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Introducing: Our 108 Studio Partnership Program

 

Now, there’s a new way to give back from the mat: Give Back Yoga’s 108 Studio Partnership Program. We’re inviting studios across the country to join the Give Back family and raise funds for a service program of your choice, helping certified yoga teachers and yoga therapists to bring this healing mind/body practice to those who are most vulnerable.

How the 108 Studio Partnership Program Works

Over a one-year period, partner studios give back by hosting a monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly fundraiser to help bring yoga to those who might not otherwise experience this transformational practice. This can be as simple as a donation class held on a specific day each month. Or it can be an exciting opportunity for your community to come together for special events such as a 108 Sun Salutations practice or a guest teacher, speaker or artist.

Our 108 partners also host a “Give Back Yoga Month” to jump-start the program and raise awareness for Give Back Yoga’s mission, sharing information during regularly scheduled classes and collecting donations at the front desk.

How Your Studio Can Make a Difference

With your help, Give Back Yoga can support our partner programs in expanding their reach, bringing therapeutic yoga to even more of the people we aim to serve. Through the 108 Partnership Program, studio communities can give wings to programs like:

  • Eat Breathe Thrive: Fostering positive body image and overcoming eating disorders.
  • Mindful Yoga Therapy: Helping veterans to find a calm and steady body/mind.
  • Prison Yoga Project: Teaching skills for non-violent problem resolution and healing.
  • Give Back Yoga: Supporting our operations to cover our largest areas of need.

 How the Program Benefits Studios

Becoming a 108 Studio Partner can help studios to build a close-knit community of the heart by gathering students around a common cause. It’s also a way to help students begin to explore and practice karma yoga, by giving back a gift that has touched each of their lives — the gift of a practice that can transform from the inside out.

The 108 Studio Partnership Program can also help studios to raise their online and local presence, as organizers work with community partners and Give Back Yoga to cross-promote events large and small through online and offline channels. Additionally, Give Back Yoga issues an end-of-year tax receipt to all active 108 Studio Partners, which may help your studio to offset expenses.

What 108 Studio Partners Are Saying About the Program

“It is important to extend the ancient teachings of yoga out beyond the space of yoga studios and into the world where it can reach the many people in need who may never walk through the doors of a yoga center. The time-tested benefits of a regular yoga practice are profound not just on the individual, but on all of society, essentially creating more peace for all.  At a time in human history when there is a tremendous amount of chaos, Give Back Yoga supports growth, healing and harmony for all of society.  I am happy and grateful to have my yoga studio community give back as a whole while benefitting on so many levels from the 108 Studio collaboration with Give Back Yoga Foundation.” — Annie Freedom, founder of Samadhi Center for Yoga, Denver, CO

 

Become a 108 Studio Partner or learn more: email 108@givebackyoga.org to request information on getting started.

 


Connect with our 108 Studio Partners:

 

True Nature Healing ArtsLotus House of YogaYoga Pod LoDoYoga Studio SatyaYoga Pod BoulderOutlaw Yoga

 

Main image courtesy of Merrick Chase Photography.

A Woman’s Practice: Healing From the Heart With Kath Meadows

The Give Back Yoga Foundation is proud to announce the release of “A Woman’s Practice: Healing From the Heart,” produced in partnership with Prison Yoga Project. This 70-page guide offers clear and simple instructions to help women with a history of trauma or addiction to engage in self-healing through a personal yoga practice.  This book is available for purchase through GBYF’s online store, and will be offered free of charge to any incarcerated woman who requests a copy through Give Back Yoga.

Author Kath Meadows has taught yoga to incarcerated women at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women and Patuxent Institution in Jessup for nearly five years. Here, we ask Kath about the inspiration behind “A Woman’s Practice,” and about the need for an accessible yoga guide for all women – whether free, or behind bars.

