Our first week of outreach, Dana and I walked through the doors of HQ to find a beautifully designed room for recreational use. It included a library, a big screen television surrounded by modern couches where most of the young adults were gathering, a small kitchen where volunteers provide three free meals a day, a computer room, a private room to make phone calls, laundry, showers, a pantry full of free toiletries and clothing, and my favorite a music corner equipped with an upright piano and various guitars!
We began to make introductions and make our presence and mission known, we were there to teach YOGA! Many were unimpressed with the idea but a few were complimentary and inquisitive. A young lady Ari and I instantly connected over our love for music. Within minutes we were rocking out a duet to Adele's "Set Fire To The Rain." I told her we needed to start a band, and she happily agreed. I used this opportunity to share with her how much Yoga has made an impact on my ability to sing, and how significantly it helps support breath control. She was intrigued but mostly just concerned with adding more songs to our repertoire.:)
Our intention and initial focus we knew had to be on building relationships and trust. I made many connections through past life experiences spent at Forest View hospital and strangely felt very much at home amongst these individuals. Overall I left my first day feeling excited about the year to come and the journey that lay ahead.
The next week I spent most of my time re-introducing myself and learning their stories about where they came from, why they were at HQ, what they wanted to do with their lives, and what they liked to eat, smoke, drink and listen to. My six years of sign language was put to use with a young man name Chase. He couldn't have been more thrilled to sign with me and ask me questions about my life. Side note: This is a common response among the deaf community and I'll take this moment to encourage all of you to learn some sign language as it is an incredibly isolated group of people. A young man Maleek shared that he had done yoga before and enjoyed it, he agreed to do yoga with me at some point but today he had to watch his laundry. Ari and I had made an agreement that if she did 15 minutes of meditation and pranayama, I would in exchange sing with her for 15 minutes. Baby steps. She was most responsive to a 5 count breath in, hold 5, exhale 5, hold 5. When she opened her eyes she said with a clear eyed gaze and whisper voice, "that was niiiiiice."
The third week I was bound and determined to get people to Yoga with me and I called in the troops (Ari) to help me. After little interest we began to sing once again, this time "Diamonds" by Rhianna. A young man named Chris stuck his head in and began to sing with us, I quickly used the opportunity to ask him if he wanted to do meditate with us. Unfortunately he didn't have the time, but later as I sit in my car, he ran out in the ran to knock at my window and ask if we could do that again next week. I told him yes, if he would consider trying Yoga with me and he agreed. Baby steps.
The following week a young lady Sade was eager to try some yoga! On our way to the room a young man Roffo showed interest and followed us. We started discussing what brought us happiness in our lives. They shared their passion of sports and rap music and how it made them feel. I made various correlations to yoga and things that made us FEEL GOOD, and they nodded with agreement and understanding. We did some light stretching in our chairs, some standing poses, but primarily focused on pranayama and meditation. It is my belief that breath will ultimately be the gateway for them to start and or want to try asanas. As of right now the their idea of Yoga is a man or woman with their legs behind their head. By showing them the many limbs of yoga, I'm optimistic that we will eventually get there!
This month has offered much humility and self reflection as I learn to navigate this new adventure. I look forward to working with these strong, intelligent, sometimes sassy human beings. It is a sweet reminder of where we all come from as we embark on the new challenges of being a teenager or early adulthood. These humans have even more obvious challenges but it is my hope that with time they will become more and more open to the experience of yoga and all it can offer. I leave you with something that one of the social workers said to me: " I call them all bubble kids. They can go this way or they can go another, but whatever decision they make will have a powerful effect on their future."
With love and light,
“The EmbodyGR community embraces and supports, says ‘yes you can’ when the noisy inner voice says, ‘no you can’t’ – Kari Wilson, Community Member