Hippocampus in Oxfam Italy

Oxfam Italia is part of the international Oxfam confederation, composed of 20 organizations that collaborate with partners and local communities in over 90 countries. The main purpose of Oxfam is to mobilize the power of people against poverty.

In January 2019, Oxfam Italia started the implementation of Hippocampus project offering yoga sessions to different groups of people.

The first part of the project involved students with special educational needs, disadvantaged backgrounds and troubled families into the Sassetti-Peruzzi Institute (YP) and the Metropolis Social Action Centre (YP). Each class consisted of 28 students, 50% of whom were foreign.

The teacher said that it was not easy doing lessons with these groups because <<At first, lots of them refused to join the class. They wanted to stay apart and only watch, but only to criticize and to laugh at others. Students didn’t know anything about the fact that they could join the yoga course! It was very challenging for me to “capture” them because they didn’t choose the course!>> she adds <<I’ve tried to speak with them, tried to know each other asking about them, the sport they like, if they feel stressed from school, family; tried to light on them the curiosity about yoga and how it can help them in stress reduction. But it didn’t work too much. Or only for a few of them. Lots of them simply didn’t want to do exercises and they disturbed all the time the rest of the class, laughing, making jokes about the others, etc.>> (Scandicci; Sassetti-Peruzzi institute).

But on the other side of the coin, positive feedback was expressed from the participants:

 <<Good and relaxed Atmosphere; I feel better in my back; I’m now more relaxed despite the exam I’m preparing; I found the Brahmari breath very effective on my state of mind>> (18-year-old Girls Migrant background; Sassetti-Peruzzi institute).

<<We also spoke about the problems of always being online, on the phone We tried to know each other; I found yoga very different from everything I’ve practiced before, but I try to follow instructions and I did all the exercises.>> (11-16 years old Migrant background; Metropolis Social Action Centre).

The second part of the project, that engaged with a very positive attitude and a large turnout of participants, involved students from a more “protected” environment and low dropout rate into Gramsci and Pascoli High Schools (YP). Each class consisted of 20 students, 15% of whom were foreign.

Another part of the project was reserved for the staff at Oxfam HQ and at Sassetti Peruzzi Institute.

The analysis of the results at the end of the course at Oxfam HQ showed that:

-Yoga was a good opportunity to take time for yourself

-The Yoga breathing results are also useful in other life contexts

-The participants definitely would recommend yoga to other people

-They would like to continue with Yoga

-Both beginners and experts appreciated the way of training

-Even the “sceptics” recognized the physical and emotional wellbeing

-The participants would love to do more than one lesson per week!

Yoga lessons were also an opportunity to express those emotions and feelings that seemed remote to the mind of the participants; this is the case of a participant of the Sassetti Peruzzi Institute, who said:

“I’ve practiced yoga in the ‘70s. Then I stopped. With this course, what I noticed is that I’ve started to breathe again. I work as a teacher with a lot of passion, but in the end, everything goes in a black hole. With yoga I started to feel my body vibrate again. I feel more about my emotions (starting to cry)”.