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GBYF: What inspired you to write A Woman’s Practice: Healing From the Heart?
Kath Meadows: Several years ago, I met (Prison Yoga Project founder) James Fox, and I read his book, A Path for Healing and Recovery. I was so moved, especially by seeing the images of men in prison who were practicing yoga. It was taking things beyond the paradigm of Yoga Journal, where we tend to see beautiful women in trendy yoga clothes doing asana.

But one thing that struck me was, there were no women pictured in the book. And I can understand why – the images were taken at San Quentin State Prison, a men’s facility.

But since the 1970s, there has been an 800% increase in the women’s prison population. And the Department of Corrections has been slow to catch on: it is a sad reality that the correctional paradigm is still largely based on men. For instance, clothing provided for incarcerated women is often available in men’s-only sizing. In my classes, I might see tiny women wearing small men’s T-shirts, and they’re just swimming in them.

Most of the support programming provided by the DoC is also based on material designed for men, and it tends to be very confrontational, aimed at breaking through barriers of denial. But that’s not what I saw in my classes. The common issues are low self-esteem and a history of multiple types of abuse and trauma, sometimes including trauma they have visited on others. The sense of guilt is profound. For these women, self-care and self-healing are hugely important.

What is your vision for how A Woman’s Practice will be used?
My hope is that this book will make yoga more accessible to women who are incarcerated, who are in rehab or live in low-income communities…or just by any woman who feels that a $20 class in a yoga studio with bamboo floors is not for her.

I hope this will be an invitation to all women, that this practice is available to them and that every woman has the capacity to engage in her own self-healing.

How did you select the images for A Woman’s Practice?
This book manuscript was actually written two years ago. The major delay was that I was really set on including images of the women that I teach. Being “seen” is a big part of it – in prison, it’s easy to feel that you have no power at all, that you’re valueless. But the women that I teach were the inspiration for this book, and the force behind it. They had the power to be a very big part of the creative process. That’s why A Woman’s Practice has pictures of inmates practicing yoga and doing meditation and breathing practices.

I also wanted to show real women, in real women’s bodies, in such a way that any woman from any background would see this practice as something that they can do. All too often, women who do not fit the Yoga Journal-type imagery feel that they can’t do yoga.

I have to say, I was photographed for a section where we needed images, and it was challenging. I have grey hair and I’m 51. I’m not 20-something. I was self-conscious about sharing these photos, and I had to really work hard to let it be OK. But it just reinforced why it was so important to include images of real women.

I’m so deeply grateful to the women who were willing to participate in these photo shoots, in a world where there is such pressure to look like an “ideal” woman. And yet, 98% of us don’t look like that.

Can you talk about some of the challenges facing your students?
The majority of the women in my classes have children, and were the primary caregiver for those children before they were sent to prison. When we incarcerate women, the children are victims, to such an enormous degree. Many of these children don’t have access to their moms – you need a reliable car to get to upstate prisons, since there is no public transportation. But this issue is not on the radar.

Often, I see mothers and daughters together in my classes. In one particularly difficult class, I saw a grandmother, a mother and a daughter. It just makes you think, “We’ve got to do something different.”

We incarcerate women and say, “You can’t do anything.” Then we release them into the community with a felony record, so they’re no longer eligible for student loans or Section 8 housing. So many low-income families live in Section 8 housing, and often those who are released from prison can’t return to live with their families because it violates the rules.We render our returning citizens almost incapacitated with the restrictions placed on them.

Many people aren’t aware of this, and many aren’t sympathetic to the challenges.There has been a very different sense of the needs of returning veterans. As a country, we may not be doing enough to support them, but there is an awareness of the need and support for the cause. Prisoners are less visible, and there’s less sympathy and support for their needs.

How can a yoga practice help women behind bars?
Sometimes I look at everything facing my students, and I think, “What is a yoga class going to do for them?” But it is something strong and good and true. Any time we get in touch with the value of our lives, it’s a worthwhile practice.

