Please describe your project and how you came up with the idea.
My project had three components: teaching yoga classes at the ARCH for clients and staff, doing academic research on the benefits of yoga for people experiencing homelessness, and educating the Austin yoga community about social inequality and access to yoga. This project came from reading theories of class, gender, and race, and then applying those frameworks to yoga and inequality in Austin. I’ve learned a great deal about health, inequality, and access to resources, and the potential of yoga to heal.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of your Connecting Experience?
The most rewarding aspects of this experience were developing relationships with clients and staff and seeing the positive impacts yoga has already had on them over the last couple of months. The classes helped our students with physical and mental health issues, and the students reported feeling more empowered and motivated to make positive changes in their lives. One student told us the yoga classes motivated him to change his life and go find a new job, which he reportedly did the next week!
In what ways has this Connecting Experience shaped your plans for the future?
This project has incredibly strengthened my desire to continue working around issues of social inequality and social justice. It has shown me that I must include aspects of community organizing and leadership in my future goals, and that I want to continue working with populations like those at the ARCH. Academically, it has inspired me to include issues surrounding public health and inequality in my studies. Professionally, it has caused me to reevaluate my approach to teaching yoga. I now am planning on developing a new teaching model based upon donations and barter to make yoga available to everyone, not just those with racial and economic privilege.
Discuss the relationship you had with your faculty mentor and how she helped you during this Connecting Experience.
My mentor, professor Vicki Packheiser, has been such a great resource and a joy to work with for this project. She has continually provided fantastic support and guidance while offering ideas that have made this project successful and interesting beyond my initial expectations. She has been fundamental to how great it has been!