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Mary Sims: Yoga Supports Self Advocacy

This is an interview with Mary Sims, who started taking a community yoga class in 2005 motivated by a major life transition. The class showed her that she is open to discovering new things about herself; she found she was extremely flexible, which allowed her to quickly gain confidence in most yoga poses. After each class, she experienced a great sense of peace, contentment, and well-being, and the classes supported her through a tumultuous and painful period in her life.

She is currently an adult advocate for individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities at AdvocacyDenver, and founder of the Yoga 4All Abilities Program to support people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD).

Rob: What originally motivated you to do this work, and what continues to motivate you?

Both of my passions for yoga and for working with people with I/DD motivate me to offer this program. I want to give back to a community of individuals for whom I care so deeply. This community, for a multitude of reasons, lacks accessibility to mainstream yoga studios. Yoga 4All Abilities will hopefully propel my participants to go to a community class, to have the confidence to step into a community studio. I also hope that with this program the yoga community will become more inclusive.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your teaching experience?

During a recent class, one of my new students came in asking “what is yoga?” and “how do I do yoga?” As we were in “table top” position, twisting with our right arm to the sky, I instructed the class to touch a star. The student who asked those questions said “I got one. I got a star. I’m doing it. I’m doing yoga!” This student’s comment continuously resonates with me. He was, in fact, doing yoga, and he was confident about doing it. As my heart soared, I realized that my class had built his self-confidence and contributed to his overall success in life.

What are some of the things that your students have taught you?

I’ve definitely learned to not take myself too seriously. This group of individuals values the present moment. So now I don’t so much focus on my instruction expertise during classes, because my students are teaching me to be able to laugh at myself.

In what ways do you think yoga addresses some of the societal factors at play in working with people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities?

Health and well-being are important for everyone regardless of their social or economic status. Sadly, for the most part, the I/DD population does not have access to yoga. There are many causes for this, including lack of transportation, education, financial stability, and confidence. They often lack the confidence to advocate for themselves, and they are mostly dependent on guidance from their care providers for making good choices in lifestyle and healthy practices. Yoga 4All Abilities helps my students become more aware of the mind-body connection while building self-advocacy skills to make their own health and well-being choices.

Often we hear claims of yoga as a means to positively changing the world. What in your mind is the relationship between a practice of mindfulness and greater social change?

When you come to the mat, relax your thoughts, and become aware of the mind-body connection, you enter a state of mindfulness. This state of mindfulness allows you to pause within the struggles of daily life, and gain a wider perspective. This new perspective can strengthen our sense of compassion for others and for ourselves. I believe that if an individual becomes more compassionate, this can affect many others because it has a ripple effect.

What are some of your ideas about, or hopes for, the future of service yoga in American in the next 10 years?

My vision is for yoga to be accessible and inclusive of all populations, regardless of age, gender, shape, or ability. I believe yoga accessibility has the possibility of creating a culture of compassion. If we can create a culture of compassion within all communities, our society can be more mindful of the fact that even with all our differences we are all the same.

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Join us in sharing the gift of yoga with underserved populations. Learn more about our nationwide initiatives.

Kyla Pearce: Traumatic Brain Injury Healing Through Yoga

kyla-pearce-b-1-featuredThis is an interview with Kyla Pearce, who has been teaching yoga for people with traumatic brain injury (TBI) since May 2014 as part of the LoveYourBrain Foundation’s Yoga Program.

“This program grew out of the need my now husband, Adam Pearce, saw for supporting his brother, Kevin Pearce, and others affected by TBI in their healing process. I vividly remember being at the end of my 200-hour teacher training in Dharamsala, India, and receiving an excited call from Adam—he described how Kevin was increasingly drawn to yoga and meditation, and that he was finding a sense of peace, accomplishment, and vitality that were unavailable elsewhere. He said, “Let’s bring this feeling to everyone with a TBI! Can we? Should we?” Ever since that phone call, we have been working to do just that.”

Some of the common consequences of TBI (e.g., poor balance, memory, concentration, and information processing) are being addressed by a TBI-focused gentle yoga and meditation curriculum based on the key factors that promote resilience. LoveYourBrain programs are now in Vermont, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Colorado in an effort to take them nationwide.

Rob: What are the scope and costs of TBI that you are trying to address through your yoga program?

Each year in the US, over 2.5 million people experience a TBI. TBI accounts for 30% of all injury-related deaths, and leads to $76.5 billion in medical costs (CDC, 2016). Tragically, the incidence is growing—the World Health Organization predicts TBI will become the third leading cause of death and disability in the world by 2020 (Popescu, 2015). TBI can lead to a cascade of physical, cognitive, and psychosocial challenges, including impaired coordination, attention, and memory, and heightened anxiety and depression. These challenges predispose people to unemployment, relationship strain, and social isolation that undermine quality of life (CDC, 2015). Despite the variety of poor outcomes, best practices for rehabilitation that effectively support people to meaningfully participate in their community are limited (CDC, 2015).

What originally motivated you to do this work, and what continues to motivate you?

Initially, my motivation stemmed from the transformation I saw in Kevin from his own practice. After a yoga class, Kev would share that, for the first time in a while, his mind felt calm and he was able to take a break from the race of trying to keep up. I also noticed that he thrived from the agency he felt from engaging with what he deemed was a fitting challenge (be it focusing the mind in meditation or holding a strength-building asana), instead of measuring his progress based on some external benchmark. When he practiced yoga, he no longer felt defined by his injury.

My motivation is reignited each time I witness similar transformations among students in my classes: such as feeling sensations in areas once numb, being able to sleep through the night, connecting with other TBI survivors for the first time since their injury. I am also continuously moved by the energy and enthusiasm of the yoga teachers who participate in our workshops to be able to bring our program to their own communities.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your teaching experience?

To counteract the disempowering and isolating nature of TBI, we include three components in our curriculum: asana, meditation, and group discussion. I love the story-sharing and cross-learning in the group discussion, which is where I see relationships being built that will last far longer than our time together on the mat. It is a privilege to be a part of the creation of community. Ultimately, for me, holding space in a way that enables people to find agency, feel accepted and understood, and experience the possibility—instead of the limitations—of their body and mind, is meaningful.

What are some of the things your students have taught you?

