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Yoga activists fight human trafficking

Lara Land with children of Rwanda/Courtesy: Land

Lara Land with children of Rwanda/Courtesy: Land

Take a breath. Is it short and strained or is it deep and full? Posing this question to a victim of human trafficking may seem insignificant but according to Lara Land it is a crucial step in the rehabilitation of the more than 4,200 children served by the anti-trafficking organization, Odanadi Seva Trust.

Land, a yoga instructor and owner of Land Yoga in Harlem, was introduced to human trafficking victims during visits to India and Rwanda, where she has helped to rehabilitate HIV-positive students using yoga as therapy. On March 18 she will host a Bollywood-style fundraiser for victims of human trafficking at celebrity chef Marcus Samuelson’s Red Rooster Harlem restaurant. On March 15, prior to Land’s fundraiser, is the fifth annual Yoga Stops Traffick, a global one-day initiative to raise awareness about modern-day slavery and funds for Odanadi to address India’s rate of more than 100 million victims, including 1.2 million child prostitutes. These projects point to a growing number of yoga activists who utilize the practice to address political and social issues and share yoga with underserved populations. The goal is direct if not simple: use yoga to make the world a better place.

“Organized evil such as human trafficking occurs when a seed of hatred is allowed to grow. It starts with something small,” said Land. “Practicing yoga has the simple effect of making people feel better. Those who practice correctly tend to experience a calm and contentment as they walk through life. That feeling is equally contagious and does in fact lead to a better world.”

And yet the $27 billion yoga industry, designer yoga wear and bodies of yogis being touted as “perfect,” may alienate those Land and other yoga activists most want to reach.

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