By Alena Campo, Lynda Lawrence, and Linda Lopes
Yoga Share’s co-founders (from L-R: Alena, Lynda, and Linda)
Yoga, according to Patanjali (aka the “Father of Modern Yoga”), is “the cessation of the modifications, or fluctuations, of the mind.” The idea is that this breath and movement through a series of asanas (poses) result in stillness of the mind. Here in the West, and especially in urban areas like New York City, there is often less of an emphasis on achieving this mental state, with the focus largely being on physical fitness and/or nailing that challenging asana for a “like”-worthy social media post. Yoga can also be a luxury for many with the average class price around $20-$25/session, monthly memberships around $120/month or higher, and the pressure to show up to class with the best yoga wear. On top of that, yoga class locations are clustered in wealthier areas of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens but lacking or absent in many residential neighborhoods elsewhere. This results in the inability for many to travel to attend classes with high-quality instructors. But everyone deserves access to the peace of mind and body that yoga offers.
In addition to the assumption that yoga is unaffordable, yoga has been maligned by many other misinformed stigmas: that it is an activity only for women, young people, able-bodied people, or people who practice Hinduism or Buddhism. Here’s the reality, though: When you boil it down, the key component to yoga is the breath. So if you’re breathing, you can do yoga! But because of the presence of these stigmas, individuals who do not fall into these categories end up missing out on the benefits of yoga as classes are not tailored accordingly.
What we end up with is a practice that is unsuitable and inaccessible for many individuals who could really benefit from yoga (and we at Yoga Share believe that everyone could benefit from it).
The good news: Community centers and local neighborhood organizations are now beginning to embrace yoga, offering all-levels yoga to residents and community members at low/no cost. That said, it can still be challenging to link up high-quality instructors who know how to teach to a variety of populations at these centers. That’s why we created Yoga Share (in 2018)—a not-for-profit initiative whose mission is to make yoga more accessible to everyone in New York City. With programming in underserved pockets within Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens, for the first time, individuals of all ages (children, young adults, adults and the elderly) are being introduced to yoga. And what makes Yoga Share’s classes different from the typical class you’d find at a high-end studio is the emphasis on meditation, mindfulness, careful movement, and community. Instructors are trained and encouraged to offer multiple variations of postures to best serve students with a wide range of capabilities and mobilities. Students learn to work together and trust one another with creative partner postures and yoga activities and games. Yoga Share hopes to change the way we view yoga and share the practice with as many people as possible who are interested and open to the idea of mindfulness practices. The best part is that students are never charged to attend class, there is no dress code, and mats and props are completely complimentary to use.
Help Bring Yoga to All
Yoga Share hopes to expand their reach and keep introducing yoga to more people. You can support Yoga Share at their website, www.yogasharenyc.com, to make a donation—and follow them on Instagram (@yogashare_nyc) and Facebook (@yogasharenyc). Yoga Share also accepts lightly used/unused mat and/or prop and other gear donations. Even if you don’t have the means to monetarily support us, what any and all yogis can do is take a closer look at how you show up to yoga class, examine your intentions, and remember the end goal of promoting inner peace. We also encourage you to think about other creative ways to share fitness and mindfulness activities with your local community.
About the Cofounders:
Alena Campo is a cofounder of Yoga Share. Her approach as a yoga teacher is to guide beings into their inner light. She is a 200-hour certified instructor trained at Laughing Lotus in Brooklyn and has received additional training in trauma-informed yoga and promoting inclusivity in the yoga classroom. Alena is looking forward to introducing yoga and all of its benefits to more people.
Lynda Lawrence is a cofounder of Yoga Share. Her vision is to share yoga as a tool to better one’s health, both mental and physical. She has a special interest in working within the Latino communities in NYC and medical settings. Lynda has taught in Nicaragua and Honduras and continues to teach in the clinic she works at for the underserved. Her 200 PYT training was completed at Avalon Yoga International in Palo Alto, California.
Linda Lopes is a cofounder of Yoga Share. She is a trained and certified adult and youth yoga instructor. Through her personalized group yoga sessions, she strives to meet the needs of the participants while creating a fun, relaxing, and safe environment. Her teaching consists of breath work, yoga postures, meditation, mindfulness techniques, and focus/concentration activities. She is extremely passionate about working with both adults and adolescents to help them heal physically, mentally, and emotionally.