-Najah National University and she currently volunteers as a yoga instructor with the Women’s Program.
Were you able to find work in your field of study after you graduated? How has TYO helped?
At first, I could not. When I graduated, I worked for a year as a teacher between public and private schools, and then I worked in telecommunications because I wanted a job even though it wasn’t my passion. After three months, I needed to quit in order to attend a yoga course in Bethlehem. My telecommunications job was in Jenin and I couldn’t take the time to commute but I wanted to build my sports resume. I really like yoga, and wanted to pursue more training in that field.
I heard about TYO from a friend and when I heard about the women’s empowerment program and all of the skills and physical activities they provide, I wanted to see what I could do to help. I came to TYO to offer my yoga skills as a volunteer. I wanted to start teaching people about how much yoga can help the body and mind. I really enjoy the work I’m doing with TYO. I get to see women in pain, relax and heal. The women have a tremendous amount of commitment to my classes because they feel how much it is helping. There is a lack of knowledge of yoga throughout Palestine. I work with four different classes and about 60 women, I understand the work I’m doing at TYO is helping spread the word.
Why does yoga resonate with you so strongly?
At the university, we studied group sports, but I was really drawn to the independence and individuality of practicing yoga. I believe yoga will help the people of Palestine manage many of the daily stresses we face. I’m getting feedback from the women about the importance of my classes at TYO, and how much it helps them get through the hardships of the week. The time they spend doing yoga is for them. The women TYO offers classes to cannot necessarily afford to go to a Zumba, fitness, or yoga class in town so teaching them to do yoga, something that can be done alone with minimal equipment, is something they can take and practice at home. I’m hearing they’re also including their children!
My personality changed a lot after I started doing yoga. I became more positive, calm, and more introspective. I think these skills are important in the job market, and in my personal life. I see the chain reaction of healthy individuals helping create a healthy community. It makes me happy to know I am participating in this positive change. Yoga’s healing capabilities are so important for everyone. Being able to facilitate this practice, and teaching people how it will improve their lives, is exactly what I want to do with my career. I see the change I am making and it pushes me to keep going.
In addition to your volunteer work with the women, you are also participating in the professional competency classes at TYO, are you finding them helpful?
I never want to lose an opportunity to learn new skills. When I heard about the competency skills classes, I wanted to be a part of it. I signed up for the professional competency class, and what I find to be most challenging is actually that it is held in English. At first I thought I couldn’t do it, but then I realized this was actually a positive experience because I get to learn two skills in one class. I’m still looking for a job and I know the more experience I have the better, especially in English. I am very social and I love to network so part of being in class is socializing with my peers. Meeting new people and learning about their familial background adds to my overall life and wellbeing. I am always searching for trainings, and I’m looking outside of Palestine. Right now, we don’t value yoga as a society, but I would like to continuing learning and come back a teacher. A university degree is not enough. It’s a great start and opens the door for further learning, but you have to go seek more. Life is all about learning.
This interview was conducted and translated by Sarah Fodero, Fall 2015 Intern and Futoon Qadri, Outreach Coordinator.