Project: Yoga and arts instruction for at-risk teen girls.
People: Participants in The Art of Yoga Project, a regional non-profit that brings yoga and writing to 14 to 18-year-old girls being held in juvenile detention; some of the at-risk teens the organization serves.
After reporting on the Art of Yoga Project for a wellness magazine, I wanted to become involved in the education component. But only certified yoga teachers qualified. Despite having some sort of allergy to retaining Sanskrit phrases, I signed up for a 100-hour teacher training with little sense of how rough it would be.
For my second training I bought pose magnets with English and Sanskrit names and, vocabulary be damned, discovered that I actually could teach yoga decently. So I applied to work with girls at the San Francisco Juvenile Justice Center.
“We can’t do that,” the girls told another volunteer and me during my first class at the facility. “Only skinny white girls can do that.”
“Surprise yourself,” I told them. They stared me up and down. I asked if one of them wanted to lead the next pose (I wasn’t getting very far). The more experienced teacher and I were surprised when a girl who’d barely spoken slowly took her peers through “bird of paradise,” a very challenging pose to describe. Svarga Dvidasana never sounded so good.