Conflicts & War

Colombian policemen take yoga workshops to manage their emotions

By Jeimmy Paola Sierra

Medellín, Colombia, Sep 20 (efe-epa).- The aroma of incense and the beating of a shamanic drum lead a group of Colombian policemen to a state of deep relaxation guided by a yoga, meditation and mindfulness mentor to teach them to manage their emotions and reactions in times of stress.

The workshops consist of four hours of calm and reflection for 30 members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squadron (Esmad) of the Colombian Police, who dress in sports clothes and lie on mats to step away from the image they display in the streets.

The program in Medellín seeks to reduce the levels of violence and educate for peace.

“They have very particular situations that can be emotionally hard and heavy. These meetings seek to provide tools so that they can consciously know how to react in the moment and how to deal with the emotion that arrives,” says meditation mentor Felipe Zapata.

This therapy for the mind contrasts with the recent violent demonstrations against police brutality that began with the death of Javier Ordóñez, a 46-year-old man who was arrested in Bogota and died in police custody.

For patrol officer Zulay Romero, who is the only woman in the group and ahead of her peers in the yoga segment, the workshops allow her to get out of monotony and find tranquility.

“In this period of time, which has had conflicts and disturbances, it helps us change our routine,” Romero, a member of Esmad, considered the most feared force in dispersing demonstrations in Colombia, tells EFE.

Romero, born 32 years ago in Cúcuta, shares the activity with her partner, who is also part of this body created in 1999 to support the police when public order situations exceed their capacities.

“He accompanies me daily. We experience many emotions together in the procedures and we handle the same stress, but at the same time we relax in these types of activities,” she says.

Romero, who avoids commenting on the latest episodes of police violence, states that from a very young age she liked the police, but developed a particular interest in this squad to prove “that women have the same capacities as men.”

Like his partner, who highlights the talks and meditation that help her enter “a different level of consciousness than the one she is used to”, patrolman Andrés Felipe Correa sees in this exercise the possibility of freeing himself from complex days in a job that he chose to “serve the people” and that he sees as an “ideology.”

“It is a vocation. In my family there have always been policemen,” says the young man born in the Lloró municipality, in the department of Chocó, and who, given the current situation, values ??the program carried out in Medellín.

“We get distracted and get out of the routine, from the stress of work, from the insults of people in the street since this society is very ungrateful towards public servants,” says Correa.

The patrolman points out that they are often told about “mentality and emotions” in the police training school, so he doesn’t walk through unfamiliar terrain in this workshop.

“This (workshop) makes us reflect on behavior and understand the conscious and subconscious, and see how far the mind can go and see what we can do with our thoughts,” he says.

Zapata, in his role as teacher, indicates that the aim with the 300 police officers during the workshops is to lead them to understand that we all have the possibility of changing emotional states which, according to his knowledge, ends up “controlling our actions and reactions.”

“They have training in many areas, but in a moment of crisis and difficulty, when they enter a state of survival, reactions are different,” he adds.

As a mentor of “engineering the invisible,” a mixture of modern science with ancestral knowledge, he points out that these first encounters are for his students to perceive why it is useful and practical to channel emotions. Especially in the “hard days” with clashes between protesters and police.

“It must be recognized that what is happening is a reflection of all of us,” Zapata adds, and regrets that a kind of faction is forming: “It makes us believe that there are good or bad, and there is no such thing; in the end we’re all human.”

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