Yoga service has the capacity to impact large social systems in ways that encourage increased self-awareness, self-care and better health, more conscious relationship building, and improved resilience.

Yoga is seemingly everywhere! Or, so we think. Yoga in America is beginning to reach those under chronic stress that might need it most and can afford it least. What we know is that there is an exciting but overlooked market on the horizon of the yoga community. Yoga service is the growing possibility and potential to offer yoga-based programs to veterans, seniors, school children, and many other communities that could benefit from this contemplative practice.

The true test of our yoga practice is how we manifest it in our daily living culture. And, for too long yoga has become a commercialized service reinforcing our American consumerism. But, what if we shift the paradigm to a yoga community not identified by trendy yoga studios or to a clothing brand, but connected to the webs and networks of grassroot groups doing good and making a difference one mat and one downward dog at a time. Dozens of visionaries, pioneers, and dreamers in the yoga service community are reflecting on how to best design yoga programs that can help people lead healthier and happier lives.  THEY are a movement.

Our mission at Hosh Yoga in Brooklyn, NY is to make health and wellness a right of life. We offer a safe, welcoming environment for reflection, transformation and healing, and serve our community through donation based yoga classes, youth and senior programs throughout New York City.  In schools and community centers across the city, I observe how our programs help children, adults, and seniors stay physically strong.  But more important, our programs help reduce the stress level in communities of modest means as these folks navigate the daily pressures of work, food insecurity, paying bills, and high housing cost. Growing up, I knew personally their day to day burden.  Through  the efforts of our team at Hosh, we are introducing a contemplative practice of mind, body, and spirit beyond communities of higher income and opportunity.

So, what can we learn about putting your yoga practice out there in service and widening the circles? For starters, many times it begins with sharing your personal story of the powerful impact a practice has on your life.  As Susan Lovett, Founder of the Boston-based Hand to Heart Center – Yoga for the People shares, “I initially began practicing yoga because I was experiencing sleeplessness and fatigue as long-term symptoms of cancer treatment. In my 20’s, I had extensive chemotherapy, radiation and surgery to treat lymphoma and while I am relatively healthy now, all of the treatment really took a toll on my physical and emotional health.”  Hands to Heart Center – Yoga for the People (HTHC) is a nonprofit organization that shares the healing practice of yoga with people affected by addiction, poverty & trauma in Boston.  HTHC provides high-quality, customized yoga classes that are accessible, inclusive and inspiring. HTHC volunteers are 200 and 500-hour trained yoga teachers who lead free community-based yoga and mindfulness classes in low-income, under-served neighborhoods of Boston.  HTHC trauma-Informed yoga teachers work with non-profit organizations and high-poverty schools in Boston that serve vulnerable populations to develop and teach individualized classes that promote healing, increase capacity and build resilience.

The  positive health effects of your practice manifested in your body, heart, and mind is a platform for the activist in you to engage in local yoga service work with meaning to you and those around you while making a difference. Leading voices, such as Board President of the Yoga Service Council Jennifer Cohen Harper, suggests, “Yoga service has the capacity to impact large social systems in ways that encourage increased self-awareness, self-care and better health, more conscious relationship building, and improved resilience.”

Rob Schware and Beryl Bender Birch of Give Back Yoga

The tremendous benefits of these programs areself-evident and have incredible success in reducing stress and trauma for all people, for all ages. In addition, demand for providers in the public, private, and social sector continues to grow in proportion to the willingness of like-minded and heart-minded people in every yoga community to come together and effectively make preventive health practices a priority in all neighborhoods. As Rob Schware, Executive Director of The Give Back Yoga Foundation, believes, “We envision having accelerated the introduction of yoga into prisons, veteran hospitals and military bases, treatment centers for persons recovering from addictions and eating disorders, and that yoga for cancer is prescribed and available for all those affected by the disease.”

There is no questioning the transformative potential of yoga programs!  As a provider working on the front lines at Hosh Yoga in New York, NY, I witness the progress daily.  But, additional talent and training is needed to help heal the bodies and minds of vulnerable populations in primarily low-income areas nationwide.  With the increasingly volatile and insensitive dialogue across the country today, more yoga service programs are crucial.  Together, we can all work to make our yoga journeys a vehicle for social change with practical and scientifically proven benefits for self, community, people, and planet.  A great first step in becoming a part of this movement is to attend the Sixth Annual Yoga Service Council Conference happening May 19-21, 2017, at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY.  As part of the weekend gathering, participants will:

  • Discover ways to adapt yoga to meet individual and community needs
  • Learn to use yoga effectively in clinical or therapeutic settings
  • Address issues of diversity, inclusion, safety, and the influence of implicit bias
  • Discuss how to start, grow, and sustain a yoga service organization or network
  • Examine the benefits and challenges of introducing yoga and mindfulness practices to a variety of communities

THIS is a movement… all over the country! Myself and others have high hopes that these contemplative practices can be as common as brushing your teeth everyday. Let’s put all souls on deck!

 

To learn more about the programs mentioned, please visit:

Give Back Yoga Foundation: http://givebackyoga.org
Hands to Heart Center: http://www.handstoheartcenter.org
Yoga Service Council: https://yogaservicecouncil.org
Henry is a social entrepreneur and Executive Director of Hosh, a Brooklyn based health and wellness yoga organization delivering cost effective services to communities through out New York. He roadtrips, loves NYC, loves the west coast, and doing good is at the core of his service and business work.