Special News

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Thermal Comfort Health Information  

My work place has banned opening windows even though thermal comfort conditions there do not meet healthy standards. 

When the conditions affecting thermal comfort are not in the recommended ranges, productivity, health, and safety are adversely affected.

:: Thermal Comfort ::

According to official national and international Government Occupational Safety and Health Standards, to have thermal comfort means that a person wearing a normal amount of clothing feels neither too cold nor too warm. Thermal comfort is important both for one's well-being and for productivity. It can be achieved only when the air temperature, humidity and air movement are within the specified range often referred to as the comfort zone.

The factors that affect thermal comfort are:
  • Air temperature 
  • Humidity 
  • Radiant heat
  • Air speed 
  • Physical activity 
  • Clothing

Thermal comfort for people in sedentary occupations:
Summer: 19-24 degrees Celsius 
Winter: 18-22 degrees Celsius 
Humidity: 40-70%
Air speed: 0.1-0.2 m/s
Radiant Heat: No direct exposure to a radiant heat source

Thermal comfort for people in active occupations:
Summer: 16-21degrees Celsius 
Winter: 16-19 degrees Celsius 
Humidity: 40-70%
Air speed: 0.2 m/s
Radiant Heat: No direct exposure to a radiant heat source

2016 Canadian 
Health IQ 

Test your health knowledge

1. Define health

2. What three things have advanced human health more than anything else? 
Antibiotics_____ Happiness_____ Pasteurization_____ Nutrition_____ Pharmaceuticals_____ Hygiene_____ Medical surgery_____ Knowledge_____ Vaccines_____ Antioxidants_____
All of the above_____ Other_____

3. Health is the only cure.   true_____ false____

4. Antibiotics are for:
Viral infection _____ Bacterial infection_____ Both_____ Other______

5. Identify 5 basic health habits necessary for human physiological health.

6. What are the leading health issues in Canada?
Neglect of basic health habits_____ Addictions_____ Chronic pain_____ Health illiteracy_____ GMOs_____ Infectious disease_____ Depression_____ There is no health in our infrastructures_____ Chronic inflammatory disease_____ We’re waiting for a pill to make us healthy_____ Healthcare_____ 
All of the above_____ Other_____

7. How is resilient health created and maintained?

8. There is no pill, cure, or therapy that can replace basic health habits.   true______ false______ 

9. What does it mean to listen to your body? Describe how to listen to your body.

10. What are the three leading causes of death in Canada? Number your choices. 
Cancer_____ Accidents_____ 
Heart Disease_____ Metabolic Syndrome_____ Stroke_____ 
Medical errors_____ Pneumonia_____ Pharmaceuticals_____ Infection_____ Inflammation_____ Neglect of basic health habits_____
All of the above_____ Other_____

11. It is possible to gain aerobic conditioning with mouth breathing.   true______ false______

12. What gases are exchanged during respiration?
Carbon dioxide_____ Helium_____ Nitrogen_____ Ammonia_____ Hydrogen_____ Nitric Oxide_____ All of the above _____ Other_____

13. What are the two top health trends in Canada? 
Number your choices. 
Paleo diet_____ Augmentation_____ Earthing_____ Detox_____Weight loss dieting and products_____ Coconut_____  Massage Therapy____ Fitness_____ Medical spa_____ Organic_____ Anti-vaccine_____ Yoga_____ Retail therapy_____ Nutritional supplementation____ 
All of the above_____ Other_____

14. What are some of the issues related to these trends? 
Passing fad_____ Eating disorders_____ Aggressive marketing_____ Injurious to health_____ Orthopaedic surgery_____ Psychological disorder_____ Expensive_____ Poor health standards_____ All of the above _____ Other_____

15. What is the enteric system?
Intrinsic nervous system_____ The little brain_____ A division of the nervous system_____ Brain-gut axis_____ A mesh-like system of neurons that governs the function of the gastrointestinal system_____
All of the above_____ Other_____