I’ve developed a deeper understanding of the human potential for resilience. TBI often leads to a lifelong process of adjustments, unlike when you break a bone where you can expect function to eventually return to its original level. TBI requires immense resilience, which my students reflect in myriad ways both in and out of the studio—from showing up to class with a positive attitude despite weakness or light sensitivity that makes movement challenging, to being willing to trust a new teacher when everything else in life feels uncertain, to letting go of resentment about their relationship failing because their partner didn’t understand why they act differently, to finding acceptance for what is, when faced with tumultuous change. I have learned that struggle is our greatest teacher and that strength comes not from how little we feel, but instead from how much we feel.

As a yoga teacher, my students have taught me the true spirit of namaste—that our true selves are all the same, they transcend any injury or trauma, and deserve to be appreciated and acknowledged with compassion. I have learned that all of us, in one way or another, want to feel safe, satisfied, and connected (as coined by Rick Hanson), which is what we are trying to foster in our program.

In what ways do you think yoga addresses some of the societal factors at play in working with people recovering from Traumatic Brain Injury?

One of the major issues for the TBI community is the gap in ongoing care following inpatient and rehabilitation services. Great care exists upfront, and then people fall through the cracks when they return home. Because TBI is often an invisible injury, many people are also unaware that someone has TBI, and thus are not as accommodating as they might be. Yoga teachers can therefore offer important community-based rehabilitation, in particular because they support holistic—physical, emotional, social, and spiritual—healing. At its core, yoga is a practice of deep listening to—and honoring of—our inner experience without resisting or grasping. I believe this leads to authentic and compassionate self-expression and to regaining a sense of purpose, which are critical to any healing process.

What, in your mind, is the relationship between a practice of mindfulness and greater social change?

In my view, social change originates from a personal experience that reveals something unjust that you can’t sit with. For me, this experience was Kevin’s TBI and, since then, the thousands of stories of others affected by TBI who struggle to regain a sense of wellbeing and wholeness. Mindfulness enables us to become attuned to the reality of our own and others’ challenges, and to act from a place of love and openness. Without mindfulness, it is easier to ignore the facts and maintain the status quo.

What are some of your ideas about, or hopes for, the future of service yoga in America in the next 10 years?

My hope is that yoga service organizations will pursue more rigorous research to evaluate the impact of their programs. If the yoga community can develop evidence-based practices, the medical establishment will be able to acknowledge yoga as a viable healing modality, and increasingly integrate it into the healthcare system. This way, people affected by TBI will experience a more seamless continuum of care, in which they can access ongoing support and actively participate in their community. In the meantime, I hope more yoga studios take on leadership roles in community service, and commit to partnering with LoveYourBrain and other yoga service organizations to make yoga more broadly accessible.

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Join us in the season of giving to share the gift of yoga. Learn about ways to help those who can benefit most with the Give Back Yoga Foundation.

Ann Marie Johnston: One Yogi’s Attempt to Make Yoga Accessible to All

in-blog-anne-marie-johnston-photo-courtesy-of-donatella-parisiniThis is an interview with Ann Marie Johnston. When I first arranged to talk with Ann Marie, I didn’t realize she lived in Melbourne, Australia, so we needed to adjust to the 18-hour time difference. Ann Marie is the founder of YogaMate, a global digital platform (website and app) connecting yoga professionals to their students and communities by providing them with tools and resources.

Rob: What originally motivated you to do service work?

When I reflect on how privileged my life is, I feel immense responsibility to give back in a meaningful way. You see, I grew up in a family where ‘giving back’ was simply considered a way of life. My school, Presbyterian College, had the motto, ‘While you live, you serve,’ which further instilled the expectation that we are meant to give back of our time and money.

Over the years, dabbling in varying roles, I never found a way through my professional career to make the difference I hoped to. When yoga entered my life, I knew I had finally found something I believed in that could make a real difference to others. Wanting to align my work and purpose, I began the mental and energetic shift away from a career as a marketing consultant, and towards a career sharing yoga.

Once I finished my yoga teacher training, I wanted to give time teaching as part of my contribution to society, yet I found it a real struggle to find local yogic charities to work with.

So with YogaMate, it was not only imperative that I give profits back to yogic charities, but it was a natural decision to create a free directory for yogic charities to better connect with teachers wanting to give their time.

How has yoga impacted your life?

For nearly 20 years, I lived with Persistent Depressive Disorder. My everyday life was permeated with a general low-grade depression, melancholy, and futile sense of “what’s the point of it all?” Despite taking medication for many years, I still felt a general sense of hopelessness about life.

In late 2008, I took a course that introduced the concept of being in the present moment. It was the first time in my life that I had been encouraged to stop the incessant chatter of the mind, and ‘just be.’ With this newfound tool under my belt, and an introduction to breath work, I launched into a study of yoga. Self-directed, I read books, began practicing asana, and introduced meditation into my life.

Over the years, a shift took place and my melancholy dissolved. One day it occurred to me that I no longer felt hopeless, and yet I was still mindlessly taking pills. I stopped cold turkey and never looked back. (NB: I do not advocate this approach—going off medication should be discussed and managed with your doctor.) I began to reflect on other ways in which my health and well-being had improved. My chronic headaches were gone, my allergies nearly non-existent, nor did I still experience symptoms of IBS. My relationships improved; I was less competitive, more compassionate and less judgmental.

logo_with_yogamate-1Why yoga?

Because of my experience, I wanted to better understand this question better, so I enrolled in a 500-hour teacher training. Though I had no intention of teaching when I began the course, mid-way through I realized: ‘how can I not share this with others?’

Before my teaching career could really take off, I sustained a significant (non-yoga related) back injury that ruled out my physical practice. My focus returned to breath work and I committed to a consistent meditation practice. In fact, it was during a meditation in May of 2014 that I conceived the idea of creating a digital platform to help spread awareness around the depth, breadth, and healing application of yoga.

Once the initial seed had been sown, I threw myself into creating YogaMate, a platform that enhances credibility for the therapeutic benefits of yoga, and helps ensure yogic tools are accessible to everyone. I honestly didn’t realize the mountain of a project I was about to launch into!

With a deep sense of purpose and commitment, and amazing support of the broader yogic community, I have since poured two years and significant savings into developing a platform that helps share the healing power of yoga with everyone.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your teaching experience?

Much of my ‘teaching’ (sharing) is done through YogaMakesLifeBetter – a blog/vlog I started when I was recovering from back surgery. Having readers and viewers share their challenges and successes both strengthens by commitment and inspires my own practice, and encourages me to be fully open and present.

In my local classes, it’s particularly rewarding when I see people connect to their breath, come into the present moment and find their inherent peace. Even if it’s only initially temporary and fleeting, I’m rewarded knowing that I’m sharing tips and tools that are always freely accessible. It’s like handing someone the blueprint to a happier life.

