Of all the ways to raise funds for those affected by the catastrophic events in Lebanon, Move for Beirut - an initiative set up by Alyah Al-Jasser and Hiba and Fatima Faour, providing online classes in yoga and meditation, donating the revenue to the Lebanese Red Cross - is among the more creative.
Alyah explains, "Hiba is a yoga teacher in training and she was already leading weekly classes in aid of local charities, on mornings when we would hang out at the park. When we heard about the tragedy in Beirut, we put our efforts into creating Move For Beirut - which provides socially distanced outdoor classes, as well as online ones, in exchange for donations to a trusted NGO." She continues, "Another friend of mine, Fatima (who happens to be Hiba’s sister), and I worked to design the logo, set up the Instagram, create the posts and manage the donations and class bookings."
On her relationship with yoga, Alyah tells Grazia; "I first started going to classes when I was 16. I found it so comforting and relaxing; I suppose when you’re 16, flexibility comes easy! At uni and for many years after, I abandoned my practice. I couldn’t afford classes and I didn’t have the drive to practise. As I grew older, I found yoga again, and began to value it and see it as a reward – time dedicated to growth, as opposed to a chore."
Throughout her life, though, she has always carried her meditative outlook with her; "Taking the time to breathe and check in with your mind and body can be so wonderful. I think a lot of people would be surprised at the thoughts that pop up while you mediate... The subconscious has a lot to say sometimes! It’s a beautiful thing when you can pause and still your mind. Like anything, it takes practice and time. Meditation isn’t about sitting in an uncomfortable position for hours on end and chanting – start by choosing a spot where you feel comfortable, close your eyes and and begin to focus on your breath. Count the seconds for inhale and exhale…you will be surprised how quickly you can focus your attention inwards when you do this."
The yogi reveals how closely the Lebanese crisis touched each one of them, "Apart from the fact that Fatima & Hiba are both Lebanese, Beirut & Lebanon are incredibly important places to us all. As Arabs, we feel an overwhelming sense of community and solidarity with our people, as well as the people of all walks of life who make Beirut their home."
"What happened in Beirut was avoidable and completely unfair – our small contribution is a drop in the ocean – but we are doing what we can. The Lebanese Red Cross are on the ground everyday, providing aid and support those in need. And we are in full support of that."
Alyah feels that Move for Beirut sums up the solidarity and community spirit of those involved: "We started out by getting together to offer small outdoor classes in Kuwait, and so we created the @moveforbeirut IG page. Shortly after, we were contacted by Leena, who wanted to combine forces to offer online classes too. So we pooled our resources to offer Move for Beirut classes to anyone anywhere in the world! Now we have a full schedule of both online and socially distanced outdoor classes and are excited to announce the former are available worldwide!"
The founders have been overwhelmed by the response: "We have had offers from yoga teachers and holistic practitioners from all the world who want to participate by giving classes in exchange for donations. From Dublin, Iceland, Spain and Egypt… it really is a globally accessible movement."
And as with every successful initiative, a line of merch soon follows: "We have also been very lucky to partner with @rebind.kwt - a young Kuwaiti start up that designs and prints customised T-shirts - who generously donated their services to print our limited edition “Om for Beirut” shirts. These shirts are available in exchange for a $30 donation to the LRC."
And that's not the only local business to come on board: "P5M, a successful Kuwaiti fitness app start-up, offered their services on their app and website to promote our classes. Using their well-known platform has been amazing to raise more donations and awareness."
Above all, the programme has shown Alyah the power we hold when we support each other, "Move for Beirut has shown me that people can and do come together when it matters. It’s a light of hope and humanity – the donations have come thick and fast and we are so grateful to all of those who have given up their time and money for those in need on Beirut. Each one of us is our own contribution to the world and it is our duty to act purposefully and with heart. We are just a few friends trying to spend our energy by promoting healing. We hope that this message reaches people."
She adds, "We already have the second week of events, both online and outdoor, already planned. Watch this space! We will be offering more online classes from our volunteer teacher all over the world, as well more socially distanced outdoor classes in sound healing, Tai Chi, yoga, movement and meditation."
And the founders won't stop at Lebanon: "As the needs in Beirut shift, we will also be shifting our donations to NGOs that are working with the jobs at hand. We will be collecting non-perishable food stuffs, baby formula, baby bottles, diapers and new clothing to ship to Lebanon."
While we're certain you won't be seeing us meditating at 4.45am any time soon (sigh), the Grazia team will be sure to see you on the (online) mat.
Check out the full schedule at instagram.com/moveforbeirut/ where there are futher details on how to donate.