The unfortunate consequences of being poor deprives many children from participating in activities that could potentially break the spherical chains of poverty. Take yoga for instance. Wait don’t stop reading. I would like to take you through an exercise that will hopefully open your heart and mind. Now…Take a long, slow inhale through your nose and a long, slow exhale out through your mouth. Appreciate how important your breath is to your existence and your being. Take a couple more…inhales and exhales. Now appreciate what it means to use your breath, your voice to heal yourself and others. Just breathe slowly in and out… and relax for a couple of minutes before you resume reading. Relax your shoulders, relax your mind and just breathe. It is a joy to share a moment with you as I do on Tuesdays when I teach yoga to residents living in the Gainesville area public housing communities. Most of the children and many of the adult residents had never seen a yoga mat or been invited to a yoga class or had any conversation about ways to relieve stress and anxiety. Who thinks of providing stress relief to families in our deserving communities? Being poor is stressful, I know from firsthand experience, because when I graduated from high school in 1979 my family and I were still living in a house with no indoor plumbing. Stressful, painful and embarrassing, but that was my physical birth world, not my spiritual world.
As you are reading this, right now, there are children in our community living in a cocoon of fear and stress, impacting their physical and mental health. According to a recent study, poor children experience high levels of stress, because amongst other reasons, they live in violent neighborhoods, walk across many busy vehicular intersections, move residences twice as often and get evicted five times as often as the average American, and are more likely to be bullied in school. Findings show that chronic levels of stress have a negative impact on brain development and IQ levels. It might surprise you, but American children, across all socio-economic lines, are experiencing stress at new levels: suicide among adolescents has quadrupled since the 1950s and in the past decade, prescription drug use for emotional disorders is up 68 percent for girls and 30 percent for boys. When you add poverty and living in an unstable environment where many children have a friend or family member in prison or they themselves have had an encounter with law enforcement. Imagine trying to concentrate on school and getting a good night of rest, shacked with concerns about a parent or sibling is in prison. While these children are in this physical place, this cocoon of despair, yoga can help them start a transformation from the inside, so they can emerge into a world of hope and possibilities. Researchers at California State University examined the correlation between yoga and stress relief, academic performance, discipline, attendance, and self- esteem. The study showed that among students with a regular yoga practice there was a 20 percent increase in the number of students who felt good about themselves. The study also showed that students with a regular yoga practice had fewer discipline problems.
Eleven years ago, I discovered the benefits of a regular yoga practice along my journey to a more harmonious life. This science of self-development and self-awareness through the alignment of body, breath and soul is based upon a proven 5,000-year old ancient practice. I often wonder what I could have achieved, if at an early age, I had understood, that my circumstances did not define me. What if I had understood that critical and ugly words that people spoke did not define me? What if I had understood that connecting to my inner resources would bring me closer to the predestined accomplishments orchestrated by the Creator of the Universe? Our motto & quote; Yoga Lifts All Minds is supported by the proven science that a regular yoga practice improves the body, mind and spirit, manifesting in a healthier, calmer, stress- free life. Our goal is to teach children and families in our deserving communities the value of their breath and how to use their breath to lift them above their circumstances and take them to a place of peace that surpasses all understanding.
Namaste - There is a Divine spark within each of us.
Pamela D. Marshall,
Executive Director, At The WELLness Network. INC.
Author, Podcast Host Certified Y.O.G.A for Youth and Bikram Yoga Teacher