What have your students taught you?

My students help reinforce that I have the choice of how I meet my own challenges and that the only thing any of us can control is our thoughts. I’m constantly reminded that no one’s life is perfect and that every one of us has what can seem like insurmountable challenges. Seeing how some people move through life graciously, despite their challenges reminds me to stay grounded and be mindful of my own thought patterns. By choosing my thoughts, and where I place my energy, I am proactive about how I approach and engage with life, rather than passively allowing it to happen to me.

What, in your mind, is the relationship between a practice of mindfulness and greater social change?

Being mindful – particularly of your own thoughts – is the game changer. When we work on auto-pilot, it’s nearly impossible to think about the greater context.

When we are mindful – when we are aware – we see the inequalities, the injustices of life , and we can no longer just sit on the sidelines and pretend it’s not happening. Being mindful—awake—creates the impetus for action.

What are some of your ideas about, or hopes for, the future of service yoga in the next 10 years?

Though yoga is certainly not a quick-fix, I believe it truly has the power to transform lives and change the world in both subtle and significant micro and macro ways. I further know that if you can breathe, you can practice yoga—though not every teacher is right for every student. So with this sincere belief, my hopes are to help make yoga accessible to everyone, by connecting the community to the right teachers.

Beyond YogaMate, I personally aspire to help get yogic tools recognized as a crucial addition to national school curricula of the world.

I wonder how my own life would have been different had I been introduced to these freely accessible yogic tools when I was in my early teens, when my depression started. I consider everything I was taught in school, some of it immensely beneficial (some not!) and I can’t help but think that the current system lets us down. To reach 30 years of age without ever being encouraged to stop the monkey mind is a tragedy.

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Help make yoga more accessible to those who can benefit most. Learn about ways to get involved with the Give Back Yoga Foundation.

Susan Lovett: Yoga for Those Living With Poverty & Trauma

Susan LovettThis is an interview with Susan Lovett, a licensed social worker, K-8 teacher, and a registered yoga teacher who has worked with urban low-income youth and families in the greater Boston area for over 25 years. During her yoga teacher training in 2013 she offered yoga classes and workshops for students at the high-poverty urban school where she works as a clinical social worker, providing therapeutic interventions and programs for youth with trauma. The students enjoyed their yoga and mindfulness practices, and Susan began receiving many requests from teachers and other social workers to provide yoga for their students. Through word of mouth, staff members at local community-based social service agencies heard about her yoga teaching, and requests for classes came in from those sites too. 

Hands to Heart Center (HTHC) – Yoga for the People —is a non-profit yoga service organization Susan founded in 2014 that provides free yoga classes for people living with poverty and trauma in Boston. It orchestrates a pool of over 140 yoga teacher volunteers, who have taught more than 700 free yoga classes in branch libraries, community centers, detention units, domestic violence shelters, high-poverty schools, homeless shelters, public housing developments, and residential treatment programs in Boston.

Rob: What originally motivated you to do this work, and what continues to motivate you?

In my social work career, I’ve always served low-income youth and families with trauma and am constantly seeking effective resources for my clients. When I read Damien Echols’ book Life After Death, I learned that he believes his yoga and mindfulness practice saved his life when he was wrongly imprisoned on death row. I realized that yoga was the resource I was looking for. It requires no equipment, no specific skills or physical abilities, and can be practiced by anyone, in any condition, in any location. Yoga can be practiced by a prisoner on death row, by a young person who lives with their abuser, by a student in a challenging school environment. and by a client in a residential treatment program for substance abuse disorder.

I continue to be motivated by the gratitude consistently expressed by HTHC’s yoga teacher volunteers and students, and by the large numbers of people living with poverty and trauma in Boston who don’t have access to yoga.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your teaching experience?

Being allowed into people’s lives for moments of grace while we’re all on our mats. I love the peaceful silence of savasana, especially in settings that are rarely associated with serenity and softness. When we’re all breathing together in those spaces, I feel more connected to the other people in the room, regardless of all of our lived experiences, and the external conditions that separate us from each other.

What are some of the things your students have taught you?

That yoga practice doesn’t have to be so serious! That we can laugh and talk to each other on our mats. They’ve also taught me to expect the unexpected, and to go with the flow!

In what ways do you think yoga addresses some of the societal factors at play for people living in poverty?

Yoga is effective in alleviating anxiety, depression, and stress and trauma, but yoga classes are expensive. There are no yoga studios in low-income neighborhoods. Regular yoga practice promotes health and wellness, increases capacity and builds resilience. Hands to Heart Center exists to share this powerful and effective resource with those who need it most.

For people living with the chronic stress of poverty, yoga provides many benefits, including an hour to 75 minutes with no demands, other than to breathe. Yoga class is a time when people with overwhelming stress can be nourished and supported. HTHC yoga classes provide community and connection among a wide range of people, connections that may not happen outside of yoga class. The message of HTHC is that yoga is effective and practical, and needs to be accessible to all, regardless of socioeconomic status. HTHC calls on yoga teachers, many of whom benefit from great privilege, to leverage their privilege, their education, and their skills on behalf of others.

In order to address the inequities in access to yoga, HTHC has implemented a Yoga Coach program, a 20-hour free training for HTHC students and staff of our community partners. Upon completion of the program, HTHC Yoga Coaches will be able to teach a safe, one-hour class with eight simple postures. To participate in the HTHC Yoga Coach program, students commit to providing a minimum of six free HTHC yoga classes in their communities. Thus the HTHC Yoga Coach program fosters a larger, more culturally, racially, and socioeconomically diverse group of people who can lead yoga classes. Graduates of the HTHC Yoga Coach program are connected with scholarships to local 200-hour yoga teacher training programs if they’re interested in continuing their yoga teaching education.

What, in your mind, is the relationship between a practice of mindfulness and greater social change?

I believe that individuals who cultivate a practice of mindfulness have increased capacity to actively participate in social change efforts. I don’t think mindfulness alone positively affects income inequality, health disparities, racism, and violence in society, but I do think that people who develop mindfulness practice often seek out others who do the same. Collectively, the organized actions of mindfulness practitioners who focus on social justice can be powerful.

What are some of your ideas about, or hopes for, the future of service yoga in America in the next 10 years?

