Tell me how you first got involved in with YO?
I can’t believe it’s been 10 year since I first got involved in YO! In 2007, I was a brand new baby lawyer and about to start working with marginalized clients in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. I was also a pretty devoted yoga practitioner and wanted to explore how I could combine these two things that were so important to me. I’m pretty sure I actually googled “yoga” and “outreach” – or maybe it was “yoga” and “prisons” – and I found Yoga Outreach. I was so excited that there was an organization working to share the benefits of yoga with people who faced barriers to access, and I knew immediately that I wanted to get involved.
What was your first impression of YO?
At that time, Yoga Outreach was like a little engine that could. Tiny staff, a handful of programs, not much profile in the community… In a lot of ways it still is a little engine that could, but it’s been amazing to watch the organization grow as its gained credibility and a reputation for doing great work.
What’s your most moving experience Volunteering as a Yoga Teacher with YO?
I have the privilege of teaching some students their very first ever yoga class. People who come to my classes are in treatment for addiction issues, so they’re already dealing with a lot. I know that a yoga class can be an intimidating experience for some people, so I aim to make the environment in my classes feel really friendly, relaxed and open. My most satisfying experiences have been having new students come in seeming a little overwhelmed and watching as their faces and bodies soften and relax as the class progresses, and as the postures and breathing have their effect. It’s neat to watch people experience awakenings about what their bodies can do, the strength they hold, and the calm and clarity that can come from something as simple as sitting still and breathing deep. For me, that’s what it’s all about.
What impact do you think volunteering with YO has on the community, if any?
Right now, I’m most excited about YO’s partnership with the BC Society of Transition Houses, which is allowing us to expand our yoga trainings and programs all across the province, and to work with women and children fleeing violence. Separating from an abusive spouse has to be one of the most difficult, stressful, emotional and vulnerable things a woman will ever have to do. I’m so proud and happy that YO is able to offer women a brief respite from what they’re dealing with – an opportunity to feel good and be safe in their bodies and feel supported in relationship with others. If it makes her journey even just a little bit easier, that’s everything.
What do you wish other people knew about YO?
One thing I wish people knew about YO is that just because all the teachers are volunteers and the classes are free doesn’t mean we don’t need to fundraise! We’ve got incredible staff who develop curricula, deliver trainings, coordinate programs, support volunteers and so much more, and they need to be compensated! So I hope people know how easy it is to become a monthly donor, and how much of a difference their generosity and support make.
What would you share with someone who was thinking about volunteering with YO?
I’d also want folks to know that there are lots of ways to get involved! You can volunteer to teach a class, you can spread the word about our work, you can help with fundraising, you can donate the proceeds from one of your own private classes or workshops to Yoga Outreach…there are so many possibilities. It’s a fantastic organization to work with.
What are you doing when you aren’t volunteering with YO?
In my day job, I’m a human rights lawyer at the Community Legal Assistance Society. I help people who’ve experienced discrimination pursue their cases at the BC Human Rights Tribunal. You might also find me riding around town on my bicycle, hiking in the hills, or digging in the dirt in my vegetable garden.