The Art of Living and its sister organisation, the International Association for Human Values ( IAHV), have been working in Iraq since 2003. Even when most NGOs were compelled to evacuate their volunteers from the country, in the wake of heightened unrest and kidnapping, they continued with their relief efforts. Supplying medicines, replenishing essential facilities in hospitals, helping schools resume classes: these were a few of the nascent activites that The Art of Living undertook as a means of providing immediate relief. Trauma relief classes began in Baghdad, Basra, Suleimania and Karbala, benefitting over 5,000 Iraqis.
With the help of breathing techniques, meditation and the Sudarshan Kriya (a breathing technique designed by Sri Sri), around 80 percent of the participants experienced relief from trauma, while only 20 percent required counseling after the courses. Those suffering from weeks of insomnia as a result of the constant bombings and killings reported good sleep. Many experienced relief from depression, anxiety, blood pressure, coronary heart disease, asthma, hypertension, migraine and other psychosomatic disorders; symptoms of war related stress. “It feels like breathing out all the stress of war and breathing in a new life. I felt really relaxed after doing the breathing exercise,” said 32 year old Ahmed Hinoon after the workshop.
Moved by the efficacy of the techniques implemented, several Iraqis completed specialised teacher’s training at the Art of Living International Centre in Bangalore, India, with a plan to conduct the programs in Iraq. Besides centres for trauma care, medical centres were also started, where everyday over 200 people were given natural remedies through Ayurveda.