Yoga for Maquiladora Workers


Everyone who knows anything about the conditions for working women in the NAFTA factories at the border knows that on the whole workers’ bodies are treated like cogs in the wheel of production.

It is a shame, but true.  The average workday is too long.  The pay too little.  The time even to use the restroom is restricted arbitrarily.  Repetitive tasks are performed on quota deadlines day in and day out by workers who average 10-12 hours in a typical workday, with at best a total of one hour in lunch and two scheduled breaks.

It is no surprise then that they come out of the factories in a daze, their bodies eventually showing the signs of stress – carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic back and headaches, stiffness and an exhaustion that does not stop for the woman who gets home to begin the second job of taking care of her family.  Constant stress is a factor in the ability of the body to fend off more serious illnesses.  Unattended, the stress can be a problem for all the loved ones of the maquiladora worker, who may turn to alcohol or other forms of substance abuse (alcohol, sedatives, sugary foods) to cope.  In the worse scenario the stress contributes to very serious illnesses and family violence.

WOMEN ON THE BORDER recently introduced the notion of teaching a few activist maquiladora workers some very simple techniques in yoga and meditation that can be used to alleviate some of the symptoms of stress.

On August 30 and 31, 2007, Executive Director Elvia Arriola, a Level One certified Kripalu Yoga teacher, took about a half-dozen donated yoga mats and pads, yoga ties and neck pillows to the main offices of the Comité Fronterizo de Obreras and taught two introductory classes on warm-up exercises that can be used before doing yoga postures or even in the workplace.  After warm-ups the small group of women working either as “promotoras” for the CFO (organizers) or who are employed in the Fair Trade “Justice” Factory learned a series of postures in the Moon Series, which include a series of well-known postures that are perfect for women’s bodies (e.g., tree, half-moon, triangle, victory, runner’s stretch, etc.)

If you are interested in supporting the further development of this Stress Relief Training with Yoga Project, please contact WOB by e-mail ( click on the Donate Now button, or send a donation to WOB, INC., PO Box 303338, Austin, Texas, 78703.  Your donations are so appreciated.   We especially want to hear from folks who have yoga class supplies they want to donate!


Writer, attorney, Lawprof Emerita from Northern Illinois University.
This entry was posted in Documentary Work, NAFTA and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.