All summer, residents of Mexico are being invited to participate in free yoga sessions designed to bring peace to one of the most violent nations of the world. The initiative started in the capital may extend to other regions.

Since taking power in 2006, President Felipe Calderón has declared war on the Mexican drug cartels by mobilizing 50,000 military personnel to re-enforce the police. But this has made little impact on the traffickers. In four years, 28,000 people have died in confrontations with the army and the police; just this year so far the number of victims is 7,000.

And you don’t have to be in the city of Juárez on the US border, where more than 2,600 died in 2009, to meet anxious Mexicans who are scared they might find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Concurrently, confidence in the military has been eroded as Mexican NGOs report human-rights violations committed by the soldiers.

In the face of these tensions, Mexico City has been running giant yoga sessions for free for several months, as prayers do not seem to be enough to end the violence in the second-largest Catholic country in the world.

Giant yoga session in New York

In other big cities such as New York, giant yoga sessions have been organized. Thousands of people adopt the lotus position to relieve stress and other negative energies. Here in Times Square, they do the traditional Sun Salutation. Video posted 23 June 2010 by sperkol.

"Yoga encourages peace and harmony to be able to live together"

Susana Martinez de la Borbolla regularly practices yoga in schools in the capital.

The first time I went to a giant yoga session, it was simply out of curiosity. Different types of yoga exist, and I wanted to try another one with my daughter.

At about 8am, we joined a group of friends at the Zócalo de México (the city's main square). There were more than 700 of us with our yoga mats listening to the yoga teacher. There were about 20 yoga assistants to help us with the postures. Anyway, the lesson was not too difficult, beginners would easily manage.

It is very pleasant to find yourself with all those people in the centre if the capital. Practising yoga is a very relaxing experience for body and spirit. You learn to control physical pain and improve your concentration. By the end of the session, I’m full of positive energy that lasts for the rest of the week. It creates such a feeling of harmony in the city centre.

Yoga encourages peace so that we can live together; it brings only positive effects. Everyone should do yoga to improve their lifestyles living in the capital. We just need to convince other people of the benefits. I hope that one day more people in the country will practice yoga to create greater harmony amongst the citizens.”

Hundreds of people come to do camel, cat and dog poses. Photo posted 8 August 2010 by SalimKuri.

Photo posted 8 August 2010 by RenoBarlotti.

Yoga movement called Sun Salutation. Photo posted by EdworldTR.

At the end of the session, the yoga participants are invited to write their wishes on the white board. The message reads "The world deserves a big smile." Photo posted 8 August 2010 by RenoBarlotti.