I hope that yoga service organizations will become commonplace in the next 10 years, and that the concept of yoga service will be integrated into more yoga teacher training programs. I believe that the scientific evidence about how a regular yoga practice can decrease anxiety, depression, stress, and trauma, and increase resilience will be more well-known, and that yoga will be part of the organizational culture in detention units, health centers, and schools.

I’d definitely like to see more federal and state funding available for yoga service organizations so that trauma-informed yoga teachers can be appropriately compensated for their skills. I believe that more and more yoga teachers are becoming interested in, and excited about, yoga service, and that the general public is becoming more informed about the many benefits of yoga, along with the important and effective work that’s being done in the yoga service field.

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Join us in sharing the gift of yoga with those who can benefit most. Learn more about our nationwide initiative this November to give back yoga.

Jennifer Wright: Bringing Yoga to Veterans Treatment Court

2016-02-02-1454416098-7814319-JenniferWrightSchneemanPhotoCourtesyofPaulDirkPhotography-thumbThis is an interview with Jennifer Wright, who offers Mindful Yoga Therapy (MYT) training to Veterans and their families. She started with eight Veterans, ranging from OEF/OIF to Vietnam War Vets. One of those Vets introduced her to The Joseph House, a treatment-based shelter for Veterans in transition where she has worked the last two years. Around the same time, she received an invitation from the much-loved local judge to work with the Veterans of the Hamilton County Municipal-Veterans Treatment Court. She offers the MYT practices in the courtroom, prior to the docket. Attendance is now mandatory, and is considered one of the three self-help meetings required each week.

Since then, Interact for Health expanded the program through grant funds to capture data that supports the benefits of MYT when combined with behavioral treatment. MYT in Cincinnati has evolved to a mandatory complementary alternative medicine (CAM) intervention in both the Men’s and Women’s residential treatment programs at Veterans Administration Medical Center.

Rob: What originally motivated you to do this work and what continues to motivate you? How, if at all, has that motivation changed over time?

Jennifer: My sister-in-law and both of my brothers are Marines. I’m motivated to support the people that committed to our country and constitution; yet I have Jennie, Mark, Mike, other family members and friends in my heart as I interact with active duty and Veterans of all ages.

My yoga journey started long ago, when I started practicing in a post-9/11 environment while living in the DC area. I share the practices that helped and continue to help me process and manage my own stress.

My 12-year DOD career was spent working at DARPA, the science arm for the Pentagon; and also at military laboratories. I have my own experience, and although never active duty, I can relate to transitioning out of a lifestyle (not just a career) and redefining the self: figuring out what is next. I worked Human Performance Optimization programs for a long time, and I still do. I do so now using a trauma-informed protocol that is designed to enable the individual to practice coping skills and complement the hard work of treatment, transition & recovery. I still take my job very seriously – just now I wear comfier clothes and the work is more immediate and directly impactful!

Is there a standout moment from your work with the veteran population?

There are several notable moments, and a few stand out to me for their beautiful simplicity.

One of the men I worked with ended up at VA hospital where he had all day to monitor his BP and HR. He put his yoga practice to the test and had the added benefit of immediate feedback through the physiological monitoring. He used his breath practices to impact his outcome – to manage his pain, anxiety and anger during the whole process. He shared how he had a chance to discuss his coping skills with the medical staff. As he shared his real-world experience, I felt privileged to observe a proud and empowered man.

Another Veteran was pretty banged up. Some of his injuries were visible, although mostly not. The first session, he arrived to class with a stern face and dark glasses to protect his sensitive eyes from any light. He is a tall and solid man. Due to multiple traumas, sitting, standing and moving with comfort was rarely accessible to him on any given day. Although he had difficulty getting to the ground, he was determined to relax on the floor during the resting practices along with everyone else and he wanted to get there with minimal assistance. Communication was challenged so I used an analogy to land like a C-130 rather than a Harrier. Grace and safety was communicated; I was able to assist him to the ground. Once settled in with yoga props, he would give a big thumbs up and release a big smile or sigh. It was especially amazing to watch him over the eight weeks throughout the hard work with his speech therapist, clinical psychologists and of course, MYT. He would arrive to MYT with a grin, his arms spread out and make the noise of a large, cargo plane – ready to land and to relax.

What did you know about veterans you are working with before you began teaching? What were some of the assumptions you had about this population and how have those assumptions changed?

I went into working with Veterans feeling comfortable and in my element. Now, working Mindful Yoga Therapy with such a wide range of individuals reinforced how hard-headed some people can be…after all, people are people. Working with and witnessing people work their MYT program along side their recovery, therapy, or behavioral treatment has reinforced my understanding of humans, and especially military members as supremely resilient.

I went in thinking that damage to the brain was permanent. My VA mentors, colleagues, education and new discoveries prove otherwise.

What is unique about the Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans program as applied to Veterans Court?2016-02-02-1454416666-687449-unspecified-thumb

After getting over the initial chuckle of yoga mats in the courtroom, Hamilton County Vet Court is a unique and interactive environment. It starts with the motivating and compassionate judge, coupled with the well trained, kindhearted VA Veterans Justice Outreach, Court Clinic, Prosecutors and Public Defenders. Combine that with fun and relatable peer mentors, it is unlike anything I’ve experienced or seen in a traditional courtroom. Hamilton County Vet Court is treatment-based, and creates a comfortable and safe environment where supports (employment, transportation, wellness activities and others) are the foundation to sobriety and treatment.

We hold MYT prior to the docket. Feedback suggests that the pre-docket practice brings calm to the individuals and reduces anxiety. I observe it, and I receive the feedback that we create a visibly calmer courtroom.

What has been the greatest challenge in your teaching experience and what tools have you developed for addressing that challenge?

To me, the greatest challenge is working with men and women carrying sexual trauma. I lean on the advanced MYT trauma-informed protocol, my training and my experience. Trauma is held in the nervous system, and survival is sometimes rooted in living outside of the self. Since yoga is an invitation back into the body through self-awareness and self-acceptance, it is crucial to create a safe environment with the use of supportive language, postures and practices.

It is my observation that some people are not ready to come back into the body. The reminder to me is to stay positive and to be a ray of light for if and when the individual is ready. The more effective way is to invite the individual to show up and breathe, as the breath is the foundation for everything that we do. In MYT we offer many variations and a goal is to empower people to work to his or her appropriate level.

What advice would you give to anyone who is going to teach in the population you work with?

Trauma is trauma, and whether it is combat or non-combat related, a trauma-informed approach is necessary; and when implemented correctly, it works.

