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Planting Seeds: Bringing Yoga To The Neighborhood

Bryant Park, New York

Bryant Park, New York

I am currently in a yoga teacher training program. I have been immersed in my studies trying to learn sanskrit terms, the philosophy of yoga and reveling in how these new teachings directly impact my personal life and the community I am a part of.  While I love the learning aspect of the yoga teacher training, I am petrified when someone asks if I plan to teach yoga. I’m quick to answer, “Nope. I’m just taking this course to deepen my personal practice.” I have been practicing yoga for almost three years and while it has been a slow progress, I definitely have seen and felt a difference in how I deal with stress, how I view things and most importantly, the relationship with myself.

My first graders are always eager to hear what new “yoga words” I have learned. They giggled when I shared the sanksrit word: asteya: ¡No es tuyo! – Which in Spanish means, “It is not yours.” Simply put, not stealing or feeling of lack, but living with the understanding that we already have everything we need.

Now I have parent volunteers coming to my first grade classroom asking when I will start teaching yoga classes in the neighborhood. One went so far as to suggest having yoga at the neighborhood park. “Oh no,” I explain, “I don’t plan to teach, I’m just taking this course to deepen my practice.” “Pero maestra, queremos yoga pero cuesta mucho. Yo le doy unos dolares para la gasolina.”  This mother is correct in saying that yoga costs too much. Yoga classes can run up to $18.00.  But while I have the privilege to put aside money for my practice, many don’t.

To stress me out even more, my yogini classmate asked about us doing our seva hours (community/volunteer work) together.  Truth be told, I find it a daunting task to be in front of adults leading a yoga class when I myself am learning. I don’t want to be judged, crucified or ridiculed. Yoga in my experience has been a very personal, healing and transformative journey and I wouldn’t want others to experience anything less.

I’ve been praying about this for a few weeks and today I came across this amazing TED Talk Video: A Guerrilla Gardener In South Central Los Angeles. This video gave me the nudge to say, “Maybe with the help of my friends we could bring yoga to the neighborhood.”

Ron Finley, “A Guerilla Gardener” plants vegetable gardens in South Central Los Angeles.  He calls his neighborhood a “food desert” made up of liquor stores and empty land plots. Finley says he is a Ganster Gardener, flipping the script of the term used to signify violence, destruction, crime and chaos. By flipping the script he is giving his community a sense of peace, life, sustainability and order, many of the qualities that yoga brings to those who practice regularly.

I watched this video a few times and decided that I want to be a “yoga gangster”.  As corny as this sounds, especially coming from me, I do feel the pull to provide a place where mothers, fathers, children and the Lennox community at large come together and cultivate peace.  There are free and donation based yoga classes at the parks and beaches where I live. This is not the case in Lennox, or many other urban communities for that matter.  There is a definitive “yoga desert” in urban communities and my wish is to change that. If Ron Finley was able to get his community together to grow and maintain food gardens in South Central, then I don’t see why we can’t have yoga at Lennox Park. Imagine!

africa. updog

While I’m not promising anything, I do know the power of intention and visualization.  It would be a wonderful thing for the community where I lived as a little girl and now teach, had a sacred place where they could go as a family to practice yoga.  If yoga has been shared and cultivated to those less fortunate in Africa (Africa Yoga Project) then I don’t see how we can’t figure something out. My team teacher is currently finishing her yoga certification and our school counselor has studied yoga.  I wonder how many Lennox yogis are out there who would be willing to share their yoga knowledge and light to the community?

Ron Finely, thanks for the inspiration!

Namaste: The light in me humbly bows to the light in you.

*For more info on Bryant Park: http://bryantpark.org/about-us/mission.html

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5 thoughts on “Planting Seeds: Bringing Yoga To The Neighborhood

  1. I am in love with this idea. While my yoga is a little rusty, ok perhaps very rusty I’m eager to see how (if this pans out) I can help :0)

    Marlise H.

  2. Most of your students will be new to yoga so you’ll only really need the basics, as your their proficiency grows so will yours as a teacher through experience. Everyone feels scared when they start something new, the only way to get past that fear is to face it. As long as you have learned enough about the alignment of the poses so no one gets physically hurt you’ll be fine. Remember you are simply speaking truth. All of your teachers have given you an opportunity to recognize what are universal truths. Coming to the mat with the intention of self-care is an act of self-love whether people realize it or not. Giving them an opportunity to express that is a gift because if we’ve learned anything it’s that love is the answer. Good luck and go plant some shit! 😉

  3. As a native Angeleno, I know that our global megalopolis is comprised of amazing diversity, which unfortunately includes a devastating number of underserved and economically challenged members. Within this sad reality, stories like yours and Ron Finely’s invigorate my soul! In a world where powerful media sources irresponsibly mislead and victimize the masses for pure, selfish greed, fighting such a battles is incredibly daunting. Yet, when like-minded individuals team together, their unified vision and passion can produce amazing results. And when grassroots organizations and dedicated stakeholders succeed in fighting society’s juggernauts of bureaucracy, the rewards are incredibly inspiring. Greater yet is when examples like these, which arise from a social movement of educated awareness, sustainable change takes hold at community levels. May your interest to be a yoga gangster be successful. Being a teacher and Realtor in the surrounding neighborhoods of Lennox, I hope to share in your positive endeavor. Live aloha!

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