16. The human body is an ecosystem of complementary, co-dependent, and cooperative systems, functioning together to maintain health and designed to heal itself. Neglect of basic health habits leads to physical deterioration, malfunction, a cascade effect of health complications, and finally, to disease.   true______ false______

17. Hypertrophy, Hyperplasia, or Microtrauma? What Really Happens When A Muscle Is Developed?

18. What are the symptoms of dehydration?
Thirst_____ Dizziness, light-headedness_____ Rapid breathing_____ Nausea_____ Constipation_____ Ganglion cysts_____ Fatigue_____ Chills_____ Increased muscle hypertonicity, congestion, and spasm_____ Increased pain, inflammation_____ Headache_____ Tingling hands and feet_____ Impairment of short term memory_____ Heart palpitations____ Indigestion_____ Poor quality of sleep_____ Low blood pressure_____ Increased heart rate_____ Kidney and Gall stones_____ Hiatus hernia_____ Rheumatoid arthritis_____ Breast, colon, pancreas and liver cancer_____ Adult-onset diabetes_____ Allergies_____
All of the above_____ Other_____

19. When health is the goal, rather than weight loss or an increase in body size, better choices are made, the health benefits are more comprehensive and sustainable, and include: beauty, weight management, muscle development, and healthy aging.   true______ false______

20. What are the six causes of disease?
Stress_____ Physical injury_____ Infection_____ Congenital_____ Genetic mutation_____ Neglect of basic health habits_____ Age_____ Physiological dysfunction_____ Permanent alteration by pharmaceutical drug use or surgery_____ Contamination_____ Unhealthy habits_____
All of the above_____ Other_____

STAY TUNED - coming in 2019: the updated HEALTH COACH Canadian Health IQ Quiz


HEALTH COACH has been quoted in an infograph created by The American Recall Center.

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In regard to unhealthy habits, HEALTH COACH recommends moderation, reduction, and finally, elimination. The most effective way to achieve this is with an increase of healthy habits.

The American Recall Center provides drug & medical device recall information alongside practical healthcare information and support

1. Sleep
2. Digestive Health and Nutrition
3. Hydration (water + electrolytes)
4. Physical Activity
5. Positive Mental Attitude
6. Breathing
7. Sweating
8. Sunlight
9. Rest and Relaxation
10. Meditation
11. Hygiene: personal, home, social, public, occupational, professional, medical, commercial, animal, and environmental
12. Life Skills: emotional intelligence, communication, conflict resolution, practical skills, responsibility, character, integrity, critical thinking, love and compassion, social skills, social responsibility, personal development and more ...
13. Nature: We need a healthy environment to be healthy and disease-free.

We have a social responsibility to be healthy. This is especially true in a social system of medicare, like we have here in Canada. Doing nothing to care for your health is neglectful; cultivating unhealthy habits is self-abusive.

All basic health habits are learned behaviours, and the younger the age that we learn these habits, the more likely they are to be our dependable, and default system, especially in response to unexpected demands and unplanned stress. 

HEALTH COACH basic health habits provides a stable foundation for building knowledge, understanding, and is the most basic of practical guides for your health. With each basic health habit you can customize and personalize your choices.

The New Moderation

In regard to unhealthy habits, HEALTH COACH recommends moderation, gradual reduction, and finally, elimination. An increase of healthy habits is the most effective way to achieve this. 

When you understand what your body needs to be healthy and to function optimally; and when you make informed choices based on this knowledge and understanding; this can give you a relationship with your health and power of your habits that is more effective than self control.

Develop a new relationship with your health that is based on knowledge, understanding, and effective choices.

For more information please visit the BASIC HEALTH HABITS Page for basic health habits 1-13. 

The Consumer Safety Guide is another American group that has requested to be added to this feature. This organization also informs consumers about issues related to drugs, medical devices, automotive, and other products.

Karma is not something that happens to you

karma, when translated, means action

Karma is one of those words we don't translate. Its basic meaning is simple enough - action - but because of the weight the Buddha's teachings give to the role of action, the Sanskrit word karma packs in so many implications that the English word action can't carry all its luggage. This is why we've simply airlifted the original word into our vocabulary.

