The workshop also provides participants with an opportunity to rest, move and heal.
Ideally, it would comprise three key elements:
Movement in the morning (or afternoons): we have offered an open (and optional) session of pilates, tai chi, qi gong and yoga at different workshops – usually in the same space as the workshop. Participants responded well to the opportunity to engage in gentle movement, and the contemplative practice in the workshop space also contributed to a calm, safe atmosphere.
Movement during the workshop: there are several energisers that use gentle movement to increase participant concentration and connection to their bodies, from dance to stretching and breathing exercises. Self-defence basics also can be taught by a trained facilitator.
Healing opportunities: we have also offered evening sessions by massage therapists (Indian head massage, Swedish massage, acupressure) to participants. These were particularly well received, and important for participants coping with high levels of stress and/or physical discomfort.
In designing appropriate movement and healing opportunities, it is important to consider how participants experience their bodies. Always keep in mind that physical touch and movement vary from culture to culture, and that many women also are holding emotional pain and memories in their bodies that can be released through movement. Some participants may have limited physical movement – and many women human rights defenders are living with physical pain and discomfort (which they often overlook in order to keep working). For many, this movement and healing work can be a rare, and emotional, experience. Facilitators should always err on the side of caution and keep the exercises and healing options gentle, and allow participants time to absorb the effects of these forms of body work. In some cases, participants may want follow-up sessions or an opportunity to discuss their reactions one-on-one.