Founded in 1981 by Indian Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the Art of Living Foundation is an educational organisation with a presence in 156 countries with a purpose of offering tools to eliminate stress and foster a sense of well-being through breathing, meditation and yoga practices. The foundation and its sister humanitarian organisation, the International Association for Human Values (IAHV), enjoy a consultative status with the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
Hiteshini, PhD in Surgical Research from McGill University in Canada, is in Rwanda for one month purposely to offer workshops on stress relief techniques. She has offered the courses for the past 17 years in many countries. She concluded a three-day workshop in Kigali last Thursday and will conduct another workshop from October 13, 2017 at The Manor Hotel in Nyarutarama.
Speaking to IGIHE last week, Dr Hiteshini said she is offering the Happiness Program which is an entry level program but they have higher level programs that prepare people to be trainers.
“We want to have a Happiness Centre in Kigali as we have them around the world. It will be like a sanctuary where people can come and recharge their batteries, de-stress, and then leave feeling lighter and happier,” she said without specifying when the centre is expected to start.
She said they teach simple but powerful breathing techniques, relaxation and some yoga to release the stress from the system.
“The breathing techniques are simple but very powerful and everybody can practise them. We have specialised programs for children, prisoner rehabilitation programs, trauma relief programs for areas affected by disasters and programs for the corporate sector, amongst others,” said Dr Hiteshini, explaining that the way a person breathes reflects the state of the mind and by breathing in particular rhythms, a person can alter their state of mind and experience stillness.
“This is a skill. How to live peacefully, how to be happy, how to be able to dissolve frustrations, anger, depression and this is where the breathing techniques come in,” she added.
After acquiring techniques taught in the Happiness Program, people can practise on their own at home on a daily basis in order to keep their mind free of negative emotions. The Art of Living has existed in Rwanda for the past five years and has a local trainer who conducts Happiness programs on a monthly basis.
The Art of Living Foundation played a major role in ending the 52-year war in Columbia between FARC (rebels) and the government, which signed a peace accord in September 2016. The foundation is credited for bringing opposing parties to the negotiating table in Iraq, the Ivory Coast, Kashmir, and other parts of the world.
A 2014 study by the American Psychological Association at American Institute of Stress in New York indicated that stress caused 54% of people to fight with people close to them.
At least 65 independent studies conducted on four continents have demonstrated a comprehensive range of benefits from practising breathing exercises taught on the Art of Living Happiness Program.