But when we try unpacking the connotations the word carries now that it has arrived in everyday usage, we find that most of its luggage has gotten mixed up in transit. In the eyes of most Americans, karma functions like fate - bad fate, at that: an inexplicable, unchangeable force coming out of our past, for which we are somehow vaguely responsible and powerless to fight. I guess it's just my karma, I've heard people sigh when bad fortune strikes with such force that they see no alternative to resigned acceptance. The fatalism implicit in this statement is one reason why so many of us are repelled by the concept of karma, for it sounds like the kind of callous myth-making that can justify almost any kind of suffering or injustice in the status quo: If he's poor, it's because of his karma. If she's been raped, it's because of her karma. From this it seems a short step to saying that he or she deserves to suffer, and so doesn't deserve our help.

This misconception comes from the fact that the Buddhist concept of karma came to the West at the same time as non-Buddhist concepts, and so ended up with some of their luggage. Although many Asian concepts of karma are fatalistic, the early Buddhist concept was not fatalistic at all. In fact, if we look closely at early Buddhist ideas of karma, we'll find that they give even less importance to myths about the past than most modern Americans do.

For the early Buddhists, karma was non-linear and complex. Other Indian schools believed that karma operated in a simple straight line, with actions from the past influencing the present, and present actions influencing the future. As a result, they saw little room for free will. Buddhists, however, saw that karma acts in multiple feedback loops, with the present moment being shaped both by past and by present actions; present actions shape not only the future but also the present. Furthermore, present actions need not be determined by past actions. In other words, there is free will, although its range is somewhat dictated by the past. The nature of this freedom is symbolized in an image used by the early Buddhists: flowing water. Sometimes the flow from the past is so strong that little can be done except to stand fast, but there are also times when the flow is gentle enough to be diverted in almost any direction.

So, instead of promoting resigned powerlessness, the early Buddhist notion of karma focused on the liberating potential of what the mind is doing with every moment. Who you are - what you come from - is not anywhere near as important as the mind's motives for what it is doing right now. Even though the past may account for many of the inequalities we see in life, our measure as human beings is not the hand we've been dealt, for that hand can change at any moment. We take our own measure by how well we play the hand we've got. If you're suffering, you try not to continue the unskillful mental habits that would keep that particular karmic feedback going. If you see that other people are suffering, and you're in a position to help, you focus not on their karmic past, but your karmic opportunity in the present: Someday you may find yourself in the same predicament that they're in now, so here's your opportunity to act in the way you'd like them to act toward you when that day comes.

This belief that one's dignity is measured, not by one's past, but by one's present actions, flew right in the face of the Indian traditions of caste-based hierarchies, and explains why early Buddhists had such a field day poking fun at the pretensions and mythology of the brahmans. As the Buddha pointed out, a brahman could be a superior person, not because he came out of a brahman womb, but only if he acted with truly skillful intentions.

We read the early Buddhist attacks on the caste system, and aside from their anti-racist implications, they often strike us as quaint. What we fail to realize is that they strike right at the heart of our myths about our own past: our obsession with defining who we are in terms of where we come from - our race, ethnic heritage, gender, socio-economic background, sexual preference - our modern tribes. We put inordinate amounts of energy into creating and maintaining the mythology of our tribe so that we can take vicarious pride in our tribe's good name. Even when we become Buddhists, the tribe comes first. We demand a Buddhism that honors our myths.

From the standpoint of karma, though, where we come from is old karma, over which we have no control. What we are is a nebulous concept at best - and pernicious at worst, when we use it to find excuses for acting on unskillful motives. The worth of a tribe lies only in the skillful actions of its individual members. Even when those good people belong to our tribe, their good karma is theirs, not ours. And, of course, every tribe has its bad members, which means that the mythology of the tribe is a fragile thing. To hang onto anything fragile requires a large investment of passion, aversion, and delusion, leading inevitably to more unskillful actions on into the future.