If there is interest in working with Veterans, especially in a clinical setting, embrace the beginner;s mind, empty your cup and get smart by training-up on a trauma-informed protocol like MYT. Stay healthy personally by staying grounded and use other self-care techniques to not take on “stuff.” Work your own practice!

What are some of your ideas about or hopes for the future of “service yoga” in America in the next decade?

There is a real need to support more Veterans and their families. Offering MYT practices (breath work, meditation, yoga postures, Yoga Nidra and gratitude) to active duty service members supports the research that shows how people armed with resiliency skills can experience and process trauma with self-soothing techniques and thus decrease the conversion to chronic stress and/or re-experiencing.

I am committed to continuing the MYT protocol in the clinical setting so that we can better understand the positive outcomes, especially when implemented in conjunction with Cognitive Processing Therapy. With the support of the Interact for Health grant funds, we are gaining traction towards the recognition as an evidenced-based intervention. It is my hope that we are moving towards full adoption within the DOD and VA.

War is not black and white. As the military and its agents return from war, there is a lot of “gray” to process. We owe it to the men and women to provide a whole range of skills to aid in the transition.

Headshot courtesy of Paul Dirk Photography.

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Are you a yoga teacher who wants to work with veterans? Mindful Yoga Therapy’s 100-hour certification program can lead you through a deeper understanding of how to support this population. Find an upcoming training near you.

 

Dr. Robert Scott: Yoga for First Responders

dr robert scottThis is an interview with Dr. Robert Scott, a licensed psychologist as well as a nationally recognized teacher, trainer, and consultant in the field of trauma/disaster psychology. I first met Bob at the “Trauma-Sensitive Yoga and Resiliency Training to Benefit First Responders” held at the Sedona Yoga Festival in February 2015. For over 30 years Dr. Scott has provided crisis response interventions and support to first responder populations, including fire, police, medical, aviation, military, and Red Cross personnel.

In 1998, he was appointed Department Psychologist and Director of the Behavioral Health and Wellness Program for the Los Angeles City Fire Department (LAFD). In addition to his regular duties and activities of critical incident response and training, Dr. Scott directed and supervised the Los Angeles Fire Department’s Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) team deployment to the World Trade Center attack in the aftermath of 9/11. During the team’s two-week deployment, Dr. Scott provided CISM intervention and support to the Fire Department of New York. Dr. Scott also provided similar support with his CISM team to Louisiana Firefighters during a one-week deployment to the hurricane-impacted Gulf states during hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Rob: What originally motivated you to start a yoga program at the Los Angeles Fire Department?

To be honest, I was not really thinking about a yoga program for first responders until I met Olivia Kvitne, a local yoga teacher. When she suggested it, I was skeptical because I was aware of the biases that most people have about yoga, especially folks in the fire service. However, my wife has practiced yoga for over 20 years, and I was already aware of its powerful health-promoting benefits. I knew that it would be a good thing for the population, but how was I going to get around breaking the stigma attached to it?

Once I met with Olivia and heard her about her unique way of implementing yoga for first responders, I knew we had a chance of seeing it applied in this setting. Olivia had a unique blend of knowledge, positive attitude and energy, and with her approach I felt we had a good chance of making it work with the first responder personality.

I also decided that I would participate in the class myself! My wife had been wanting me to start yoga for the longest time, so I thought this would be a great way to join in with the members of the department, and test the program out personally. From the moment we started the program at LAFD, I began to see the benefits on a personal level as well.

What is the importance of mindfulness for allowing first responders, like firefighters, to thrive in high-intensity, high-adrenaline environments, while at the same time helping build strength and resiliency?

Mindfulness and yoga allow for a “stress break” and present a valuable tool to add to the stress management package that first responders need to survive in a profession that has a long trajectory in terms of its career span (usually 20-30 years). First responder work also happens to be rated the most stressful job in the nation. (The Most Stressful Jobs of 2015, CareerCast.com; Most (and Least) Stressful Jobs for 2015, Business News Daily.)

In one segment — about three shifts over a week — firefighters may witness and experience more trauma, loss, death, and destruction than the average person might see in a lifetime. It is for this reason that yoga and mindfulness become a critical factor in allowing this population to “vent off” excess stress, reduce hyper-vigilant response patterns, and build positive resistance to the harsh and negative effects of stress. We call that process of building resistance and psychological strength “resiliency.” Resiliency is an essential component to dealing effectively with a career in the fire service.

Has the application and effectiveness of your program been evaluated? Is there an evidence base for the benefits of yoga for this population?

Yes, we’ve done some preliminary pencil and paper survey questionnaires and found that the participants rated the program’s effectiveness very highly! However, the sample size was small. We need larger groups to study, utilizing a controlled scientific method. What we can do, however, is extrapolate from the current statistics available for military populations, which suggest very positive reductions in PTSD and other stress-related symptoms. A recent study published in The European Journal of Preventive Cardiology has very encouraging things to say about yoga’s cardiovascular and stress-reducing effectiveness, which can likely be applied to this population as well (Chu, Gotink, Yeh, Goldie, & Hunink, 2015).

What is the greatest obstacle in mindfulness classes becoming a regular feature in fire departments?

It’s simply getting over and beyond the stigma of yoga, and the misunderstandings that have been created by “silly” stereotypes that have been used in the media and in films and television. Once a department or an administrator looks at the program either in a video or in an actual class, they will see the effectiveness and power of it immediately. As mentioned in the recent cardiology study, yoga has a distinct advantage over traditional exercise programs utilized in the fire service. With budgets stretched to their limits,”Yoga has the potential to be a cost-effective treatment and prevention strategy given its low cost, lack of expensive equipment or technology, potential greater adherence, health-related quality of life improvements, and possible accessibility to larger segments of the population.” (Chu, et. al. 2015)

What advice would you give to anyone who would like to volunteer teaching a weekly class at a fire department?

You need to be prepared for some resistance, and you need to be very professional and “down to earth.” Don’t use yogic jargon. You need to be familiar with fire department culture. If you don’t understand it or know it, get someone who is familiar with it to sit down with you to explain it. Then take time to get to know the culture before you step into it. Take a class that prepares you to work with this population.

What should fire department administrators know about the Yoga for First Responders program?

They will be getting a cost-effective, comprehensive program of stress reduction and cardio-fitness that will outdo most standard fitness programs for reducing job injuries and increasing physical and psychological resiliency among their employees.

It will be effective for both their civilian as well as uniformed members. In our test program at LAFD, we mixed our program and allowed civilian members to join our uniform members. It worked beautifully, and added to the cooperative understanding between the two groups.

