This past weekend, I participated in a yoga training, unlike any other I've experienced. Led by Street Yoga, a non-profit organization, whose mission is to: teach yoga, mindful breathing and compassionate communication to families and youth that are struggling with homelessness, poverty, abuse, addiction, trauma and behavioral challenges so they can grow stronger, heal from past traumas, and create for themselves a life that is inspired, safe, and joyful.
For years I have been following this organization, watching them grow. Based in Portland, Oregon, they have over 25 partner sites, two located in New York city. Participating in this training cultivated my awareness of the core needs, behaviors and emotional boundaries that affect these struggling communities. Although I haven't targeted these particular groups in my own personal teaching experience, my work at Open Door with under-served communities has been extremely rejuvenating and personally rewarding.
Street Yoga targets communities that are so grateful for their teachings. Not only is it in class, but they use it every day, off the mat. At Casa de los Amigos, a residential home to unaccompanied youth ages 12 - 17 in Seattle, there was a story about an amazing young man who had been at Casa for over six months, never knowing if he's going to be deported or not. Every week he comes to yoga class, participates fully and is the last to wake from Savasana. Although teased about it from his peers, it doesn't bother him. Others admire his kick-ass handstands and tommy-touches (picking up one hand at a time to touch a shoulder while in hand stand) In a recent survey, this young man reported practicing yoga on his own almost every day, and using some kind of breathing or relaxation technique 2-6 times a week. This is far and above the amount reported by other boys. Yoga (and his positive, persevering attitude) seems to truly be assisting this young man get through his stay at Casa.
What is key for these kids, and ALL kids, is the healing practices of yoga to help get grounded. To be happy. To enjoy the moment, right now, this day. Empowerment. We all need to know how to get grounded. Life moves to fast, and sometimes you get caught up in it, make the wrong turn, and have to face the consequences. When practicing yoga and breath work, it can help create a sense of true home in our bodies and minds. It can create an opening, an invitation, to a better life with better choices for yourself and those in your life.
Elisha Fernandes Simpson CKYT, RYT, aka laughing hearts yoga teaches prenatal, mommy and me, kids (ages 7 -18) yoga and organizes free bi-weekly yoga classes for people with breast cancer. Become a friend on Facebook's laughing hearts yoga page.
Contact Elisha at firstname.lastname@example.org or 914-319-4010.