So the Buddhist teachings on karma, far from being a quaint relic from the past, are a direct challenge to a basic thrust - and basic flaw - in our culture. Only when we abandon our obsession with finding vicarious pride in our tribal past, and can take actual pride in the motives that underlie our present actions, can we say that the word karma, in its Buddhist sense, has recovered its luggage. And when we open the luggage, we'll find that it's brought us a gift: the gift we give ourselves and one another when we drop our myths about who we are, and can instead be honest about what we're doing with each moment - at the same time making the effort to do it right.

Tsilhqot’in Nation Land Treaty Recognized By The Supreme Court of Canada
Will Provincial and Federal Governments Finally Recognize Tsilhqot'in Right To The Control of Their Land?

David C. Nahwegahbow, IPC, LSM, LL.B
The Tsilhqot’in Nation case is a landmark decision, the first time that the Supreme Court ever issued a declaration of Aboriginal title – essentially a declaration that the Tsilhqot’in owned the land. 
What did the federal and BC governments do? Ignoring previous directions from the Supreme Court to seek reconciliation, they decided to appeal the ruling to the BC Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada. 
The Crowns lost; common sense, the rule of law and constitutionalism prevailed.

Tsilhqot’in Case Proves Aboriginal Title

The Crown governments argued that Aboriginal claimants had to establish intensive physical use of specific tracts of land to prove Aboriginal title – what has come to be known as the postage stamp theory of Aboriginal title. As the ethno-centric argument goes, the Tsilhqot’in and Aboriginal peoples generally were nomadic or semi-nomadic and unlike sedentary agricultural people, could never establish Aboriginal title to their traditional territories.
  • The Calder decision (1973) recognized the possibility that Aboriginal title may exist in Canada.
  • The Guerin decision (1984) where it held that Aboriginal title was an independent legal interest that could only be ceded to the Crown, which as a result made Aboriginal peoples vulnerable to the Crown and imposed a corresponding fiduciary duty on the Crown to act in the best interest of Aboriginal title-holders.  
  • The Sparrow decision (1990) recognized and affirmed Aboriginal and treaty rights as existing rights within section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.  
  • The Delgamuukw case (1997) which said that Aboriginal title was on par with non-Aboriginal land ownership, in that it gave a right to exclusive occupancy and the right to enjoy the economic benefits of the land. Delgamuukw also set-out the test for proving Aboriginal title. 
  • The Haida case (2004) where the Supreme Court said that Aboriginal peoples had to be consulted and accommodated before the Crown could take decisions that impacted adversely on their Aboriginal rights. 

The IBA argued that Aboriginal claimants can also lead evidence of legal occupancy, i.e., Indigenous laws such as laws on tenure and trespass, to establish proof of Aboriginal title. There was ample evidence produced at trial to show that Tsilhqot’in people had such laws. The Supreme Court held that the Aboriginal perspective, including Tsilhqot’in laws are to be given equal weight in determining Aboriginal claims. This applies equally to treaty claims.  

Tsilhqot'in proven to be owners of land

Further, one of the most interesting things about the Tsilhqot’in case is with regard to the doctrine of terra nullius, a Latin term which means empty land. That theory espouses that Indigenous peoples were so uncivilized that they could not be seen in law to be true legal occupants and owners of their lands. 
It was the legal basis upon which Indigenous peoples were dispossessed of their lands throughout the colonial period in many parts of the world. The Crown postage stamp theory of Aboriginal title is reminiscent of the doctrine of terra nullius. The Supreme Court has now stated unequivocally in the Tsilhqot’in case that the doctrine of terra nullius is not part of the law in Canada. 
It is quite likely that federal and provincial governments will again ignore the advice of the Court on reconciliation. This will mean more conflict in the future. 
There is another important point in the case and that is the issue of consent. 
The Supreme Court wrote that whether before or after a declaration of Aboriginal title, governments and individuals can avoid an infringement of the duty to consult by obtaining the consent of the Aboriginal group affected. 
This effectively raises the significance of the First Nation communities in decision-making processes regarding resource management decisions affecting their land and rights. This lends credence to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which calls for the free prior and informed consent before development on Indigenous lands.  

