Florida A&M University Student Writer
(BLACK PR WIRE/FAMU-TALLAHASSEE) – A Caucasian woman in an awkward pose on a blue mat is the image most people have when they think of yoga.
Imagine a room full of black and brown children meditating and holding yoga positions.
Yoga Gangsters has made it possible for children of color to practice yoga and reap its benefits. The organization gives the gift of yoga to children. Yoga Gangsters is looking to give the gift of yoga to more than just children.
The Miami-based non-profit organization is looking to expand in Tallahassee starting with Florida A&M University. The university will be the first HBCU offering Yoga Gangster certification training.
According to the organization, a Yoga Gangster is “one who intentionally utilizes their thoughts, words and actions to empower humanity. Qualities include compassion, acceptance, awareness, health and willingness to grow and develop oneself and to support the healing of others and the planet.”
Yoga Gangsters’ mission is to inspire youth by focusing on the signs of trauma and poverty. These indicators include “limited education, addiction, violence, incarceration, teen pregnancy, HIV, physical/mental disabilities and more using the science and practice of yoga. It serves inner city areas by providing a network of free classes teaching yoga in at-risk schools, hospitals, jails, youth centers and other non-profit organizations.”
Students at FAMU come from these aforementioned backgrounds. Due to this diversity in the student population, Rattler Wellness and Yoga Gangsters will come together to aid the empowerment of the students who can in turn inspire those in the surrounding community.
Kimi Walker, a FAMU Student Health Services health educator, said she would like to see the FAMU group of Yoga Gangsters serve the Tallahassee community and local organizations. She wants those in the community “to see familiar faces and to break down stigmas in the underserved populations.”
For the minority community FAMU plans to serve, yoga benefits conditions that plague this community such as lower blood sugar, lower cholesterol levels and effectiveness combating heart disease.
The Yoga Journal stated studies about yoga are dramatically increasing. Yoga has many benefits such as increasing flexibility, balance and strength. Aside from the physical effects, yoga has been shown to improve psychological welfare. Stress reduction is one of yoga’s most major benefits. The psychological benefits were the motives behind Yoga Gangsters’ Founder Terri Cooper practicing yoga.
Cooper said she began Yoga Gangsters because of her own path as a youth. Cooper had a tough adolescence and admitted that she made some bad decisions during that time.
“Yoga helped me reclaim my life and helped me make better decisions,” Cooper declared. “It’s my duty to at least hold a conversation about school-prison pipeline and other issues that plague the urban community. Race, privilege and power will be taught.”
In regards to coming to FAMU, Cooper said she is humbled to be invited to FAMU. Cooper said this will be a new experience for her.
“I work with mostly Latin-American, black-American and Haitian-American kids in impoverished communities. If you look at the yoga community, it consists of predominantly upper class white women,” Cooper continued. She said her experiences in poverty allow her to connect with the youth she teaches.
“I didn’t graduate from college. I plan to come to FAMU with an open heart and curiosity,” promised Cooper. She pledged to do her best to bring her experience with the youth and fully commit to the collaboration of Rattler Wellness and Yoga Gangsters.
The organization started 10 years ago and is now in nine states including Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Maine, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Upcoming trainings will take place in New Jersey and New York. So far, Yoga Gangsters has trained almost 300 volunteer yoga teachers. Teachers that have been trained through Yoga Gangsters have headed programs in over 25 inner cities. One of these trained teachers has even gone to teach yoga in Russia. In 2012 alone, over 1,000 kids have been taught yoga.
Cooper said she would love to see more kids in impoverished communities have access to yoga and learn about yoga. She welcomes the presence of Yoga Gangsters in any city that is interested in having the program. After the training at FAMU Cooper said she would be interested in training at different HBCUs.
Cooper went on to say, “I would love to diversify the face of yoga but it’s really not up to me, it’s up to the communities as to how far Yoga Gangsters goes in the future.”
For more information about Yoga Gangsters, visit http://yogagangsters.org. If you’re interested in becoming a part of Yoga Gangsters training at FAMU, please email email@example.com.
The HBCU Writer's Project is designed to allow students attending historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) the opportunity to exhibit their writing skills and have their works published on a national news wire website. Submissions are authored by individual student writers, and are not officially endorsed by any educational institution. For more information on the HBCU Writer's Project, contact 1-877-BlackPR or email firstname.lastname@example.org.