Yoga World Reach

Teaching Yoga To Underprivileged Communities With Yoga World Reach

yoga world reachInterviewed by: Sergio DiazGranados

Many students in the yoga community want to use their gift to teach yoga to under privileged communities and to help those who are less fortunate. The ability to enter any community and lift those people’s spirits is a powerful tool that any individual would love to have. However, when one rolls up their sleeves to do the actual “work”, there can be many challenges that come up.

Yoga World Reach is one of the many organizations in the community who have dedicated their lives and teaching skills to helping individuals who are less fortunate. They have offered their talents to many who have suffered many traumas such as cancer, sexual assault, domestic violence, and individuals struggling with drug addictions. While there is still no perfect answer or approach in giving this type of help, Shakti was kind enough to share some insight on her experiences with Yoga World Reach for aspiring yoga teachers looking to give back and spread the powerful message of yoga to those who may not have access to it otherwise.

How did Yoga World Reach come about?

The short of it is that I knew Yoga could be of service to the world. Having experienced my own real-life traumas and injuries and heart-aches, Yoga had provided healing to me on all levels of being. I knew, experientially, that it has the power to empower—to remind us of our True Nature as conduits of Infinite Love Power. Yoga inspired me to become a Soul Artist, turning all my dirty mud into something beautiful, perfectly imperfect. The grand responsibility became to pay that forward. In 2006 the plan started to cOMe together.

Your organization offers yoga classes to underprivileged and trauma stricken individuals and communities. How does Yoga World Reach identify a group of people to work with and what is the process of setting up and delivering yoga classes for them?

Currently, our 200 hour Inner Power Yoga Teacher Training provides workshop intensives designed to inspire, motivate and educate our STFs (this is what I call my students. It stands for student-teacher-friend) to offer yoga to special populations. Among those include individuals and communities affected by trauma, individuals with cancer and friends in chairs. As part of our Teacher Training curriculum, STF’s are then required to create a Seva Program for any population that they feel guided to support. As a 501c3, Yoga World Reach forms the foundation for their inspired service in their local and global community. Our students are truly our leaders. The program we offer to the fellows at the Strongheart House in the war-torn country of Liberia, W. Africa is one example. This program was spearheaded by one of the Inner Power Yoga STF’s, Dhyana Masla. Because of her leadership, we will now be offering the Teacher Training in Liberia this winter. In turn, the new STF’s in Liberia will be identifying and mobilizing a Seva program of their creation.

What challenges do you face when teaching yoga to underprivileged communities or individuals and how do you overcome them?

Yoga Teachers often feel under-qualified, possibly intimidated, to bring Yoga to people in need. While there are certainly deep considerations for working with special populations, I have found that there is not a standard set of “rules.” Every individual is unique. For this reason it is incredibly important to remember three things:

1. Don’t be afraid. Share from your heart. You don’t have to know everything and you know more than you think you do.

2. Be honest about the fact that you are learning together with your new community or individual STF. It is an experimental, experiential adventure that you are embarking on TOGETHER. “To conceal ignorance is to increase it” (Mahatma Gandhi).

And most importantly:

3.  Listen, Listen, Listen. When you listen and make adjustments according to what you feel and hear from the STF, you will be able to not only support that individual, but you will also learn so much more for empowering others in the future.

Do you find that you must adjust your approach to teaching yoga? If so, please explain.

I have seen that the considerations outlined above prove to be important for ALL populations, whether at a fitness center in Vail, Colorado or at an orphanage in Guanajuato, Mexico. Human beings living in the world today are all equally susceptible to suffering. Everyone also has the choice of how they each will respond to their personal circumstances. Each individual, whomever they are, is worthy of both empowerment and compassion. That is why Inner Power Yoga aims toward reminding every individual of his or her Inner Power.

I would imagine that patience is at the top of the list of qualities needed by a teacher to teach yoga to these individuals. How does one teach yoga to trauma stricken individuals or communities?

Patience is absolutely a key factor. It is generally quite easy to find the patience with the individual or community with whom you are learning. It is another story entirely to remember patience for your Self and for the process. For me, the most important challenges have been: remaining unattached to outcomes, remembering the True Source of the teaching, and listening to the Inner Guru that resides within both myself AND the STF. “Not by might, nor by will, but by my Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6).

What is one instance that stands out from the rest that affirms your commitment to the Yoga World Reach project? What is one accomplishment that makes you feel great you are doing this?

Truly, it has been an evolution of awareness, and continues to be. This past year has brought me the deepest recognition that it only takes ONE: one Seva project, for one individual, one time to potentially make a world of difference for a whole community. In Liberia, this year, I also got a tremendous “hit” that people really DO need Love more than they need food. Self-Love can mean SURVIVAL when all else has failed.

What is the Yoga Seva School and how do your yoga teacher trainings differ from other programs? How do you prepare your students?

The Yoga Seva School is the heart of Yoga World Reach. Our Yoga Teacher Training is devoted to empowering Yoga Teachers to share the joy of Yoga with any individual or population. In addition to offering a 200 hour Yoga Alliance Certification, our first level teacher training also draws from a tribe of diversely qualified and gifted teachers to provide foundational instruction in how to adaptively share Yoga with cancer survivors, friends with disabilities, survivors of invasive trauma, Spanish speaking friends, mothers to be, and children.

As part of our Yoga Teacher Training requirements, Yoga Teachers outline and develop a Yoga Seva action plan for social or ecological service.

Those who decide to produce and implement their Yoga Seva Programs enjoy the foundational support of the Colorado Non-profit, 501c3, Yoga World Reach.

We are currently in the process of developing our training as both a  500 hr. Certification course and a 300 hr. Yoga Therapy course.

As many yoga teachers want to be of service yet have a hard time making ends meet financially, do you have any words of wisdom on how you have been able to strike that balance?

Good question. When someone discovers it, please let me know. In the meantime, two things:

  1. Remember that nothing belongs to you. Every reSource—energetic, financial—is all an abundant flow of Universal Source. When I remember that I am a conduit of Infinite potential, that reSources are flowing through me abundantly from an Infinite Supply, that the same Source that activates my live, illuminates the stars, then  I am reminded to stay open. The minute that I think anything is “ me” or “mine” in an ego-sense (even an altruistic ego-sense) I limit that thing completely.
  2. Pack light. All you really need to hold onto is Love.

Do you have any tips or suggestions for yoga teachers looking to get more involved with their community now?

Just go for it. Be fearless. If I knew now just how much I DIDN’T know when I was first imagining Yoga World Reach and our Seva School, I NEVER would have attempted to do any of this. Of course, now 5 years later, I have grown and learned so much more than I ever would have, had I not just gone for it. You, too, will learn as you go. And it will be the best kind of learning. Beyond believing, you will KNOW experientially. That will make you a radically authentic Soul Artist. One who can move mountains.

To learn more about Yoga World Reach visit www.yogaworldreach.org

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Join the Conversation

  1. AnacostiaYogi says:

    Great article! And everything you mentioned about feeling intimidated about sharing the practice.
    I have found that presenting yoga to your community in a way that fits their reality will make the practice more accessible. Using music that is fun and words that are easy to connect with the body.

    Also create an atmosphere for questions, dialogue and sharing.

    Anacostiayogi

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