COLOMBIA, March 16, 2015 ( by Lila Maclellan, Quartz.com): In New York or L.A., it’s pretty common to learn that a yoga teacher used to be a dancer, an actor, or even a former Wall Street banker. In Bogota and Medellin, the same is true. Except that here, the teacher may also be an ex-member of a Colombian death squad. Since 2010, a local organization called Dunna, Alternativas Creativas Para la Paz (Dunna: Creative Alternatives for Peace) has been gradually introducing the basic poses to two groups for whom yoga has been a foreign concept: the poor, mostly rural victims of Colombia’s brutal, half-century conflict, and the guerilla fighters who once terrorized them. Hundreds of ex-militants have already taken the offered yoga courses. A dozen now plan to teach yoga to others. Ten years ago, the suggestion that former members of the FARC and the AUC might one day sit together in lotus position would have seemed laughable
Dunna was co-founded in 2010 by New York University law school graduate, Natalia Quinones, the organization’s research director, and Maria Adelaida Lopez, a Colombian-born graduate of the University of London and longtime yogi, now the non-profit executive director. Together the two women secured backing from a handful of sources. Between 10% and 20% of Dunna’s funding comes from private foundations and corporations, says Quinones, and public money covers the rest. To prove that public funds have been well spent, Dunna’s researchers tracked yoga’s effectiveness in a controlled study. Results showed a 48.5% decrease in symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), compared to a group not in the program. When the yoga course was expanded to five more cities in Colombia, students again reported an easing of symptoms, and reduced drug and alcohol use.