Four years ago, I began volunteering at HPP teaching Mom and Baby Yoga for mothers who are precarious either as a result of an undocumented status, homelessness, addiction, domestic violence or a combination of these. The goal of the class is one part practical in that it serves the mothers to help relieve some of the physical aches and pains of mothering, and one part refuge and healing in that it gives them a safe place where they can rest deeply and allow their nervous system to quiet amidst the daily chaos that they confront in their lives. I put a lot of focus on upper back and neck care for them and then we always dedicate the last part of class to restorative yoga when they can lie back over bolsters and breast feed. The outcomes of this class have been very heartening with mothers returning every week exclaiming that they had more energy than they knew after yoga and that they finally felt like they could relax. Many have come back even when their children are too big to bring and they put them in the day care that HPP provides during classes.
Shortly after I began teaching this class I realized that there was much I could not speak to about my student’s experiences of homelessness and what brought them to HPP. Even though I had many years of working with at-risk and marginalized communities, that was not my own personal background. And, while the intrinsic messages of healing, resilience and transformation were making an impact, I knew that someone coming from the same predicament and similar scenario that these women did could deepen these healing messages and make them more applicable. That was when I approached HPP with the idea of a 200 hour yoga teacher training that would give HPP staff, over 50% of them former clients of HPP, the opportunity to increase their capacity to transform challenging life experiences and trauma into insight and learning for themselves and the students in their classes. I felt certain after all my years learning from communities about how to make a positive impact that this training would engender change at both the physiological and emotional levels and that those changes would support the work HPP staff do in helping to pull families out of homelessness and end the cycle of childhood poverty. During my time volunteering at HPP I had gotten to know the incredible stories of some of the staff on the Wellness Team and the Case Managers, some of which are featured in the video above, and after many discussions I knew that yoga would also be a helpful tool while they were doing outreach in homeless communities, working one-on-one in a case manager setting to help ground a new mother or simply be a potent self-care tool after a long day helping women and families find refuge.
I was overjoyed when I learned that HPP loved the idea of the yoga teacher training project and that we would embark on this project journey together. With your support and help we will train 15 staff members, many of whom came from homelessness themselves, and give them the opportunity to formally study yoga and become certified to teach ongoing yoga classes at HPP or integrate it into their day to day work. The yoga teacher training will be one more tool to address the underlying effects of poverty which they encounter as case workers everyday by guiding homeless women to self-care resources that support healing and resilience.
The short term objectives include:
Upon completion of the 200-hour Teacher Training, graduates will:
Have a 200-hour Teacher Training certification
Have the opportunity to apply to teach yoga at Homeless Prenatal Program
Be connected to a mentorship program that links them to a Yoga Instructor in San Francisco who assists them in navigating further employment opportunities if they so desire
A connection to a Yoga studio, place of employment, school or community center where they have completed their internship requirement.
Who has access to yoga and who doesn’t? This is a critical question that we in the yoga community must ask ourselves given that some of the key concepts of yoga are liberation and awareness of our shared humanity. One over-arching objective of this project is to increase inclusion and health equity so that graduates of this program can amplify the voices of marginalized and diverse communities in the dominant and mainstream yoga dialogue and contribute to a model that will serve their communities more directly.
Your donations will pay for:
props for each student: mat, blocks, bolster, strap and chair
books for each student according to the curriculum
rent for the room we will use each month
fees for yoga, anatomy and philosophy instructors
Any funds still remaining will be held as stipend for newly minted HPP yoga teachers to teach at HPP.
If you can’t financially support this project please talk it up among your friends, post on social media or become an ambassador and start a conversation about who has access to yoga and who doesn’t so that wellness is a reality for all of us!
Our mission is to maximize the inherent power of yoga to transform conflict and create a culture of peace by uniting the respective fields of yoga and peacebuilding and thus providing the mind/body skill set needed to build peace at personal, local, community and global levels.
From the masses of refugees fleeing protracted war in the Middle East and entrenched violence in Central America amidst discrimination and Islamophobia, to the injustices faced and lives lost in the African American community, to the rise of demagogic inspired misogyny, we see that our world needs more widespread civic engagement that is characterized by mutual understanding in order to effectively communicate at the cultural crossroads of race, gender and religion. We also see the need to articulate that these crossroads are not stumbling blocks that must necessarily lead to violence but potential building blocks that bring us closer to recognizing our shared humanity. Standing up to racism and xenophobia, consciously choosing dialogue over debate and truly listening to break down enemy imaging are all vital skills needed to build societies where diverse communities can coexist peacefully.
Drawing from both eastern and western approaches to peacebuilding and conflict transformation that span the intrapersonal to the international realms, Stay Engaged offers a unique training method and curriculum for workshops and trainings that is designed to: amplify the links between yoga and peacebuilding to build skills and increase capacity in intercultural dialogue, conflict analysis, mindfulness, and community building; all through a global lens.
The Homeless Prenatal Program Model – How Yoga Builds Resilience and Transforms Adversity into Insight to Break the Cycle of Poverty
Stay Engaged – The Institute for Yoga and Peacebuilding is currently teaming up with Homeless Prenatal Program (HPP) in San Francisco to train HPP staff who are formerly homeless women and/or formally at risk due to undocumented status, substance abuse or domestic abuse, to be yoga instructors. While HPP has long been offering prenatal and mom and baby yoga to clients as part of their prenatal and parenting support, this project offers employees themselves the opportunity to formally study yoga and become certified according to industry standards to teach ongoing yoga classes at HPP and in any community in which they find themselves thereby increasing their capacity to transform challenging life experiences into insight and learning for themselves and the students in their classes. Drawing from and speaking to life experiences that are similar to their student’s experiences deepens the messages of healing, transformation and resilience that yoga promotes. By including the mind/body modality of yoga which engenders change at both the physiological and emotional levels, trainees in this program have one more tool to address the underlying effects and factors of poverty to break the poverty cycle. From a social justice perspective, the 200 hour yoga teacher training at HPP increases inclusion and amplifies the voices of marginalized and diverse communities in the dominant and mainstream yoga dialogue and contributes to a model that will serve them more succinctly.
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