Originally published on the Huffington Post Blog on August 25, 2015.

Sarah Fink Carlin: Integrating Yoga and Traditional Healthcare

Sarah FinkThis is an interview with Sarah Fink Carlin, who obtained her Master of Public Health degree from the University of Michigan. While in school, she worked for the Michigan Health and Hospital association as the Director of Strategic Planning. Working with hospitals, insurance agencies, and studying current health care trends, she saw the need for medical programs to provide holistic health care, as well as address the mental, physical, and emotional impacts of injury and illness — which is exactly what yoga does. Her belief that the integration of yoga and evidence-based medicine can help people not only recover physically, but find the confidence to achieve overall health and wellness, fueled the creation of YogaMedics.

GBYF Executive Director Rob Schware: Please tell me about the founding of YogaMedics.

Sarah Carlin: I founded YogaMedics in 2008 because I believe this is the future of healthcare. YogaMedics combines traditional medicine with yoga. I was working in the healthcare field in strategic planning, helping hospitals across the state of Michigan to look at the future of healthcare and determine, based on that, what service delivery to get into (or out of), etc.  I was practicing yoga regularly, and I made the following connection: yoga can provide the combined physical and psychological therapy that traditional healthcare is missing. In traditional medicine, the model is the doctor gives the patient a script, a surgery, a pill — something is being done to the patient. In yoga therapy, we are teaching the patient to care for themselves — to learn their own pain threshold, to work through pain with breath, to make the mind and body connection. Yoga practice empowers the patient, which in turn allows them to take care of themselves. That is sustainable healthcare.

Where is YogaMedics being implemented?

YogaMedics provides its individual therapy program throughout Michigan, with over 80 individual therapy sessions per week. We offer 10 group classes per week at our studios and partner studios.  We provide our individual therapy program and group class to over 50 veterans per week at the VA hospital in Detroit. YogaMedics is also working with the Department of Defense Center for Integrated Pain Management (DVCIPM) on a research study being conducted at Walter Reed National Medical Center. YogaMedics also leads a 200 hour and a 500 hour RYT yoga therapy training program.

What do you think it will take for yoga to gain a foothold throughout VA hospitals?

I think that word of mouth is critical in the VA system. Vets take advice from, and trust, other vets. I also think providing objective evidence of its success is critical; it has to be more than vets saying they feel better. We need to show it’s working. Reduction in use of medication (especially pain meds), reduction in pain, resolution of other symptoms, increasing abilities, physical ability, strength, flexibility, activity level, stress management, etc., are critical. We need to speak the language of medicine to be accepted in the medical community, and its language is objective evidence.  Also, it’s important that we show the cost-effectiveness of this therapy.

What specifically is being done at the Detroit VA to develop and test yoga therapy protocols?

YogaMedics is a yoga therapy program with a specific set of tools for objectively measuring patient progress and outcomes, as well as creating therapy plans. With our system, we can see exactly how the patient is progressing in physical areas and psychological areas. We can alter the patient’s therapy plan as needed, based on their progress. Our system delivers session notes and progress reports to doctors, case managers, and others working with the patient. We use language these practitioners understand, even if they don’t understand yoga.

What do you see as outcomes?

Pain levels improve, activity levels lessen; physical improvements: strength, flexibility, range of motion, activity levels, mobility, balance. Psychological improvements increase, such as coping skills, stress management, and anxiety and depression lessen.

Why is measurement of outcomes so critical?

Because yoga is hard to understand fully if you are not a student or teacher. Measurements are objectively and universally understood, especially by the medical community and the vets. It’s the proof that yoga is working.

Is there a return-on-yoga-investment with respect to health-care costs?

Certainly yoga therapy is less expensive than pills, surgeries, and even physical therapy and doctor visits. Of course, yoga doesn’t eliminate necessary traditional therapies. I believe the key is in empowering patients/veterans/people to help themselves. Ultimately, this cuts down on the need to reach out for things outside of themselves (pills, surgeries, therapies) to heal. Once a patient or vet is more self-reliant, he or she will be more proactive in other areas of their health and well-being over the long term.

What are some of your ideas about or hopes for the future of yoga in health-care delivery in America in the next decade?

I hope to see an increase in acceptance of yoga therapy among traditional providers and insurers. It would be great to see yoga therapy more integrated with traditional medicine (vs. it being considered an alternative to traditional medicine). I think it’s important to continue the research on yoga to prove what works and doesn’t work. It’s critical that we create systems and training around the things that we know work. Over the last five years, I believe we are already seeing more general acceptance of yoga.

Editor: Alice Trembour

Image: Courtesy of Monni Must

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Are you interested in working with veterans? Learn how Mindful Yoga Therapy’s 100-hour certification program prepares yoga teachers to work with this population in both clinical and community settings.

 

Laura Plumb: Bringing Yoga To Underserved Communities

Laura - Bringing yoga to underserved populationThis is an interview with Laura Plumb, who began her career in London, working with The Discovery Channel Europe. At Discovery she was quickly drawn to programming on indigenous cultures, complementary medicine, and healing traditions. She later moved to California, producing documentaries and non-fiction television on shamanism, women of faith, and health and wellness. Working for years in the fields of health and human potential, Laura is a Vedic Healer, Ayurvedic Practitioner, Yoga Teacher and co-founder of the Deep Yoga School of Healing Arts with husband Bhava Ram.

Rob: What inspired you to teach yoga?

When I researched and produced a series called “In Good Faith,” about women of vastly unique and varied backgrounds who had each overcome immense challenges to create powerfully meaningful lives, it was clear they all had one thing in common. Whether it was faith in God, or faith in humanity, or faith in the power of community, each woman had a tremendous life-giving, life-affirming faith that empowered them into lives of service. They became leaders beloved in their communities – not because of their intent to lead, but because of their intent to serve. From these women, I learned the power of faith, and the necessity of selfless service.

Soon after, I met my husband Bhava Ram at a meditation center, and immediately we knew we had been brought together to serve. Together, we founded Deep Yoga, and began devoting our lives to sharing the body-mind-spirit medicine of the Vedas, the source from which Yoga arises.

After moving to San Diego to live with my husband, I didn’t know anyone but him. So I created a social life for myself by starting volunteer yoga programs at foundations that touched my heart: Shakti Rising, a residential recovery center for young women; CoronadoSAFE, supporting families and children; Rachel’s Place, for homeless women; The Foundation for Women, growing a healthier world through micro-loans.

