Jenna, MA in Sustainable Peace through Sport student, an Advocate of Yoga for Peace
During the Summer 2014, we met with Jenna Toivakka, an IUM student enrolled in the MA in Sustainable Peace through Sport. This bright young lady, born in Finland believes that sports can be used as a catalyst to help unprivileged populations and promote social cohesion. After a satisfactory academic performance (following various conflict resolution, sports-related and management courses offered between September and June during the Master of Arts in Sustainable Peace through Sport program), Jenna could focus on gaining field exposure. Indeed, Jenna interned at LiiKe, Sport & Development, a Helsinki-based organization. Amongst her duties, Jenna contributed to the organization’s preparation and application for a sport and peace program to be organized at Nyaruqusu Refugee Camp in Northwest Tanzania.
In addition to this, we wanted to meet Jenna and find out more about another interesting aspect of her personality. Prior to joining IUM Master of Arts in Sustainable Peace through Sport program, Jenna embraced and promoted Yoga for Peace, a concept that we find both fascinating and novel.
IUM: What is your general feeling after having completed all of your courses of the MA in Sustainable Peace through Sport program, except the remaining ones that you will attend in San Jose (Costa Rica) at the UPEACE campus?
Very positive. I truly enjoyed studying in IUM and learned valuable knowledge of this fascinating subject I feel passionate about. I am also looking forward to continuing my studies in Costa Rica next January.
IUM: Can you tell us more about Yoga for Peace? How did you learn about this practice? Who inspired you or trained you?
Using yoga for peace is not a new concept, it has been used for quite a while and proved to be efficient. Football is the most popular sport practiced in many peace & sport operations, but in many communities women are not allowed to practice sports traditionally seen as “male sport.” Yoga can be offered to women instead. It has also many positive benefits for individuals.
I learned about this practice through Seane Corn, well-known yogi from USA who has founded the Off to the mat, into the world- organization.
IUM: What do the practice of yoga bring to individuals?
It is very individual practice, although it can be practiced together with other people. Yoga is good for your mind and body. It makes one feel less stressed, helps with anxiety and it is good for your heart and it strengthens the body. It also boosts memory, improves concentration and prevents the appearance of mental illnesses. It can help people who have experienced trauma to process it better and increase their wellbeing.
IUM: How long have you practiced Yoga? Do you share this practice with others in Finland or elsewhere?
I have practiced yoga since I was 17 years old. I have practiced and studied yoga all over the world, in Mexico, Finland, Costa Rica, USA, France, Italy and in Nicaragua.
IUM: Have you sought to promote and further develop this practice? Are there clubs, associations, or organizations that seek to promote Yoga for Peace?
With the organization I am working I plan to incorporate yoga into their programs happening in Tanzania. There are few organizations, “Off to the mat, into the world” that I already mentioned is trying to inspire conscious, sustainable activism and ignite grassroots social change.
Africa yoga project works in East Africa, connecting people who want to make a difference and offering them yoga practice and training yoga teachers for remote areas.
IUM: Lastly, what are your plans for the future?
I don’t know yet exactly what I want to do in the future but for sure I want to be part of the peace & sport movement. Right now I want to complete my internship in Liike, learn more about this interesting subject in Costa Rica at University of Peace and then see where the world takes me. I’m open for all the new interesting possibilities!
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