More conflict in future likely

What are the implications of the Tsilhqot’in Nation case for Canada? Will Crown conduct change? It is hard to say. Unfortunately, judging from their past conduct, it is quite likely that federal and provincial governments will again ignore the advice of the Court on reconciliation. This will mean more conflict in the future. 
However, I am hopeful that the Crown will learn from this case: that they will sit down with Indigenous peoples, modify federal and provincial laws and policies to positively embrace what section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 provides, and what the Supreme Court has been saying all along -- Aboriginal and treaty rights are hereby recognized and affirmed, and not denied, infringed and extinguished.

Why You Should Stop Drinking Plastic Bottled Water

While convenient, a high percentage of single-serving bottled water is reprocessed tap, distilled or reverse osmosis water, has low filtration and disinfectant standards and is not tested by government certified labs. 

Personal plastic bottles contain petroleum oil products and are expensive and costly to the environment, taking 300 years to degrade. Some are recycled but as many as 86% are not. 

I recommend that you choose spring water or a water filtration system that suits you and purchase a re-useable drinking container. 

Read the full  HEALTH COACH drinking water choices review (scroll down) here.

Canada is #1 consumer alongside United States

Manitoba Consumer Environmental Packaging Levies

I had been wondering where the two cents that we are charged when we buy a product in a bottle or a can goes and what it is used for. No one at the grocery stores that I talked to seemed to know anything. I did some searching and found this thesis work explaining the origins of this levy and old newspaper articles reporting on more recent developments.

In the last four decades, consumer convenience - emphasizing throw-away packaging and disposable products - has become as much a tool of marketing as quality and price. The quantity of packaging in the waste stream, its visibility and the overall reduction in capacity to effectively manage such wastes has resulted in the development of policies for packaging stewardship or extended producer responsibility (EPR) in many countries. 

One of the main problems of introducing packaging stewardship is the traditional division of responsibility among actors for product design and quality, for environmental protection and for waste management. Fragmentation of responsibility allows the producer to lobby hard against the introduction of regulations that force responsibility back onto their accounts. Governments are reluctant to introduce command and control style regulation because the lobby from the producers is more direct and sustained than the pressure from citizens for environmental protection. The result is often a negotiated form of responsibility or responsibility limited by arbitrary measures of cost and effectiveness as opposed to environmental benefit. John A. Sinclair, U of M, UCLA Electronic Green Journal, 2000

The Manitoba Product Stewardship Program (MPSC) was the first in North America.  In 1995, MPSC was put in place (and the levy funds were collected from that date) to administer the stewardship program as an arm’s length statutory corporation independent of government. The money necessary to achieve their corporate objectives comes from a WRAP (Waste Reduction and Prevention Act) levy on packaging products set out in the MPSP regulation. The levy is currently set at 2 cents per container and applies to non-refillable beverage containers for soft drinks, wine, mineral water and fruit beverages regardless of size and composition of the container. The levy is charged to beverage container stewards who pay the fees to the MPSC. Since most of the products sold in Manitoba are manufactured elsewhere, the first seller becomes the steward. As of 1999 there were 88 such product stewards licensed through the MPSP program, remitting their levies into the WRAP Fund. In addition, Manitoba Telecom Services pays a voluntary stewardship fee to the fund in order to have used telephone directories managed recycled. This accounts for less than 1% of total revenues of the program. Under the Regulation beverage containers sold under a deposit/return system, such as beer, are exempt from the program.