Soon, we were asked if we could create yoga programs for other organizations including Outdoor Outreach, La Maestra Community Health, San Ysidro Health Clinics, Harmonium Family Services, and the Braille Institute. By providing these services to such a broad spectrum, we learned two critical things: 1) people want Yoga, and 2) Yoga works.

As we began training yoga teachers, we wanted first and foremost to teach them to live yoga, to be yoga. So we created a “Mastery of Life through Yoga” training. An essential element in these trainings is dynamic participation in Seva (volunteer service). With all of this, Deep Yoga Seva emerged, and continues to grow as a partnership with community leaders delivering yoga classes, education, and therapy throughout our county.

What originally motivated you to do this work, and what continues to motivate you? How, if at all, has that motivation changed over time?

I have been a victim of emotional, verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. Sometimes I feel like I was mute for the first forty years of my life. Yoga gave me a way to speak, a language, and a voice. Now, I just want to sing – and to sing with others, raising our voices in harmony to wrap the world in sacred song, in hope, prayer, possibility.

Our voices matter. When we stand together, practice together, breathe and chant together, we feel the power of life coursing through us, connecting us as one. We remember that we belong – to life, to this holy earth, to one another. It is energizing to be part of such empowerment and positive change.

Is there a standout moment from your work with the Braille Institute?

When I first taught teenagers at the Braille Institute, I knew I needed to adapt my teaching style. I couldn’t rely on visual cues, so I had to be very precise and clear with the instruction. I had no idea what to expect. Pushing through my apprehension, I arrived to a group of distracted and dismissive teen-age boys. No one seemed interested–until we began. As we opened class, one of the boys asked, “Aren’t we going to OM?” So we did, and the most delightful chorus of spontaneous joy rose up, so we did it again and again. We ended up singing OM all through class, and it was one of the most moving experiences of my life. I have never seen such radiant faces, such a deep and immediate connection, such a potent capacity for listening and feeling that sound. At the end of class, following those OMs into silence, and remaining in that stillness with these remarkable young people, was one of the deepest connection I’ve ever felt. It was a living moment of what Antoine de St. Exupery wrote, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

What did you know about homeless women and women in recovery before you began teaching? What were some of the assumptions you had about this population, and how have those assumptions changed?

What did I know about homelessness? That it must be scary. So when we practice Yoga together, if the women are too agitated, we just sit up and sing. They love that.

What did I know about recovery? That we are all seeking recovery on some level. So when a student is activated, we circle round, acknowledge the pain, breathe together in silence. Usually, something starts to soften.

What does anyone know about another’s experience? Every loss, trauma, worry, abuse is unique to the individual. Yet, when you allow yourself to be a learner more than a teacher, the moment will always guide you, and a heart connection can be made.

What are two distinct ways that your teaching style differs from the way you might teach in a studio, and what are the reasons for these differences?

Whether we are in the studio or teaching in other organizations, we always try to meet people where they are. Being fully present, with compassion, is essential. I don’t believe there are any set rules, aside from pure authenticity and unshakeable faith in the process.

You could say that our style of teaching responds to the needs of the individual, and the needs of the moment. In that sense, variations arise not based on location or population, but as a factor of life itself. After all, Yoga should help us live better. If it is going to do that, it must be responsive, naturally adaptive, and unconditionally embracing.

What advice would you give to anyone who is going to teach the variety of people you work with?

My advice is to first do your own work. You have to able to be fully present, rooted in your own deep ground of being. The people I have worked with can detect inauthenticity before you even even say hello. Some will test you, and they can prod you. Trauma, poverty, and pain take no prisoners. But you don’t need to be a brave warrior. You just need to be present and authentic. In fact, you need to drop your armor–leave your shields at home. Go with an empty mind and a full heart. In Spanish they say, “Vaya con dios.” Go with God. Go. And go with love.

What are some of your ideas about, or hopes for, the future of “service yoga” in America in the next decade?

Once, upon my return from India, a wealthy client told me, “Laura, I know you want to be there, helping the children. But we have just as much need in this country. It may be less visible here, but it is every bit as great, maybe greater.”

He was talking about himself, and he was talking about all of us. It’s true: there is great need. My hope is that everyone gets the real gift of yoga: it’s a great opportunity to serve, to move beyond yourself, to meet the need, and to make a difference in this world.

If you teach, teach as Seva. You don’t have to start or join a non-profit. You can teach Yoga on a street corner or in a park. When you do, teach with presence. Teach with heart. Teach with the fullness of what this mind-body-spirit science has to offer. People everywhere want Yoga. People everywhere can benefit from Yoga. Yoga can meet the need, because Yoga works.

Originally published on The Huffington Post Blog on May 12, 2015

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Sara K. Schneider: How We Serve Incarcerated Women and Those in Transition

This is an interview with Sara K. Schneider, who wrote about law enforcement in her book, “Art of Darkness: Ingenious Performances by Undercover Operatives, Con Men, and Others.” Yet she describes having had since her early 20s a “haunting” to work inside the prison system. Initially finding it hard to “break in,” she started teaching men in a post-release program on the west side of Chicago. A mindfulness teacher who’d been teaching in the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) made introductions for her to teach the female minority residing in the federal prison in Chicago’s central Loop. Sara directed the MCC’s women’s yoga program, where she taught weekly from 2012 to 2014; and has recruited and trained other yoga teachers to teach both women and men inside the prison. In addition to being a yoga instructor, Sara is a playwright, professor, and performance ethnographer writing about body-based spiritual practices including, most recently, yoga in prisons. Sara can be reached at sks@thinkingdr.com.

Rob: What have been some of the surprises of teaching yoga in the prison setting?

When I started working with the women at the MCC, I imagined I’d be introducing yoga to women who had not had any prior experience with it. Not only did these women incarcerated in Chicago’s federal prison seem more comfortable and familiar with seeing yoga as a spiritual as well as a physical practice than sometimes do new students “on the outside,” but a few had already been practicing yoga before their incarceration. Many of the women who self-selected to join the yoga class were using their prison time in other ways to develop themselves spiritually.

Another surprise was how the conventions of the yoga studio seemed to fall away. Some of those who were newer to yoga frequently saw the poses in a sexual light, and would break out into nervous laughter or giddy riffs on the poses that would take the group a while to recover from! I had to learn to go with the flow on that, to allow the laughter as a necessary part of coming to the practice from prison culture. It was important to channel that laughter so that it would be shared rather than aimed at one or another student, as might be common on the residential floor.

