Research is showing evidence of the health and economic benefits of integrating yoga in schools, health centers, prisons, domestic violence shelters, VA centers and more. Several programs and organizations are forming, seeking to serve specific populations. Some programs offer free services and fizzle out within a few years. Other organizations downsize drastically due to cut in funding. Many emerging and established organizations are doing similar work, overlapping communities, and don't know about each others work. Each with complimentary strengths, why not support each other and exchange strengths so that collectively the growing demand can be met with a sustainable, deeper impact?
When organizations collaborate by listening, engaging in dialogue, and sharing networks and resources, synergy happens. What could be achieved individually will be far surpassed when combined jointly. Together, yogis and organizations will be able to affect and engage society on several levels and in multiple directions simultaneously – children, adults, seniors, schools, health centers, prisons, women’s trauma centers, north side, south side, west side, suburbs. Through collaboration, dedication, hard work, persistence, and patience, we will be able to build each other’s capacity and propel each other forward. The key thread to weaving yogis, organizations, communities together is interpersonal connection. Through authentic engagement, support, and interconnection, we can shine light upon awareness and spread compassion.
The collective effort will sustain itself and be impactful. When stories of under-resourced communities benefiting from yoga spread and are frequently highlighted, curiosity will spread, thus encouraging mainstream perspectives to open. Perhaps more light can shine upon awareness and compassion. Even if only a small percentage of people are affected, there’s a bit less suffering in the world.
Through our work, we can root yoga-based resources that support physical, psychological, and spiritual health in highly stressed, under-resourced communities. Maybe a child will be empowered at a young age in a safe setting that is usually not easily accessible and learn how to recognize and diffuse intense emotions. Maybe a senior will learn to soften and open her heart just a little so that a conversation can begin again with an estranged sibling. Maybe a father undergoing cancer treatment can learn some techniques that help him begin to feel his own grief for the first time. Maybe a parent will discover a new way to connect with the kids while doing something healthy and fun. Maybe someone incarcerated will have a moment of peace after unfolding deep layers of trauma and anger. Maybe a woman with long history of abuse will recognize the light within and remember how to empower herself. Even if the impact is brief, the change in vibration is contagious. Waves of change in perspective can gain momentum and eventually result in a paradigm shift. Collectively, the more often and more people that are affected, the higher chances there are of more people awakening.
Chicagoland will be improved if we accomplish our mission because yoga teachers will be brought together to work collaboratively toward a common goal of increasing access to yoga to those most in need of yoga. Everyone in Chicagoland will have access to yoga at some place within their community. This army of peaceful warriors can and will lead by example to create a more peaceful, healthful and equal society.
Ultimately, our downstream impact could lead to providing support for other movements supporting similar values of democratic inclusivity and empowerment. Yoga is just one way in which people can help themselves and their communities grow healthier and more empowered. Socially engaged yoga can contribute to a bigger set of like-minded initiatives. While yoga can’t “save the world” on its own, it’s a great tool that can support other resources and initiatives that similarly help build individual and community resilience, health, and empowerment.