Shanti Generation is a unique organization in that they are able to use their yoga teaching abilities to be of service in their community while creating a sustainable business. For many aspiring yoga teachers, it is their dream to be able to use their craft to help their community and the world. More so, many teachers love the idea of being able to teach yoga to children yet are not sure where to start or how to go about it. Building a business like this takes some time and know-how and we were fortunate enough to get some insight from Abby Wills of Shanti Generation in what she has been doing.
How did you first get turned on to yoga?
During undergraduate studies in Philosophy and World Religion, I read the Upanishads. The text offers remarkable and refreshing perspectives on life, humanity and our place in the whole. The Eastern studies curriculum surrounding the text revealed a completely new way of seeing the world. I felt this worldview was much more in alignment with my own nature than some of the concepts I grew up with. This inspired me to take part in the yogic practices.
What inspired you to become a yoga teacher?
The inner calling to share the art and discipline that turned my life around.
What is Shanti Generation and what is your mission and goal with the organization?
Shanti Generation is a collaboration of youth, teachers from both the yoga and education fields, creative artists, parents and media producers dedicated to making yoga more accessible to more youth. We produce yoga media that is relevant to youth. In addition, we offer workshops and trainings to youth and teachers. We strive to help practitioners connect the dots between yoga practice, mindful living and social justice.
What do you find are the big differences between teaching yoga to adults versus children and youth?
In adult yoga, the teacher-student relationship is often such the teacher holds the knowledge to be passed to the student. In the way Shanti Generation approaches youth yoga, knowledge is constructed as a community. Rather than a class of students facing a teacher sitting on a pedestal, imagine a circle wherein the teacher is on the same level as the students. From there, we grow, play and quite honestly, go much deeper into the practices because the power structure is one of sharing.
What are some of the challenges you face? How do you overcome them?
The biggest challenge is that the schools and kids who want and need these practices most often do not have a budget for it. We partner with other organizations and studios to provide classes on a donation basis. This is also one of the main reasons we make DVD’s. They are highly cost effective for schools and can reach many more students.
The other big challenge is time. Since so much of what we do is on a volunteer basis, we must balance our time scales efficiently. The plan for the future is to gain sponsorship so that we can expand our work and reach.
So many yoga students who aspire to become yoga teachers would also love to give back to their community in the same way you do. However many find it challenging monetizing “giving”. How have you found that balance?
I think it’s a mindset that we must get paid for all the work we do. The rewards of teaching yoga to youth and teachers go far beyond any paycheck. If you take the leap and follow your heart, trust that your needs will be met. In the beginning of doing this work, I made a decision that I would live simply, which is very aligned with yogic life. In the process, I have been blessed with abundance.
Do you have any advice for students who are interested in using yoga to support their community in the same manner yoga have?
Keep learning. It’s common to meet people who identify as “kids yoga teachers,” but have only actually studied the art for one day in a workshop. Don’t get caught up in the “certification” trap. Learn in every class you “teach.” Read, observe, assist, find a mentor. Always be in process. Collaborate.
Do you have anything new and exciting coming up?
Yes! We are in post-production on two projects. Yoga Allies: Partner Yoga for Teens will be released later this spring and our Classroom Wellness Series will soon follow.
To learn more visit Shanti Generation