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Youth Yoga Project Expanding in Columbus

Nancy Alkire Nancy Alkire Youth Yoga Project Expanding in ColumbusCentral Ohio students in Youth Yoga Project classes.
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“’I wish I had yoga when I was a kid in school.’ ‘I am so glad to hear kids have access to yoga in schools now.’ ‘Replace detention with yoga? I AM IN!’” These are some of the comments that make the Youth Yoga Project founders Julia Handelman and Lauren Greenspan smile. Last year, they began their mission to get Columbus-area educators and students more access to yoga. The results have been overwhelmingly positive, and an info session for the Youth Yoga Project is coming up December 10 at Balanced Yoga.

Central Ohio students in Youth Yoga Project classes.

Central Ohio students in Youth Yoga Project classes.

“We started with just two schools, now we are in a dozen places,” said Handelman. Not only is the Youth Yoga Project (YYP) teaching students yoga, but they provide yoga and mindfulness training to the school staff.

“This helps staff deal with the stress and be better educators,” noted Handelman. “It also makes them more aware of the benefits of how our teachings could help their students.”

YYP is working with Lancaster High School on an alternative detention program using yoga and mindfulness. Youth Yoga also teaches yoga at Hannah Neil Center for Children and Central Community House.

“We work hard to make what we do comfortable and accessible to everyone,” said Greenspan.

This summer, Greenspan and Handelman received a Fund for Teachers grant to study with Holistic Life Foundation at the Omega Institute, as well as travel to India.

“We were so excited to go study yoga in schools in Bangalore (Bengaluru), India where the Atma Darshan Yogashram has been leading yoga education for children since 1964,” said Handelman. The training in India helped them design their own professional development.

“We wrote a yoga curriculum that provides students with a framework for processing and handling their emotions, and strengthens their ability to focus attention,” said Handelman.

Since launching their pilot programs in the Spring of 2017, the Youth Yoga Project has expanded to 12 schools and community spaces throughout Central Ohio. They hold weekly yoga classes for 9th graders at South High School (Columbus City Schools), for 2nd and 3rd graders at Stiles Elementary School in Southwest City Schools, and do enrichment classes at Woodcrest Elementary School (Columbus City School) to name a few. They also do many programs for educational staff members in the Columbus area.

“One of the really good things,” said Handelman, “has been connecting with the yoga community and businesses here in Columbus. Modo Yoga, Balanced Yoga Studios, Wolf Ridge Brewery, and Athleta at Easton have hosted yoga events for us that help raise funds for yoga programming in schools. We are grateful for the support of community members who have given their time and money to support Youth Yoga Project’s mission of providing students access to yoga programming in their educational setting.”

The Youth Yoga Project is a non-profit providing yoga and wellness programming for young people to improve their physical, social, and emotional well-being and increase their academic success. They provide yoga programming in schools during the regular school day and for after-school programs. Donations are accepted here. Check out their info session at Balanced Yoga on December 10 from 6 – 7 p.m.

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