May 29, 2013

From Gaza with Love: A Yoga Film for Humanitarians. {Video} ~ Donna Williams


WARNING: This is not yoga film that is about self-promotion. You’ll note the yogi looks like a normal person, has a weird accent and isn’t very flexible. We hope that inspires all of you to try out this film.

One of my dearest friends Nicola, who just happens to be a talented film-maker, and I just made our first yoga film especially for humanitarians.

I realize this sounds impossibly cheesy given the plethora of yoga films out there on the market. It might sound even cheesier when I say this one really came from the heart—but really it did and we had some incredible fun doing it. This film is a quick yoga fix made especially for our humanitarian friends and colleagues working in crazy war-torn, earthquake-ridden places just ‘cause we want them to feel amazing.

The idea started about five years ago when I was working in Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories, (note my politically correct humanitarian terminology there).

Three things happened during that time:

1) Palestinians detained in Israeli prisons asked for yoga DVDs and we couldn’t find any in Arabic

2) Israel implemented Operation Cast Lead in Gaza after Hamas fired one rocket too many into Israel

3) I meditated my way into sanity and out of the pit of despair that was that horrific war.

From this place I knew that I wanted to find a way in which I could share the incredible way yoga makes me feel with other people, especially people who have to live and work in the most difficult circumstances and places on this planet, whilst giving up a good part of their lives to serve others.

It’s been both a short and a long road from that moment five years ago to the launch of our first film this week. I had to decide to put on hold the idea of teaching yoga to victims of conflict, acknowledging that for now this is not my niche. I feel like it took years of talking about making this film and in the end it only took us a few days work in our spare time.

Along the way I did my 200 YTT so that I would actually know how to teach yoga, and somehow today I find myself teaching yoga at the hippest studio in Geneva and working my day job in the humanitarian sector. It’s a cool combination.

There were moments when I thought I could never make this film happen, but most days I can’t believe how quickly I made this dream a reality. My PR pal Carolyn who kicked me up the ass about a month ago and my friend Katrin who was the one who led me down the yoga path during our time in Palestine, both deserve a huge thanks for sticking with me on this one.

And of course big ups to Nicola who made this film with me after spending most of her days watching raw footage of children with pieces of their bodies blown off by mines, trying to find a way to tell their story with dignity and get our unique humanitarian message out there. I think for her filming yoga was a walk in the park and she has been an incredible creative light in this project.

We both agree that whilst we love being humanitarians in our day jobs, it has been a seriously fun and inspiring experience to make this film together, to focus on our colleagues and friends out there in the crappiest places on the planet and know that we can give something to them that might just make their lives a little easier.

We know we want to do more. For now we’ll focus on supporting our humanitarian buddies and one day I hope that we can bring yoga to all the people who’s day to day lives are one big war.

10 minute de-stresser—so good we made it 20 minutes! from Emergencyoga on Vimeo.


Donna Williams, (also known as Donnapranahanumanasana to her closest friends), is an Australian wannabe yogi living in Switzerland, learning and teaching yoga at the hippest studio in Geneva. She spends her days listening to people talk about ‘life saving stuff’ in her ‘very important job’ for a humanitarian organization whilst harboring a secret desire to become a recluse in the Swiss alps and teach mountain people yoga. You can read her blog at or and check out Emergency Yoga.

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Ed: Sara Crolick/Kate Bartolotta




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