Street Art via www.streetartutopia.com

“What happens when your soul
Begins to awaken
Your eyes
And your heart
And the cells of your body
To the great Journey of Love?
First there is wonderful laughter
And probably precious tears…”
– Hafiz


Dear Street Yoga Community,

It is with gratitude and excitement that I have come to join the Street Yoga team as the Program Director.  My path toward this new endeavor has been winding, starting with my time in a tiny Nicaraguan village as a Peace Corps Volunteer from 2004-2006.  It was during this time that I was introduced to yoga by a fellow volunteer and began to explore the practice that would become a significant source of healing, introspection, and empowerment for me. It was also through the experience of living in the beautiful Nicaraguan culture that I witnessed some of the most significant suffering and equally immense generosity and joy.  This unexpected bounty of resilience and health within the context of Nicaragua being the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere was striking to me.

I returned to the US with a deeper appreciation for the struggles and pain that result from poverty and oppression, but also for the power of the inherent ability to heal that every person possesses.  This formative experience led me to an opportunity working with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.  First as an advocate and later as a Clinical Social Work Intern.  The survivors that I worked with also exemplified tremendous courage and resilience in the midst of pain and cruelty.  Viktor Frankl once said,

“Between stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Frankl’s wisdom came to life in a sexual assault therapy group where a colleague and I offered yoga and meditation among the healing tools.  Following the yoga and meditation, the participants reported a sense of peace, feelings of safety in and connection to their bodies, and empowering freedom from anger and terror. Indeed, yoga and meditation offered the precious space between the cycle of trauma symptoms and an array of resilient responses. Following graduate school and the move to Portland, a friend introduced me to Street Yoga.

Original Painting by Anahata Katkin

As a Case Manager at Outside In, I was able to observe first-hand the power of the Street Yoga classes for youth experiencing homelessness.

It has since become apparent that the tremendous resilience and joy that people embodied in rural Nicaragua, in surviving domestic violence and sexual assault, and in the multi-faceted impact of homelessness can be fostered and supported through yoga- Street Yoga, to be specific.  While it may not be through yoga alone that youth rise into health, freedom, and joy, the compassion and insight that Street Yoga volunteers bring to their classes and the intrinsic gifts of the practice are powerful footholds.
While I am impressed with the research findings and physiological shifts yoga facilitates for the body, I am inspired by the beauty and process.  Hafiz stated it wonderfully when he described the experience of the body and soul “awakening to the Journey of Love” that is the healing and empowerment process.  “First there is wonderful laughter and probably precious tears…” and through yoga we hold space for it all.
As Street Yoga continues to offer this amazing opportunity to youth and caregivers in our community and beyond, I am eager to join you in this work.  I believe Gandhi summed up the deep gratitude and excitement I feel best, so I will close by offering a quote from him to each of you.  I look forward to meeting, growing, celebrating, and practicing with each of you!

‎”I offer you peace. I offer you love. I offer you friendship. I see your beauty. I hear your need. I feel your feelings. My wisdom flows from the Highest Source. I salute that Source in you. Let us work together for unity and love.” ~ Gandhi