As part of my graduation requirement for my Yoga Teacher Training I had an opportunity, along with my group of talented women, to develop a Seva Project to bring yoga to our communities.
“Seva” in Sanskrit means ‘selfless service.’ Seva Projects are based on classic yoga principals, such as self-exploration, values clarification, and the importance of a thriving community, as well as skills that enhance one’s ability to live a life based on truth, simplicity, purity, non-harm, and surrender to the present moment.
Being a part of Inner Power Yoga, where I studied under yoga master and director Rachel Redding (R. R. Shakti), there were already several Seva Projects that she, along with previous students, had developed within the community, in addition to around the world.
Some of these projects included HEART BACK TO INDIA: bringing yoga to children in orphanages and schools in Southeast Asia, including Ramana’s Garden in Rishikesh, India; and the Surya Boarding School in Khandburi, Nepal;YOGA BRIDGE TO AFRICA: offering Yoga education for the fellows of the Strongheart Fellowship in Liberia, W. Africa;HALO YOUTH YOGA : joining the Halo Foundation to bring Yoga Seva to at-risk youth in Denver CO.; and COMING HOME : a transformational weekend for women survivors of trauma.
The Inner Power Yoga Teacher Training Program was hosted at Yoga 360 in Frankfort, IL. and encouraged us to look at our communities’ needs to see how we could apply our Seva project.
As my group and I were gathering ideas for our project, we came across The Bridge Teen Center in Orland Park to volunteer our yoga services to a group of teen girls for a month.
The Bridge Teen Center is a non-profit community center that is designed around the interests and needs of teens in the suburbs.
The Bridge also serves teens and families from all over the Chicago Southland and Northwest Indiana area. They provide free programs during after-school and unsupervised hours where students can develop mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually in a safe environment.
Students in 7th-12th grade can attend, and the center also provides monthly programming to help parents navigate through the teenage years. Students can begin attending Bridge programs during the summer they are going into 7th grade, and can continue through the summer after they graduate from high school.
As we began forming our groups for the teen girls, we developed a weekly curriculum that focused on Nutrition and Honoring Your Body, Yoga for Energy, Pranayama (breath work), and the Importance of Sleep.
We gave the girls handouts for each of the weekly series, had informal discussions about the topics, developed yoga sequences to help support and nourish their bodies, minds, and souls, and ended with affirming meditations. The sessions lasted for an hour and there were girls from 7th to 12th grade in attendance, usually in a group of 5 to 10.
Working with these girls was an incredible experience and giving them the tools to grow and take charge of their bodies was invaluable. By investing their time in yoga, the girls were able to take away a vast array of positive coping skills that they could implement in their lives both “on and off the mat.”
When feeling stressed, the girls could reach for deep breathing or other pranayama (breath work) techniques to support them. When experiencing insomnia, the girls could utilize pranayama and asanas (yoga postures) to help them get to sleep faster.
When making healthful food choices, the girls could tune into their bodies and focus on how certain foods made them feel.
By learning through yoga the connection our bodies, minds, and souls create, the girls were able to get a taste of how they could become more in touch with themselves and others by manifesting a life based on trust and truth, rather than fear.
Reaching out, volunteering, and giving my time to these girls was also a reminder about how our teens need us. How our teens need positive role models, meaningful programs to fill their time and expand their knowledge, feeling safe and respected among adults and their peers, and fostering caring friendships and relationships that support each other.
The Bridge was not only a place for the girls to “hang out” at after school hours but, rather, a place they connected to because of the caring atmosphere and the quality of programming that reflected their needs and interests.
The Bridge Teen Center
15555 S. 71st Court
Orland Park, IL 60462