In Manitoba, its critics view the 2-cent pre-disposal levy as nothing more than a tax grab. The beverage industry is not viewed as a steward, and the government is seen as picking the consumers pocket. This position is caused by two factors: 1.) It is clear that at least the major soft drink producers are adding the two cent levy to the bills of their retail clients such as large grocery store chains, they in turn, add the two cents to the consumers’ bill. 2.) The beverage industry has been unwilling to undertake research to show how the costs of the program are being distributed. John A. Sinclair, U of M, UCLA Electronic Green Journal, 2000

The main vehicle that has been established to achieve the WRAP Act objectives is municipal funding for the collection and processing (general recycling collection) of eligible material recovered from the residential waste stream. Currently there is no impetus for either distributors (brand owners) or the consumer to reduce the quantity of resources consumed. MPSP is clearly more oriented toward packaging waste valorization than stewardship.

In March, 2010, the Manitoba government halted the two-cent levy and MPSP started charging distributors a voluntary two-cent container fee. The bulk of the funding for municipal recycling came from the two-cent levy on beverage containers. Now, instead of drink containers bearing the brunt of recycling fees, the cost will be spread around.  

On April 1, 2010 the new, non-profit stewardship board Multi-Material Stewardship Manitoba was ushered in. MMSM has close to 1,000 industry stewards paying levies on a broad range of packaging materials and printed paper, including newspapers and magazines, coffee cups and other recyclable materials.  

Some of the amounts levied on individual packaging and printed paper products are about 9/10ths of a cent on a cereal box, three cents on a large magazine and 8/10ths of a cent on a four litre milk jug. Winnipeg Free Press, April 8, 2010

Are Nutritional Food Labels Accurate?

In my preliminary research the evidence indicates that the current system of evaluating the nutritional (fat, fibre, carbohydrate, cholesterol, sodium, vitamins and minerals) and caloric content and the health of a food product is not accurate. 

Both the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allow a 5 gram discrepancy and as much as a 20% difference between the amounts listed on the nutritional food label and the actual percentage in the food product. 

The food manufacturer is ultimately in control of both the healthfulness of a product and the nutritional information on the label. 

The accuracy of this information and the health of food products is not monitored or enforced closely enough by either the CFIA or the FDA. The majority of food tests conducted by these government public interest organizations have revealed these inaccuracies. 

What does this mean for us? HEALTH COACH recommends that you make it yourself. The snack ideas presented in the Healthy Snacks feature take between 5-30 minutes of preparation time for high yield and value at a fraction of what you would pay to have it ready-made. 

Remember, you decide the kind of life that you live and we create the world we live in. Do you really want to live a life that does not give you time for your health?

The Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has been working on the issue of accurate nutritional food labeling, giving the Canadian government proposals for accurate accounting and representation of food products by manufacturers. Here is a live link to CSPI: Centre for Science in the Public Interest

Produce Stickers: 
How To Identify 
Conventional, Organic or GMO Produce


PETA Offers $1 Million to First to Make In Vitro Meat

Scientists around the world are researching or seeking the funds to research ways to produce meat in the laboratory—without killing any animals. In vitro meat production would use animal stem cells that would be placed in a medium to grow and reproduce. The result would mimic flesh and could be cooked and eaten. Some promising steps have been made toward this technology, but we're still several years away from having in vitro meat be available to the general public.

PETA is now stepping in and offering a $1 million reward to the first scientist to produce and bring to market in vitro meat.

Contest Details

PETA is offering a $1 million prize to the contest participant able to make the first in vitro chicken meat and sell it to the public by June 30, 2012. The contestant must do both of the following:
  • Produce an in vitro chicken-meat product that has a taste and texture indistinguishable from real chicken flesh to non-meat-eaters and meat-eaters alike.
  • Manufacture the approved product in large enough quantities to be sold commercially, and successfully sell it at a competitive price in at least 10 states.

Judging of taste and texture will be performed by a panel of 10 PETA judges, who will sample the in vitro chicken prepared using PETA's own fried "chicken" recipe. The in vitro chicken must get a score of at least 80 when evaluated in order to win the prize.

Click here to read the complete contest rules, or e-mail VegInfo@peta.org to enter.

