Arts & Culture / Mosaic / February 22, 2012

Yoga fights sex traffic

A yoga class might not seem like the place to learn about sexual trafficking, but that is what happened during Off the Mat.

Off the Mat is an event that was put on Thursday, Feb. 16 in the Wilson House by the Yoga Freedom Project as a part of Students Against Sexism in Society’s (SASS) Love Your Body Week. The Yoga Freedom Project’s mission is to bring the yoga community together to raise awareness of sexual trafficking.

Somaly Mam, the author of the book “The Road to Lost Innocence” and a survivor of sexual mistreatment, spearheaded the movement. In her book, she talks about her life and her experiences in the sex trade. Since she was able to overcome this trauma, she has devoted herself to helping other survivors by showing them that they are loved.

In “The Road to Lost Innocence,” Mam wrote, “I strongly believe that love is the answer and that it can mend even the deepest unseen wounds. Love can heal, love can console, love can strengthen and yes, love can make change.”

Freshmen Rachel Kuehnle and Allie Fry helped bring Mam’s mission of love to Knox.

“We knew about it in high school; Allie was actually the first one to tell me about it and bring her book to my attention,” Kuehnle said. “We wanted to bring Somaly Mam’s foundation here and we didn’t know when would be a good context.”

When SASS began putting Love Your Body Week together, Fry and Kuehnle thought that it would be a perfect opportunity, since the essence of yoga is loving your body.

Once participants arrived in Wilson House, the lights were dimmed and everyone grabbed a mat. Academic Coordinator Laura Bush and her friend Chris Ita led the group through different yoga poses.

Near the end of the session, participants paired up to perform partner poses. Then they pulled their mats together and either touch feet or heads together for partner meditation.

“I approached [Mam] about also adding the partner aspect of it,” Bush said. “The ideas of collective energy, raising awareness, healthy touch, healthy communication.”

Ita was also interested in the benefits of partner yoga.

“It’s an opportunity to get intimate with another person without being sexual … so you get that connection, but in a special mutually beneficial way,” Ita said.

Kuehnle hopes this is not the end of efforts to end sexual trafficking at Knox, and thought that this event was a good beginning.

“This is a good way to help sponsor the organization and just raise a general awareness and set the foundation for the organization at Knox so we could continue to do more work with [them],” Kuehnle said.

Teresa Simpson

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