How Yoga and Surfing Are Empowering Somali War Victims

Somali ocean therapy
Somali ocean therapy Courtesy Image

For many in the Western world, a beach is an oasis. But for men, women, and children in Somalia, beaches hold a hellish association.

During the country’s crisis, those who enjoyed the open water and unsheltered beaches became easy targets for terrorist attacks, Quartz reports. What’s more, young children were also victims of sexual violence and used as soldiers during the crisis—furthering the country’s widespread distress.

To help alleviate the suffering, 28-year-old social activist Ilwad Elman launched an organization called Elman Peace and Human Rights Center, according to Quartz. The program helps to dissolve the stigma around mental health by reintegrating young boys into society and empowering those who have been abused.

Ocean therapy is one of the methods. Waterside meditation, yoga, games, and “love circles” for open conversation are utilized to initiate the healing process and ease symptoms of mental and physical distress. By learning to surf, these individuals engage with their bodies and minds. This alternative approach to mental health begins a dialogue in a more natural, befitting way and, in the long run, will hopefully end the connection between mental illness and weakness among Somalis.

Read the full feature at Quartz.