How Yoga Can Be Used to Support Your Community
Yoga is more than just binding our bodies to our minds to our spirits. When we practice yoga, we have the potential to form a deep and loving connection with our students, teachers, and anyone else that we meet on our journey. Our practice can be such a positive force in our personal lives and can be expanded to make a positive impact on our communities.
Unfortunately, yoga studios are often associated with gentrification. As yoga prices that charge $30 a class start to move into a neighbourhood, they attract middle- and upper-class citizens that can afford those prices, pushing lower-class citizens out. If you notice this process happening in your community, you can work to open your studio to all of your neighbours. Yoga teachers and studios can also use their skills and space to start important conversations in the community and give beneficial organizations a platform to share their work with others.
Want to use yoga to support your community? Consider bringing the following events or ideas to your studio or business.
Yoga teachers know where the price tag behind a drop-in class or monthly membership goes. We also know that this price tag can be inaccessible to many students, individuals, or families that want to practice yoga. But yoga studios don’t have to turn away practitioners based on their income. Teachers and studio owners can open up their classes to the community by offering donation-based (often called “community”) yoga classes that quietly ask for donations at the beginning or the end of the class. Offering a donation-based class once or twice a week gives you the opportunity to meet students that you might not interact within a regularly-priced class.
Another idea is to give the proceeds of donation-based yoga classes to a charity or community organization that you admire. Reach out to the organization ahead of time and invite volunteers to attend the class for free. Give the floor to these volunteers at the end of class to talk about their organization and how they interact with the community. Offering a platform for community members starts a conversation that normally wouldn’t take place in a class, and builds a bond between your students and members of the community.
Scholarships for Teacher Training
The costs of classes are minimal compared to the cost of teacher training. Build a bond between your studio and your community by hiring teachers from the neighbourhood. If someone is interested in teaching, but cannot afford the price tag of teacher training, offer a scholarship or some sort of payment plan. Anyone with the passion to teach should have the opportunity to complete teacher training; arrangements can be made to benefit a teacher who can teach you and your studio about how yoga can benefit different communities.
Reach Out to Community Event Organizers
In addition to bringing community events to the studio, teachers can go to community events with their services. Reach out to organizations and community leaders and ask if they have any events coming up where you could teach a free yoga class or set up a booth advertising your studio. Invite your students and other teachers to attend the event and support the cause or organization. The more you get out in the community, as a yoga teacher or just a member, the more you can introduce your business to people in the community.
The Prison Yoga Project was established in 2002, and has trained over 1700 volunteers to teach at prisons, residential treatment facilities, and inner city community projects. Some of the prisoners who took classes through the Prison Yoga Project have gone on to teach and train other teachers. Other organizations, including Yoga Behind Bars, offer alternative treatment that can be used to teach prisoners. If your community has prisons or similar facilities, consider taking the training offered by The Prison Yoga Project or a similar organization.
Prison yoga is just one example of bringing yoga and mindfulness to people who cannot access yoga otherwise. Yoga can be such a beautiful tool that helps practitioners work through trauma, anger, and other strong emotions. Working outside of a studio, to students who may be very different to the students you are used to teaching, is more than just an act of service; it’s a wonderful opportunity to open your mind and learn more about teaching and sharing the gift of yoga.
Yoga at Places of Worship
Plenty of yoga practitioners also practice some form of religion. Communities don’t have to be limited to neighborhoods; religious institutions create a beautiful sense of community for their followers. If you attend some form of church or place of worship, reach out to community leaders about hosting yoga classes. The relationship between yoga and Western religions is often misunderstood or confusing, so offering a class and starting a conversation can help to bridge the gap and build a bond between community members.
Have any other suggestions or groups that you admire doing similar work in their communities? Let us know in the comments!
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