My classes are about women supporting themselves and others in a healthy way, and about telling women, “You are OK. You are worthy.” There is such a sense of pain and distress when we’re being judged unworthy.

Of course, if you have committed terrible, violent, cruel acts, the practice of yoga doesn’t erase that. But it does allow you to get closer to the best part of yourself, and that’s always worthwhile. It’s not about denying what you’ve done. It’s about accepting the reality of where you are, and connecting to the best part of yourself.

Kath Meadows

My goal is to offer women a sense of groundedness, of perceptiveness, and to offer them a voice – give them the tools they need to tell themselves, “I’m OK, and I can do this.”

What is the key message you want to pass on through A Woman’s Practice?
The most important message I want people to take away from this book – and something I say in every one of my classes – is that we are all born worthy. We may lose faith in ourselves, but we never lose that inner worthiness. It’s our birthright.

And no matter what your situation is in life, you’re never nothing. You always have grace that you can bring to the world around you.

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Help women behind bars to begin their journey of self-healing by purchasing a copy of A Woman’s Practice: Healing From the Heart. For each book sold, Give Back Yoga can fund three free copies of this practice guide for women in prison.

 

Become a Sustaining Member: Join Our Monthly Donation Program

If you believe in what we’re doing, here’s one very powerful way to support our mission of sharing yoga and meditation with those in need: become a Sustaining Member of Give Back Yoga Foundation.

How does it work? Simple: just visit our Donate Today page and make a contribution using the “monthly donation” option. This will create a recurring payment profile through PayPal, which will automatically bill you for the same contribution amount once a month going forward. All donations are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law, and you’ll receive a letter at the end of each year acknowledging your total contribution.

What it is: a simple way to give back. For just $15 a month – the cost of one yoga class – you can share yoga resources with someone in need, making a direct difference in their lives. Through the collective power of many small contributions, we can grow a grassroots movement of social change and healing. We hope that you’ll be a part of it!

What it isn’t: a contract. Your recurring donation profile is managed through PayPal. If your situation changes, you can choose to suspend your monthly contribution or change the amount of your donation, so that you’re always giving back in a way that’s right for you. Just drop us a line at info@givebackyoga.org.

Are you passionate about a specific program? We invite you to route your donation directly to that work. You can help us to bring yoga to veterans, individuals with eating disorders, prisoners or at-risk youth.

Or make a general donation, and we’ll put your contribution to work where it’s needed most. To learn more about our program goals and how we use general and specific contributions, visit our Donate Today page.

Will you join Give Back Yoga Foundation as a Sustaining Member? Together, we can share the transformational benefits of yoga and mindfulness with the world…one person at a time.

Become a Sustaining Member: Join Our Monthly Donation Program

If you believe in what we’re doing, here’s one very powerful way to support our mission of sharing yoga and meditation with those in need: become a Sustaining Member of Give Back Yoga Foundation.

How does it work? Simply visit our Membership page and choose a monthly amount you’d like to contribute, and a program you’d like to support. Through the checkout process, you’ll set up a recurring payment profile that automatically bills your card each month. You’ll receive a notification by email when each debit is made. All donations are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law, and you’ll also receive a thank-you package by mail. Check out our membership benefits. 

What it is: a simple way to give back.

For just $15 a month – the cost of one yoga class – you can share yoga resources with someone in need, making a direct difference in their lives. Through the collective power of many small contributions, we can grow a grassroots movement of social change and healing. We hope that you’ll be a part of it!

What it isn’t: a contract.

You’ll be able to manage your recurring donation profile through the Give Back Yoga website. If your situation changes, you can put your monthly contribution on hold or change the amount of your donation, so that you’re always giving back in a way that’s right for you. Need help? Drop us a line at info@givebackyoga.org.

Find out how you can give from the heart.

Are you passionate about bringing yoga to a specific population? We invite you to route your donation directly to that work. You can help us to bring yoga to veterans, first responders, individuals with eating disorders, prisoners or those recovering from addiction.