Dispatched: August 2013

Project AIR

Four years ago, in a small sewing cooperative in Rwanda's capital city of Kigali, yoga instructor and author Deirdre Summerbell stepped in front of a class of a dozen frail women, each standing on a green or purple mat, and asked them to move their bodies in a series of twists and bends that make up the basic practice of Ashtanga yoga.

The women, HIV-positive survivors of the widespread rape that occurred during Rwanda's 1994 genocide, reacted with confusion and trepidation.

Their jaws dropped, and they opened their eyes wide during my demonstration, Summerbell, 55, told The Huffington Post. When I finished, a young woman put out her hand and said, ‘You know, that's for children, and we have already reached old age. We are sick. The woman was 28.

So began the first class offered by Project Air, an initiative that uses yoga to help over 400 HIV-positive Rwandan women and their families cope with the trauma they endured when an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed in only 100 days -- and countless women were raped -- as the Hutu majority tribe tried to wipe out the Tutsi minority. Even after the violation, mutilation and murder were over and the machetes were sheathed, the bodies and minds of the Rwandan women Project Air serves remained battlefields. While their immune systems struggled to fight even the most common illnesses, their minds were warding off traumatic flashbacks of war.

Summerbell wasn't surprised by her students' early skepticism. In fact, when the non-profit Women's Equity in Access to Care and Treatment first approached Summerbell in 2007 to helm the project, she declined.

I thought that it was silly and the last thing these women would probably need. said Summerbell, who grew up in Tanzania, where she witnessed what she describes as Westerners' attempts to institute ineffective foreign practices in African culture.

But when Summerbell, and then her students, decided to give the project a try - despite the students' physical and emotional trauma and the fact that women's participation in physical activities of this nature is taboo in Rwanda - they found the results were both immediate and profound.

After the third lesson, a shy woman came up to me, took my hands and said that she had slept for the first time in the 14 years since the genocide, Summerbell said. She wasn't alone. Women will tell you that before yoga, they were crippled with aches and pains; they felt old. Now they crave yoga because when they feel physically stronger, they feel more confident and optimistic.

Given these positive results, what began as a three-month experiment is now in its fourth year. It is the first yoga initiative to be endorsed by the United Nations and is the only yoga project to be partnered with UNICEF. Organizers are looking to expand the yoga program to other warring and post-conflict countries.

Project Air started as one aspect of the holistic treatment offered by WE-ACTx, which was formed to 2004 to provide a full spectrum of health care to HIV-positive Rwandans, with a special focus on serving female survivors of genocidal rape and violence and their children.

Although only approximately 5 percent of the Rwandan population is estimated to have HIV/AIDS, UNICEF suggests that the disease prevalence is 10 percent among women.

And while not all cases of HIV/AIDS in Rwanda are linked to the genocide, a 2004 Amnesty International report titled Marked for Death found the conflict contributed significantly to the proliferation of the disease. Of the 250,000 to 500,000 women who were raped during the genocide, Amnesty estimates more than 67 percent of the victims contracted HIV and AIDS. The UK-based Survivors Fund organization reported that many of the infections were systematically planned, and that HIV-positive men were used intentionally as a weapon of the genocide.

The purpose of Project Air's classes is not so much to ameliorate the physical symptoms of HIV and AIDS -- Summerbell is not a physician and could not point to scientific studies that link yoga to improving the immune system -- though she said she had seen her students' disease markers, including disrupted sleep patterns and poor appetites, improve.

The program works collaboratively with five local genocide survivors associations, the Rwandan Ministry of Health and the Rwandan National AIDS program, aiming to help its students cope with the emotional effects of the trauma they endured.

In the U.S., the Veterans Administration has used yoga to assist veterans coping with PTSD after returning from war, and a small 2010 study funded by the U.S. Department of Defense and conducted by Sat Bir A. Khalsa, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, found that veterans' symptoms improved after a 10-week yoga class.

According to Dr. Mardge Cohen, the medical director of WE-ACTx, who has researched the AIDS pandemic for more than two decades in Chicago, Boston and Rwanda, Project Air has had the same effect on its students.

