Telemachus’ reply was keen and wise: “My guest, your words come from a friendly mind -words like a father to a son, and I shall not forget them. But why not extend your stay? Although your voyage presses, bathe -refresh your spirit; then fine gift in hand, you can with satisfaction sail away. That gift will be a precious, handsome thing, a keepsake such as dear friends give to friends.” -The Odyssey
The War Photographers’ Retreat was founded by Dave Emerson & Kanani Fong. It was a four-day free event for photojournalists whose work takes them to wars, conflicts, and disasters. The purpose of the retreat was to help participants reduce the stressful effects of their important work through yoga, breath work and body work. The War Photographers Retreat was held August 25-27 in Cambridge MA. Participants were led through 2.5 days of breathwork, body work, and Trauma-Sensitive Yoga.
The retreat was held in honor of the late Tim Hetherington. Imagemaker, photographers, journalist, writer and filmmaker, Tim’s work included the Oscar-nominated documentary, RESTREPO. The retreat is being led by David Emerson of the Black Lotus Yoga Project, a 501 (c)(3). Black Lotus Yoga has been the center for retreats hosting veterans, disaster relief workers, and Haiti First Responders. Emerson is a former social worker and currently the clinical yoga director at The Trauma Center. Emerson is also the author of the book, Overcoming Trauma Through Yoga: Reclaiming Your Body.
The War Retreat takes a community approach to addressing PTSD. Therefore, we included spouses, signficant others, and related professionals whom the photographers had worked with. This years participants included with 1 Pulitzer Prize Winner, 4 Correspondents, 1 former translator, the widow of a slain journalist, and the former head of the NY Army National Guard Public Affairs. There was no charge for the retreat, and homestays with local families and free meals were provided. Corporate sponsors such as prAna, Jade Yoga Mats, Kulae, China Gel, Boston Beer, Whole Foods Market, Starbuck’s, Life Alive Organic Cafe and Busa Frams provided yoga supplies and food. Our corporate sponsor page is here. In addition, we had individual sponsors.
Emerson & Fong brought together a staff that included a chaplain who is a Vietnam Veteran, the girlfriend of a Marine (who happens to be the nation’s youngest certified trauma-sensitive yoga teacher), an Army wife, an Army mother, an acupuncturist, local events planner, a therapeutic massage specialist, a retreat poet, and our team of knitters from across the U.S.A. Click the link to read more about the team.
To read more about the retreat, please run a search on this blog on “WarRetreat,” or go to the following links: Acupuncture Day, Finding Movement Through Muscle Awareness, How Yoga Doers Can Help In A Time of War, The Scarves, plus a Mother’s Letter. Also, please see a description of The Program.
“If anything from the retreat benefited us, we were shown effective ways to heal, and simply offered some possible options for becoming more alive and present. We need to spread the word and encourage others to consider such strategies.”-Participant, after the retreat
Why Tim? Why Yoga?
When Tim died, it affected many communities deeply. His work was a catalyst for people to talk about war, free from the constraints of political polarization. People began to understand: the war machine is quite human.
After reading about the life of Tim Hetherington, David Emerson realized conflict journalists suffer from the same (if not repeated) effects of war due to the constant traveling back and forth and often –decades spent in the field. Access to a wide range of health and wellness services is often limited by their freelance status.
“The War Photographers’ Retreat is our way to give back to a community of journalists who give selflessly to make our own world deeper and more meaningful,” says Emerson. Yoga has been shown to be clinically effective in reducing levels of stress, lowering heart rates, and producing an overall sense of well-being.