Support yoga for kids in underserved populations!
I started a nonprofit back at the end of January. I was tired of being part of the rhetoric only and not real change. Now my hands are getting dirty and I’m actually chipping away at my piece of the world trying to make a positive change.
Rise Up Yoga‘s mission is to bring trauma-informed yoga to low-income elementary and middle schools in hopes of helping the students in the various underserved populations have access to the life-changing tools of yoga.
I’m not just talking asana, though that is a big part of it. But also, breath work, meditation, and mindfulness. With proper guidance from an experienced and knowledgeable teacher like myself, these kids obtain the skills for stress resilience that can help them in a variety of situations in life.
Now let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Nearly none of my kids are white. And none are affluent.
It’s a huge change from working in a studio or teaching kids yoga workshops where the major demographic is white, affluent, and not living under the poverty line.
I don’t look like them. I don’t reflect what they look like. Yet, I’ve experienced many of the traumas some of them are experiencing (though I’ll never tell them that). So my heart needs to do the reflecting. I need to stay nonattached to my physical projection, yet recognize it, so I can help them. And that is a tough one.
Some of my kids experience the unrelenting trauma of food insecurity. Some are living through housing insecurity. Some are currently coping with the loss of a parent. Some are immigrants fearful of ICE raids. Some are refugees still just trying to learn English.
Some of my kids go home with “food bags” on Friday so they don’t have to wait until Monday morning for their next meal.
Sometimes there aren’t enough bags to go around.
They are the most wonderful kids I could imagine. They make me laugh, they make me smile and I see their value to this world.
They were absolute monsters (not all of them, but many) my first week with them. I teach yoga in 50-minute blocks, which is a long time. And I’m usually the sole teacher in the room. So I needed to have my classroom management on point.
From 1st to 6th grade I installed one rule. At all times the class needs to be acting with dignity. You choose to break that rule, you have a consequence.
Simple. Yet, the word dignity was not something any of them knew.
I introduced a new concept to empower these kids. To help them realize their self-worth. And I never stop reminding them of it. Their other teachers do as well. I’m in an amazing school full of passionate, caring teachers and staff who only want the best for the kids.
Results in real time
With my no-nonsense approach to yoga, which includes all the aforementioned elements I am also introducing Satya. In a very non-dogmatic way. One small nugget for the kids. When acting with dignity, you also need integrity. For that, I need to allow for choice.
This is also part of the trauma work. Not all kids can jump right in week one and two and be ready to turn inward and be with their thoughts. Because maybe they’re grieving. Maybe they’re hungry and it triggers something larger. To those kids, there is the choice to be responsible and just chill quietly.
I’ve seen incredible results in a short period. Kids going from completely defiant and disruptive to simply quietly sitting on their mats. Hopefully they will eventually join in.
I’ve found ways to make yoga fun. (THANK YOU, Sturdy Birdy game!)
I’ve found ways to allow them to talk about their emotions without being overly vulnerable.
I’ve found ways to help de-escalate conflict by introducing the sharkfin!
I’ve learned their names and constantly told them how happy I am to be there.
My first graders sing my yoga songs to me during recess. My fourth and sixth graders are so impressed with themselves when they figure out a pose.
Every time they say their affirmations they sound a little more convinced that it’s true of them.
They ran off two of other teachers (a dance teacher and a character ed teacher), so they thought they could get me to leave too. Ha! You’re stuck with me, suckers.
But now, we’re at a critical point in this mission. I’m developing my specialized curriculum for teaching trauma-informed yoga at low-income schools (WHICH DOESN’T EXIST by the way But Street Yoga has been immensely helpful with the trauma portion). It’s even hard to find materials to bring to my kids that actually look like them.
Like, I may puke if I see one more yoga book for kids with skinny white characters.
So what am I asking for?
Next year I am ready to be at FOUR schools. That is the potential to change nearly 3,000 kids’ lives with yoga. But I can’t do it without funding. I’ve targeted schools of highest need. I’ve met with counselors, principals, etc. They all need this.
Budgets are cut. And about to get sliced and diced again should the current administration and congress gets their way.
Science backs my theories. This stuff works. By providing breath, movement, mindfulness and meditation in one package, in a predictable and rhythmic way, healthy neuropathways are developed in the brain that can, in turn, build stress resilience.
The goal being kids can get out of their constant fight or flight mode and relax enough through these skills to actually learn and avoid conflict and make better choices.
If you believe children are our future (and they are) then please help. Talk to your company about a tax-deductible donation. Make a gift yourself. It’s a tax write-off! You help kids and can write it off.
I’ll constantly update you with stories of the kids you help. I’ve purposely designed my nonprofit to keep operating costs as low as possible. 90% of your donations go directly to tools and yoga instruction to the kids. 90%!
If you’re not happy with how things are in our country, this is an excellent way to help. Please spread the word and donate.
Maybe you’re not in Colorado so this doesn’t appeal to you. Just remember these kids aren’t bound to their location. It’s like blowing Dandelion seeds out to the world. Some will root down and hopefully carry these skills, pass them on and the cycle will begin anew. Their seeds may land right next to you. And tell me, do you want the wonderful kids who have these coping skills or more that are underserved and have been forgotten?
Thank you and from the bottom of my heart, I truly mean that.
You can click here to donate. Thanks again!