Or make a general donation, and we’ll put your contribution to work where it’s needed most. To learn more about our program goals and how we use general and specific contributions, visit our Program pages.

Will you join Give Back Yoga Foundation as a Sustaining Member? Together, we can share the transformational benefits of yoga and mindfulness with the world…one person at a time.

Rob Schware: The State of Yoga Service

As Executive Director of the Give Back Yoga Foundation and President of the Yoga Service Council, Rob Schware is proud to be part of a growing movement of yoga service providers who are helping to address societal problems such as school dropout rates, substance abuse, PTSD and high rates of re-imprisonment through therapeutic yoga outreach. Today, yoga service providers are reaching an estimated  200,000 individuals each year – including abused women, veterans, at-risk youth, cancer patients, prisoners and the homeless.

In “The State of Yoga Service,” Rob weighs in on:

  • the science behind yoga’s ability to change neurobiology
  • why the true experience of yoga inspires service
  • the progress of yoga service to date
  • how yoga outreach can benefit society
  • two important conversations that will take place in 2014
  • the impact of donations to Give Back Yoga
  • how to be inspired by stories of service, and how to contribute your own talents

 

If you believe in the power of yoga to plant the seeds of grassroots social change and healing, you won’t want to miss this special report on the state of yoga service in 2014.

 

Download “The State of Yoga Service.”

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Join us in giving back from your mat! By donating the equivalent cost of one yoga class – just $15 per month – you can bring yoga to a veteran, prisoner, at-risk teen or another person in need. Your contribution could transform a life.

Natalie Cielle: Yoga Behind Bars

“A light in every cell.”

That’s the vision of Yoga Behind Bars, a non-profit devoted to bringing yoga to prisoners. In this interview for The Huffington Post Blog, Yoga Behind Bars Executive Director Natalie Cielle tells Rob Schware what motivates her work, and how yoga has the potential to change the world:

“After my first class, it was my feeling of care for the students–people who are invisible to most of us–that kept me deeply committed to showing up every week. When we share powerful mind-body tools with prisoners, we free everyone from the cycle of crime. When we don’t, the cycle continues…if 10% of every dollar spent on yoga were shared with the members of our community who don’t have access to the practice, it would transform our world from the inside out, quickly.”

– Natalie Cielle, Executive Director of Yoga Behind Bars

Click here to read Natalie’s thoughts on why there’s a need for advocacy as well as yoga service, and what helps her to meet the challenge of bringing yoga into prisons.

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Inspired to give the gift of yoga to a prisoner? Support Prison Yoga Project or Yoga Behind Bars with a direct donation – every dollar counts! Or help us to fund yoga programs for prisoners by purchasing Prison Yoga Project’s book, “Yoga, A Path for Healing & Recovery.” Developed through years of experience in sharing yoga with incarcerated youth and adults, this training guide is a powerful resource for anyone trying to break free of negative behavioral patterns and develop the self-reflection and personal discipline to lead a more conscious life.

Spotlight: How Yoga is Changing the Lives of Prisoners Worldwide

“If it wasn’t for prison I wouldn’t have got involved in yoga, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today. I would probably be dead…at one point I actually became grateful for being in prison because I could feel this massive evolution, this change that was happening within me through yoga. So I almost became like a grateful convict, happy to be where I was, paying the time for my crime and rehabilitating myself.”

– Nick, a former prisoner who served time in Argentina’s Villa Devoto, speaking to BBC News 

From Argentina to England, America to Kenya, a growing number of prisons are offering yoga and meditation as a way to help incarcerated men and women deal with intense stress and create a more peaceful atmosphere. Click here to read the BBC News spotlight “How Yoga is Helping Prisoners Stay Calm.”

