Update on yoga students in Lima, Peru/asking for your support

The following is a letter I wrote to people close to me in my offline life. I am hoping that by sharing it here, I might reach more people willing to support the women in Peru I would normally be working with, doing yoga and healing work, over the winter. Thank you for considering a donation of any kind to help these wonderful women.

Dear Ayllu, 

I hope all is well with you. I have been grieving the fact that I will not be going to Peru this winter. As you know, over the last 5 years I have gradually increased the time I left the USA to be in Peru for the winter. These visits have helped me survive living in the USA nine months out of the year. The reason I stay in the USA is my daughters, my grandson, my students and you, who I call my Ayllu (community). I am so grateful for your friendship, my heart warms to know you and to call you friend. 

My going home started as taking time to rest, replenish and connect with my people. However, soon after I got there, I learned the struggles the women in my neighborhood were the same as when I lived there. These women are very stressed from living in poverty, and surviving sexual and domestic violence. Although there is a Ministry for Women and laws are in place to protect women and children, this ministry is underfunded and understaffed. Most employees have not had trauma informed training or have not connected capitalism, machismo, misogyny and extreme poverty as consequences of being colonized. These women do not have access to health care, mental health or any form of support from the government or organizations. 

Here is some more hopeful news. In 1995, I started sharing body & mind practices with the women in my neighborhood. Because these women only have access to yoga classes when I am in Peru (three month out of the year), last year they expressed an interest in learning to teach yoga so they could teach each other; and, perhaps, teaching yoga to earn a living. I had made a great connection with a yoga instructor in Portland, Maine, Anne Esguerra. Anne connected me with a teacher in New Hampshire who has been training teachers for the last few years. The three of us are collaborating to offer a yoga teacher training in 2022 for my students in Lima, Peru. 

As I prepare to stay in the USA this winter, I cannot stop thinking of my students in Peru, who would be getting ready and looking forward to yoga classes, as well as the safe space we create when we are together once a week for three months. I have shared some photos at the bottom of this letter that capture some of the joy we feel in our work together.

To feel a sense of connection with my students in Lima this year I will be raising funds to be in solidarity with them. Most of these women are heads of their households and the way they earned their living was as street vendors. As you may imagine, they lost their income when Covid started. There are no safety nets of any kind of support for them. I would like to send them some financial support. This money will go directly to each of my students for basic necessities such as food, medicine, personal care items, clothing, etc. 

Would you consider supporting me in this effort? If you are so inspired, please email me for my mailing address to send a check. I can also accept donations through Venmo @Maria-Sanchez-391 — no amount is too small — just put a note that this is for the women in Peru

Thank you for considering a gift to these women. They are always deeply touched whenever they hear that women from another part of the world who do not know them, care and support them. This gives them hope.

With deep gratitude and in solidarity, Maria Rosita

Seva (Service Work)

For the last ten years I have provided “serva” or service work in Peru, offering trauma sensitive yoga classes to women in my neighborhood. These women have survived violence of all kinds and are very grateful to have access to free of charge yoga classes while I am there. In addition to this group I also offer yoga to a group of women and men with mental disabilities (Asumen).

The first couple of years I use to go from house to house to recruit them and their response was “yoga?” “what is yoga?” “I do not want to change my religion.” Once I told them they did not have to change their religion, they reluctantly came to my house to check it out. These last few years as soon as they find out I am there they come knocking on my door and eagerly ask when I will start teaching. I think is because there are not other safe spaces for them to rest, to relax or to be; spaces where they have choices, where for an hour they forget their roles and responsibilities; where no one is judging them or where there are expectations; where they can be how they are. For most of them, these classes are all they have as part of their healing process. Access to psychotherapy or counseling of any kind are not existent. My dream is to someday offer a teacher training right in my neighborhood and have them learn to teach to other women in our community and also to reach out to other neighborhoods.

This year I am planning to offer warm water yoga, which will be the very first time they will experience this type of healing practice. I am grateful that people already have donated yoga pants and bathing suit for the students.

If you would like to support this work, donations will provide the students with drinking water, snacks, transportation for trip to a yoga studio in Lima. In addition, we do a day trip to the beach: transportation, entrances fees, umbrella rentals, bathroom rentals, snacks, beverages and lunch, and weekly rental of a swimming pool for water yoga. I hope you would consider to support this worthwhile effort. No amount is too small. If you wish to donate, you can send your donation to Maria Sanchez (email me for my address) or via Venmo: Maria-Sanchez-391