Florida A&M will be the first historically black college offering Yoga Gangsters certification training.
Students will be able to take the two-day training in January. There will be an interest meeting October 17 in the Wellness Suite of the Hansel E. Tookes Sr. Student Recreation Center .
Yoga Gangsters makes it possible for children of color to practice yoga and reap its benefits. The organization gives the gift of yoga to children. But the organization is looking to give the gift of yoga to more than just children.
The Miami-based non-profit organization is looking to expand to Tallahassee, starting with FAMU.
According to organization’s website, a yoga gangster is one who intentionally utilizes his or her thoughts, words and actions to empower humanity. Qualities include compassion, acceptance, awareness, health and willingness to grow and develop oneself 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. 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.
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 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.
Terri Cooper, founder of Yoga Gangsters, said the psychological benefits of practicing yoga are the motives behind creating her company. She 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 said. “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 regard to coming to FAMU, Cooper said she is humbled to be invited. She said this will be a new experience for her.
“I work with mostly Latin-American, black-American and Haitian-American kids in impoverished communities,” Cooper said. “If you look at the yoga community, it consists of predominantly upper class white women.”
Cooper said her experiences in poverty allow her to connect with the youth she teaches.
“I didn’t graduate from college,” she said. “I plan to come to FAMU with an open heart and curiosity.”
Cooper pledged to do her best to bring her experience with the youth and fully commit to the collaboration of Rattler Wellness and Yoga Gangsters, which started 10 years ago and is now in nine states, including Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, 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 who have been trained through Yoga Gangsters has headed programs in more than 25 inner cities.
One of the trained teachers has even gone to teach yoga in Russia. In 2012 alone, more than 1,000 kids have been taught yoga, according to the company website.
Cooper said she would love to see more kids in impoverished communities have access to yoga and learn it. 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.
“I would love to diversify the face of yoga, but it’s really not up to me,” Cooper said. “It’s up to the communities as to how far Yoga Gangsters goes in the future.”
For more information about Yoga Gangsters, visit yogagangsters.org. If interested in becoming a part of Yoga Gangsters training at FAMU, email firstname.lastname@example.org.