Our Work in the World

Here to Be Foundation/Lululemon Scholarship Recipients are Opening Yoga to Everybody

From October 1-5, 2018 we welcomed over 30 trainees to our studio for Opening Yoga Level I/II. Also among the group were the first group of scholarship recipients thanks to a generosity of the Here to Be Foundation. Each of them shares the healing gifts of yoga with an underserved population in their community. Now, they do it even better with the insights and practices of an MBS Opening Yoga training under their belt. A great big thank you to the Here to Be Foundation/Lululemon for making this possible. Keep reading to learn more about each of the recipients and how they plan to take this work back to the people and communities that they serve (NB: We have listed these stories in the order in which they appear in the photo above – left to right):

Natasha Holbert, a Chicago-based yoga teacher, and director of Chicago Lights Urban Farms (watch this clip to learn more about the farm) is committed to helping her community and hopes to make yoga more accessible to those who lack access. Having worked on the farm for nine years, she has felt both growth and the impact of community. Working in a transitioning community, and one that has been historically under-resourced, she has also witnessed and grieved with those who have experienced violence. Her work is vital as it has created a space of grounding and support for these individuals. On making yoga more accessible, Natasha explains how she came to the realization that she had the power to create change. “As a black woman, in the present political climate, my mat – at least in a yoga studio setting – has felt less and less like a place of sanctuary. I had been seeking more inclusive spaces to practice and realized I, a teacher and practitioner, can make yoga more accessible. I can help create spaces for transformation, ones that celebrate and honor the diversity of age, bodies, experiences, and perspectives.” Natasha says that Matthew’s book and teachings had already helped her change her relationship to her body and change the way she practices and teaches yoga. Now, with additional Opening Yoga training, she plans to incorporate more yoga into the farm programs and eventually teach a weekly class in a community and to people that have limited access to yoga.

 

Mick Warwick who serves in the British Army is currently based in Nanyuki, Kenya and he is embarking to establish different types of yoga classes for his military community. His first objective is to develop classes for family members of the soldiers on the base. Mick explains that within this group there are varying levels of experience and ability but ultimately, he would like to use yoga as a tool to nurture a sense of community among this small, close-knit group while supporting each individual’s practice – no matter where they land on the spectrum of ability and experience. His second objective is to introduce yoga to the soldiers themselves and through introductory sessions, share the benefits of how yoga can help in the physical and mental demands of their daily life. He also hopes to develop classes and opportunities for those who wish to further their practice. Finally, he wishes to develop adaptive yoga opportunities for the local county, which he admits is probably the most ambitious strand of this overall project. He explains that slowly but surely Africa, including Kenya, is beginning to make changes in the disability community but it will be a first for the county he’s based in. There are some challenges around cultural sensitivities and engagement with the community liaison but Mick hasn’t seen any reason why this project can’t come to fruition. About the training at MBS, Mick says,  “Accessing this incredible training has taken my yoga teaching and practice to another level. The depth and detail of knowledge coupled with experiential learning and feelings that we all experienced and received was beyond words; it has inspired me to move and continue my teaching; branching out with confidence and tenacity to try, try and try and having the team’s enthusiasm, support and belief in us every step of the way is a privilege. Thank you, Matthew and the team at Mind Body Solutions.”

 

Jake Gau from Minneapolis, Minnesota works as an Occupational Therapist with young and older adults with complex neurological conditions in an outpatient setting. He is also a longtime volunteer in MBS’ adaptive yoga program and teaches an MBS adaptive yoga class at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute on Monday evenings. When asked how the training will or has helped his work, he says, “This training has helped me immensely in providing the care and treatment that my patients deserve. Already in my first week of work I have had several ‘breakthroughs’ as a practitioner that would not have been possible without this training and the work of MBS. I’m finding new and unique ways to bring the adaptive yoga class into my treatment space, whether it is helping a young adult with severe positioning needs and his spouse to find new ways of aligning and opening his body through the help of assistants and props, or working with a long time patient to find new and dynamic ways of incorporating grounding and expansion into his recovery.”

 

Rachael Osborne visited us from Fayetteville, AR and during her week with us, she experienced personal transformation that she plans carry forward into her own life while also sharing with her neighbors and community. She explains, “For years I have had the privilege of accompanying persons with varying abilities, children and adults with and without developmental disabilities, progressive chronic illnesses, and who are terminally dying. I have shared life with the L’Arche community, where people with and without disabilities live daily life and create home together, walked with aging couples who are walking together in new ways as their loved one’s ability to ambulate is compromised. I have laughed and played with children who have developmental disabilities in classroom settings and tried to listen to the voices and stories, challenges and joy of all of these people. Something I have seen and heard is that there are a few common things we share together that open us more directly to our lives, human lives that are spiritual and physical. Merging the body and spirit together is one of those ways. Through the Opening Yoga Level I/II training with Mind Body Solutions, I was able to witness and participate in this connection! Since the training and in my own practice, in moments of tiredness and fatigue and sometimes irritation after encountering an overload of stimulation in the day, I am discovering the possibility of connecting with the invitation to stillness and serenity through connecting with my feet, sitting cross-legged, taking each foot one at a time, massaging and rolling mindfully each ankle, bringing my fingers in between my toes, as Matthew invited us to participate in during the training. Connection to our innermost selves can be found in the subtlest of movements in the neglected places, the places that need care. That is my hope moving forward, to help my neighbours with and without disabilities, to connect more deeply with the places in our lives that need attention and care-namely, our gifts, to have space to open and express those gifts through different creative expressions and movement that open us up to who we are, hopefully creating greater opportunities for love, inwardly and outwardly.”

 

Rich Cracraft from Minneapolis, MN has been serving his community as a yoga teacher and currently teaches a chair yoga class for seniors. In the past, he has also taught Hatha yoga at the Fridley Community Center as well as his home and local park. Recently he joined the cadre of MBS volunteers, sharing his time as an adaptive yoga class assistant at the MBS studio and  Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute in Golden Valley, MN. When asked how training at MBS has helped him, he says, “The training I received was life-changing in its impact to me professionally and personally. The training reinforced my desire to teach yoga to underserved populations, such as people with mood disorders and/or Autism. Yoga has had a profound effect on my life since I began my practice and I know from personal experience that yoga can help people with mood disorders and Autism, as I have both.” He continues to say that this training was only the tip of the iceberg for him and he plans to return for Advanced Studies in 2019 as well as pursue the Opening Yoga Instructor (OYI) certificate, an independent study program that involves a specialized curriculum and completion of assignments under the guidance of an MBS faculty member.

 

Are you committed to bringing the healing gifts of yoga to an underserved population or community? Click here to learn more about our various training opportunities: Opening Yoga Level I/II, A Mind Body Approach to Trauma & PTSD, or Advanced Studies. Questions may also be directed to Director of Programs, Amy Samson-Burke: amy@mindbodysolutions.org.