An estimated one in three Rwandans suffer from PTSD as a result of the genocide, according to a 2009 study by the Rwandan Ministry of Health; that includes many rape victims.

(WE-ACTx) makes sure that we integrate mental health, said Cohen. "Many of the women who have also attended [Project Air] yoga sessions say that the support they get from doing this with other women as well as the strength they gain from the physical exercise of the manipulation of yoga allow them to feel like they are able to move on and move forward from their PTSD, Cohen, 59, said.

Summberbell said Project Air yoga classes have allowed women who have felt stiff and elderly to experience dramatic and immediate emotional benefits, as they jump and play joyfully during the class.

They are allowed to have an hour doing nothing else but lift their hands, jump up and do tricks that they thought only children can do, and this produces such an amount of glee, Summerbell said. Everybody laughs, almost more when they fall than when they succeed; everybody plays. It is the most giggly group.

The services that Project Air provides its students aren't limited to the yoga mats.

Rwanda is unbelievably expensive and the sick are very poor, Summerbell said. The lucky ones eat every day, the unlucky every other day, and you can't ask people with a low caloric intake to do Ashtanga. So we feed them.

Project Air also has begun to provide clothing. While some of the wealthier students come to classes adorned in their finest and brightest clothing -- Summerbell has begun to discourage headdresses as they are not conducive to headstands -- the instructors began to notice that the women in cheaper shrouds were avoiding certain poses.

They couldn't afford underwear, so we quickly regrouped and provided trousers, Summerbell said.


Even though Project Air focuses primarily on the traumatized victims of genocidal rape, it has quickly expanded in size and scope. When the program was only in its sixth week, Madonna heard of the program and donated $250,000.

Now, in addition to its work with adults, Project Air serves 300 to 350 HIV-positive children, most of whose parents are deceased. Rwanda has approximately 160,000 orphans as a result of HIV/AIDS.

According to WE-ACTx's Director of Clinical Systems, Chantal Benekigeri, many of these children face an overwhelming stigma.

For children who lost their parents and live with other family members, sometimes their family members know [they] have HIV and stigmatize them, Benekigeri, a 47 year-old Rwandan, said. Sometimes [the orphans] can't eat at the same table.

Summerbell said that without families to protect them, pre-pubescent orphan girls are more vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse.

They are sitting ducks, Summerbell said. We are trying to put a special focus for them on Ashtanga yoga because it is very athletic and we want to develop their confidence and strengthen them so they are less likely to be a target and feel like they don't deserve this treatment.

But this new focus has presented new challenges. Soon after starting to work with girls and young women who were victims of domestic abuse, Summerbell and her colleagues realized they needed to take a broader approach.

If you get a woman to feel strong and be stronger, and you don't help the men understand these changes, we can end up doing more damages, Summerbell said. So we began with a large group of men (enrolling in the yoga programs). They have become some of our most enthusiastic students and respond to it.

Through yoga, Project Air aims to change men's behavior and their mindsets.

We teach them that self-control is a form of strength, Summerbell said. Strength is when a body and mind are under the dominion of an individual, and when that individual loses control and descends into violence, that is a weakness of the mind and body.


While Project Air currently operates only in Kigali, there are efforts underway to extend its reach beyond Rwanda's borders and beyond its original focus on populations with HIV or AIDS.

With the help of UNICEF, Summerbell wants to broaden Project Air's programming to reach other African conflict and post-conflict zones, extending services to vulnerable women and children who are not HIV positive. She has spoken to Heal Africa, an organization that provides holistic healing for people in the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to the American Journal of Public Health, approximately one woman is raped every four minutes in the DRC.

We want to expand this project to other vulnerable groups we work with, such as street children, former child soldiers, adolescent survivors of violence, wrote Francesca Morandini, UNICEF Rwanda's Chief of Social Protection and Governance for Child's Rights, in an email.

There is so much more to do, Summerbell said.

To learn more about Project Air or make a donation, visit project-air.org. here