Give Back Yoga Foundation is proud to be a part of this worldwide movement by supporting Prison Yoga Project, a transformational organization founded by James Fox to help prisoners to heal their lives through yoga and mindfulness. For incarcerated men and women, yoga offers a path for embracing self-compassion while taking responsibility for past crimes. It also helps prisoners to change trauma-induced, unconscious behavioral patterns like impulse control issues, mood disorders, violence, addiction and PTSD – usually, the behavior that landed them in jail in the first place.

To learn how you can help prisoners to find peace, compassion and a fresh start, visit our Prison Yoga Project page.

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Want to help Give Back Yoga to put yoga and mindfulness guides in the hands of 10,000 prisoners this year? Purchase Prison Yoga Project’s powerful book, A Path for Healing and Recoveryfor yourself or on behalf of a prisoner.

Katy Jones: Healing the Disenfranchised Through Yoga

Executive Director Rob Schware talks with Root to Rise founder Katy Jones for The Huffington Post Blog to discover why this Oklahoma City attorney is so passionate about sharing yoga and mindfulness with prisoners and veterans.

“Actually seeing the obvious physical and emotional differences in the students proves that this works. When you see a person who used to enter a room slouched and looking at the floor now walk in with a proud chest and a smile, and they tell you how they can sleep easier and are more comfortable talking to their kids and family, it inspires you to take this practice as far as it can go for as many people as it can serve.”

– Katy Jones, founder of Root to Rise Inc., a non-profit that improves the lives of trauma survivors through yoga and mindfulness

Click here to read Katy’s inspiring stories of working with homeless veterans, and her tips for teachers who are interested in sharing yoga with underserved populations.

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Help Give Back Yoga to put yoga and mindfulness guides in the hands of 10,000 prisoners this year by purchasing Prison Yoga Project’s powerful book, A Path for Healing and Recoveryfor yourself or on behalf of a prisoner.

Heather Ruggero: Saying Yes To Serving In Correctional Facilities

Executive Director Rob Schware talks with Community Yoga instructor Heather Ruggero for The Huffington Post Blog about what it’s like to teach incarcerated men and women, and how saying “yes” to serving others has changed her own life and practice.

“Every time I teach at Travis County Correctional Complex, I feel more alive and more awake. When you have the privilege of witnessing people working hard to transform their lives, it’s difficult to take things for granted…I originally thought (yoga’s service component) was about contributing to pay back for all that I have received, but am increasingly realizing that what I receive for the small amount I give is so much greater. I have begun to realize that service was a missing ingredient in my own spiritual development and yoga practice.”

– Community Yoga Austin instructor Heather Ruggero, on her work with prisoners at TCCC

Click here to read more of Heather’s tips for working with incarcerated students, and a standout moment from her work with Community Yoga.

Jackie Sumell: Taking the Penitentiary To the Mat

“What kind of house does a man who has lived in a 6′ x 9′ box for almost 30 years dream of?” That’s the question that artist and activist Jackie Sumell asked Angola Prison inmate Herman Wallace a decade ago. Today, “The House that Herman Built” project is still going strong, spawning an exhibit, book, website and a forthcoming documentary that protest the culture of mass incarceration and the practice of solitary confinement by putting a face on Wallace’s 40-plus years “in the hole.”

In this special interview for The Huffington Post Blog, Executive Director Rob Schware talks to Sumell about how yoga has sustained her work.

“The more aware you become, the more potential anger you will generate. Anger is toxic; it causes your purpose to stagnate, even though it is a normal response to injustice. Enter yoga, which has helped me transform the toxicity into action and advocacy. I can now use my artistic impulses in my advocacy work, and I practice yoga to continue to balance my inner and outer life so I can sustain this work.”

– Jackie Sumell, multidisciplinary artist and creator of The House That Herman Built project

Click here to read more of Jackie’s thoughts on how prison conditions both challenge individual yoga practices, and transform inmates into yogis.

For more information on  “Herman’s House,” the new documentary chronicling Sumell and Wallace’s friendship that will premier on PBS on July 8th, visit HermansHouseTheFilm.com.