How else did you have to adjust your expectations or adapt your teaching in the prison setting?

I’m a vinyasa teacher who loves flowing and (yes) complex sequences. The inmate population is not necessarily invested in yoga choreography, nor is the average inmate in physical shape to be able to get much flow going, in part because prison life keeps the women quite inactive. While at the beginning I held to an idea of getting my new students into shape to be able to handle vinyasa, the MCC population was so transient that this wasn’t a realistic goal.

Over time, my teaching shifted to focus on a couple of things: the first was giving the inmates a few simple breathing, mindfulness, and postural practices they could do on their own, in the spaces available to them, to enhance their ability to handle anxiety, depression, anger, and other troubling emotions they naturally experienced during the week.

The second focus was trying to give the women an experience of positive female community. Sometimes my regular students wouldn’t come down to the chapel space for yoga because of infighting with other women on the floor they knew were planning to come; they just didn’t want to do yoga side by side with them. With only 20 or fewer female inmates in a facility of nearly 700, every woman got to know every other woman very well.

In class, one of their favorite activities was to lay out the yoga mats right up against each other and to “roll.” It was actually a very gentle twist that would take all of us, in a very childlike way, from one side of the open chapel room to the other. We’d start face down, and initiate rolls onto our backs from the trailing hip and rolls onto our bellies from the trailing shoulder. The women loved teaching new students how to roll in this way and laughed and laughed together as they flopped onto their backs or onto their bellies. My sense was that it was rare for these women to enjoy the simple pleasure of their bodies in this communal way in their life on the residential floor. Plus we were doing fun spinal twists!

Finally, I wanted them to have the protected space of a class and to have a Savasana (corpse pose) that offered a brief but complete release. These women are woken up with guards’ flashlights shone in their eyes early each morning, and had so little experience of real rest. They instantly understood Savasana as a space of deep, protected peace, yet it was often real work to ensure that no prison staffer interrupted them, as they did not necessarily buy into the vital importance of such rest.

Are there ways in which your teaching in a prison has impacted your teaching on the outside, or your own practice?

The fact of incarceration, as juxtaposed with the freedom inherent in yoga, was brought home powerfully to me on a summer’s evening when we had class on the roof of the prison, instead of in the chapel, which actually has a glorious view of the Chicago skyline. As we started our sun salutations, and I modeled raising my eyes to my joined hands overhead, in our line of vision was the barbed wire roof that stood between us and the sky of Chicago. I remember my unfettered ability to see the sky every time I do a sun salutation now.

When I teach in studios, I’m aware of our privilege in being able to buy classes, to feel comfortable in a yoga studio, and to end class at our leisure, rather than with a sharp interruption from a guard. I appreciate that many of us are wearing clothing that supports rather than impedes movement. And I am more aware than before of the power of yoga as a practice for those who know they need one.

What would you describe as a peak moment in your teaching of the inmates?

I think probably my favorite moment was when one of the students, a sometimes-bawdy and always-enthusiastic participant, was stretching in wide-legged forward fold (Prasarita Padottanasana A), experimenting with whether it was possible to deepen into a pose simply by “breathing into it.” Like me, she was from the era of bouncing and re-bounding to deepen a stretch, and we were investigating a whole new way of taking the practice inside. As I watched her, it seemed evident to me that this smartly clowning, often externally oriented woman had found a new and internal reference for her pose. She bobbed up as if from a deep-sea dive, and cried, “I breathed into the pose!” We had big smiles all around.

What advice would you share with those hoping to teach in a correctional setting?

Teaching in a prison means that you will be subjected and exposed to some part of the trauma of incarceration that inmates experience daily, such as the withholding of information about what is really going on, the lack of control over your time, and the inability to move without supervision. There are also inexplicable barriers to effective communication across departmental lines, the all-too-close scrutiny of how you are dressed and surveillance of what you can carry into the prison, and a culture in which staff members can seem more bent on passing blame than on serving the public.

Ensure that you have a way to process some of the emotions that come up, ideally with others teaching in a similar setting. Here in Chicago, the Socially Engaged Yoga Network, a loose collective of yoga teachers involved in social justice work, has been having quarterly gatherings to network and to share experiences and lessons learned. The sense of community with others involved in yoga service work has been invaluable!

Originally published on The Huffington Post Blog on March 25, 2015

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Help Give Back Yoga to put yoga and mindfulness guides in the hands of 1,000 prisoners this year by purchasing Prison Yoga Project’s powerful books, A Path for Healing and Recovery and A Woman’s Practice: Healing from the Heart. For every purchase, we can fund the printing of three additional books that will be made available at no cost to men and women behind bars. You can also make a direct donation to help fund this work – just choose “Prison Yoga Project” from the drop down menu when selecting a project to support.

Support Yoga for Everyone and Every Body with Mind Body Solutions

     

Photo Credit: Andy Richter

Give Back Yoga is partnering with our friends at Mind Body Solutions to support their “Kiss My Asana” Yogathon to raise awareness that yoga is for everyone and every body while creating funding to support their Adaptive Yoga Program. Will you join us in deepening into and sharing YOUR 30 Day yoga or mindfulness practice to support this vision?

Kiss My Asana is a four-week yoga challenge beginning on April 1, 2015. It’s an opportunity to do what you love (yoga!) while raising awareness and resources for an important non-profit working to provide hope and healing to thousands around the world. Join the tribe by giving back a 30 Day practice to support adaptive yoga.

“Yoga is for everyone. Yoga brings hope at an unspoken level that precedes all trauma, loss, and disability. At this level, yoga is not taught, but only shared. Yoga also brings tangible results: a newfound ability to transfer, to get on and off the floor, a new job, and the ability to move out on one’s own. Yoga is a wave that travels gently but powerfully through all of our lives. So thank you for joining this tribe, for transforming the lives of others in both visible and invisible ways.” – Matthew Sanford

How does the Kiss My Asana Yogathon work?

It’s simple. Commit to increasing your yoga practice by ANY amount for the month of April. The choice is yours – use your imagination! Your practice can happen at a studio, a community center, at home…wherever you put your mat or chair

Simply COMMIT. You will FEEL the benefits of yoga and help us SHARE the work of Mind Body Solutions.

Mind Body Solutions goal is to raise $75,000 to help fund their Adaptive Yoga Program. Let’s open yoga to everyone. Participate or sponsor a yogi! Join us and help transform lives in simple, effective and profound ways.

To learn more, visit http://www.mindbodysolutions.org/events/ ‪or watch this video: