January 23, 2013

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Written by: Melanie
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Organize a fundraising event in your Yoga studio community to support Yoga therapy and women’s health in Bhopal, India  

On December 3rd 1984, at 10 minutes past midnight, a Union Carbide pesticide plant, operating under extensive cost-cutting measures with sub-par safety facilities, leaked over 27 tons of methyl-isocyanate—a deadly gas—into the air. The gas released was carried by winds into the heavily populated slum neighborhoods surrounding one side of the factory, affecting some of Bhopal’s most impoverished people. Over half a million Bhopalis were exposed to this gas that night and 10,000 people died in the immediate aftermath as a result of their exposure, with many more dying each year from gas-related illnesses.

The continuing disaster or “second disaster” as many people call it, refers to the ongoing contamination and poisoning of 16 basti (slum) communities’ water systems, as well as the perpetual inability of the Indian government and judicial system to secure adequate compensation to gas and water victims. The abandoned Union Carbide pesticide factory still stands in Bhopal today—a looming reminder of “that night”—rusting and decomposing, while bottles of highly toxic chemicals collect cobwebs and dust, and pose a very real threat to the thousands who live nearby.

Victims of the gas exposure and water contamination have been left to cope with lifelong chronic and debilitating health repercussions. Over the past 28 years, an estimated 150,000 survivors of Union Carbide’s poisons and their children have been suffering from a multitude of health problems. Women have suffered disproportionately; in the particular context of impoverished and religiously conservative Indian communities, reproductive difficulties and chronic illnesses render many women undesirable marriage partners, causing them to bear significant social stigma.

Over the past 5 years I have returned to Bhopal several times as a volunteer, a researcher and a supporter. What I found was a strong community that is resilient and passionate and will stop at nothing to get justice for themselves and their children.



I currently work for the Bhopal Medical Appeal which is based out of Brighton, UK and have been as busy as ever, trying to raise awareness as well as funds for the incredible community based organizations that work in the slums of Bhopal. 


One such organisation is the  Sambhavna Trust Clinic; located in the heart of one of the gas affected slums, it offers free integrative and holistic health care to survivors of the 1984 Union Carbide Gas Disaster and thousands of Bhopalis affected by persistent water contamination. When Yoga was first introduced at the Sambhavna Trust Clinic, many patients receiving free care thought the relief from their pain and health complications could come only in the form of a pill. But Yoga’s remarkable efficacy as a drug-free therapy has had tremendous impacts on the lives of Bhopali women of all ages, who have suffered from chronic gynecological and endocrinal issues due to their exposure to Union Carbides poisons. Yoga costs nothing, and once learned can be practiced outside of the clinic; additionally, Yoga calls for the patient to be an active and empowered participant in her own healing.


On March 17th, Yoga Kula will be holding a day long fundraising event where members from their Yoga community will practice a marathon of 108 Sun Salutations. In the weeks leading up to the event, members will get friends and family to sponsor them and the funds raised will be donated to the Bhopal Medical Appeal to go towards supporting Yoga therapy and women’s health at the Sambhavna Trust Clinic.

 Yoga Kula is a dedicated Yoga studio in the heart of the vibrant community of Chapel Allerton, in Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK. The studio practices a range of Yoga styles including Ashtanga, Hatha, Restorative and Pregnancy Yoga; they also offer a variety of courses and workshops such as wellness workshops and seasonal Yoga retreat events.

For many Yoga communities all over the world, it is traditional to perform 108 Sun Salutations upon the change of seasons. The number 108 holds spiritual throughout a multitude of cultures and religions:108 is the number of “Upanishads” which comprise the Hindu “Vedic Texts”; 108 is the number of names for the Hindu god Shiva as well as for Buddha; 108 is the Chinese number representing “man”; it is the number of beads on a Catholic rosary as well as on a Tibetan “mala”.

The 108 Sun Salutations are usually performed in large groups and often as an “offering” of peace or unity. And Yoga Kula has chosen to dedicate their March 17th practice as an offering to the women of Bhopal. As the theme of this event will be “transformation through Yoga, the focus will be on how Yoga is being practiced to transform the lives of people in Bhopal affected by the gas disaster.  This will also be a way to forge a connection between Yoga Kula community members and female patients at the Sambhavna Trust Clinic who practice Yoga therapy as both a method of health care and a form of empowerment.  Yoga Kula teacher and co-director Angela Sykes thinks that many people will want to be involved in this initiative “in the spirit of giving something back to India, for the wonderful gift of Yoga that we have received.”



If you would like to organize a similar event within your own community, or if you have another idea that you would like to implement to raise money for The Sambhavna Trus Clinic and health initiatives in Bhopal, please contact me! I will be happy to help you in any way possible and provide you with various materials and resources to get your ideas off the ground.


For more information about the Bhopal Gas Disaster and water contamination crisis:

For more information about Yoga Therapy and Women’s Health in Bhopal:

About the Author

I'm a proud Montrealer who recently uprooted to cold rainy Northern England. I have spent many months living and working in Bhopal, India (home of the world's worst chemical disaster). I am fucking crazy about Indian food and I love to cook; I also love to take obnoxious photos of the food I cooked. I currently work in the charity/NGO/international development field. I need to make more money. I enjoy sarcasm, deep fried foods, Haitian music, and reality TV. My food blog: My India blog:



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  1. Bravo Mel, let the 108 sun salutations begin….

  2. Ty

    Such an excellent idea Mel. If there is anything going on in #mtl do let me know. I’d love to do whatever I can to help out.

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