Make Someone Happy – Living Your Yoga Off the Mat in Cleveland (or your ‘hood)

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January 19, 2012

“Forget your selfishness, make others happy, and you will be the happiest person. By seeing others happy, you can’t be unhappy. But by making everyone unhappy, you can never be happy yourself. So, at least for your happiness, bring happiness to others.” – Sri Swami Satchidananda, from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

I had just started to read The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (a guidebook for the study and practice of yoga), when on page 11 this lovely quote popped up and really struck a chord with me. I pulled out my yellow highlighter so I’d remember the message, and I even put a few stars next to it. To this day, it is still one of my favorite passages in the book and is one that I bring to mind often.

What a concept…make other people happy, and you’ll be happy too!

Case in point, thankfully one of my jobs is being a yoga teacher. My job allows me to bring peace and happiness to others, and guess what? It just so happens to bring me a great deal of joy too!

There are many ways to bring happiness to others, and I’d like to introduce you to two organizations that are helping to bring smiles and nurture the minds, bodies, and souls of at-risk youth.

Girls With Sole

I was very lucky to be introduced to a fantastic organization here in Cleveland called Girls With Sole. Liz Ferro started this non-profit organization to foster hope and healing for girls who have experienced abuse and who need someone to believe in them so they can believe in themselves. Liz, along with adult volunteers, brings fitness activities (from traditional team sports and dance to yoga and nutritional advice) as well as free running shoes, sports bras, and fitness journals to participants.

I recently got to be one of those volunteers and taught a group of twenty teenage girls their first yoga class. Yeah, there was a lot of giggling during class, and I didn’t quite get the message across about lying in stillness during savasana, but I have to say, I have never seen such a beautiful group of fierce yogini goddesses standing tall in their virabhadrasana (warrior) poses. I’m quite certain I was the one who learned the most that day, and as Patanjali promised, doing good for others made me pretty darn happy too. I had a major yoga high the rest of the day and for quite a few days following the class.

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Liz is one of those people that can light up a room. She’s full of energy and is a real joy to be around. She was recently featured in Cleveland Business Connects and was quoted as saying, “There is no shinier badge of honor than making a difference in the life of a child.”

Girls With Sole is always looking for financial support and volunteers, so please visit www.girlswithsole.org or e-mail Liz at girlswithsole.org for more information. You can also follow Girls with Sole on Facebook.

Street Yoga

I’m a big believer in the universe sending messages, and the Street Yoga organization has been gently poking at me quite a bit lately. I first heard about Street Yoga in a tweet-up a few months ago and have since learned more  about this non-profit organization that teaches yoga, mindful breathing, and compassionate communication to youth, families, and their caregivers who are struggling with homelessness, poverty, abuse, addiction, trauma, and behavioral challenges. This awesome practice of yoga encourages them to grow stronger, heal from past traumas, and create for themselves a life that is inspired, safe, and joyful (aka filled with HAPPINESS!).

Mark Lilly founded Street Yoga in 2002 by organizing a handful of yoga teachers to teach yoga at a day shelter and school that serves homeless youth. Because Lilly’s life was deeply bettered by yoga, he wanted to share his love of yoga with others. Over the last ten years, the organization he started has helped reach thousands of kids in cities like Portland, Seattle, New York City, and San Diego.

And now, I’m super excited to announce that Cleveland is going to launch its very own Street Yoga program! Woot woot! Imagine my surprise when I found out that Street Yoga – along with local sponsors Urban Lotus Youth Yoga and The Studio Cleveland – will be putting on a teacher-training workshop this coming March 30-April 1.

Street Yoga coming to Cleveland…surely this is more than a gentle love tap; this is one huge, honking sign from the universe!

Street Yoga teacher training focuses on teaching the skills needed to serve youth with yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness practices. The course, which is a 14-hour CEU workshop (NASW approved for continuing education contact hours for social workers and for continuing education credits for yoga teachers through Yoga Alliance), will provide real world knowledge and techniques to assist volunteers in teaching at-risk youth. Trainees will also be encouraged to dig into their personal experiences to draw out their own courage and compassion as a teacher.

I had been thinking about attending the Street Yoga teacher training in Chicago this year, but when I found out about the Cleveland training, I figured it was just the nudge I needed from the universe to get me to sign up. I would love to see some of my fellow Cleveland/Akron area yoga buddies join up with me! If you are interested in participating but need some financial support to do so, Street Yoga has generously offered a partial scholarship to a Daily Downward Dog reader.

Win A Scholarship to the Cleveland Street Yoga Teacher Training

Yes, you can pick up a partial scholarship to attend the March 30-April 1, Street Yoga teacher training. The partial scholarship is for $145, which will cover one half of the workshop fee. If you would like to win the scholarship you must have an open heart and desire to work with these populations. You also need to be available to attend the training workshop which will be held at The Studio in Cleveland. The workshop times are not yet set, but will likely include a session on Friday evening and all-day sessions on Saturday and Sunday.

To enter, please leave a comment below about what draws you to serve others with yoga. If you want to get verbose you can even add a little about what your intentions for service might be after the training. Entries will be received until February 29, 2012 and the winner will be randomly selected and announced here by March 1, 2012.

Like Girls with Sole, Street Yoga is always looking for financial support and volunteers. Check out their website at streetyoga.org, and if you are interested in starting up Street Yoga in your ‘hood, get in touch with Mark and his team.

I’ll leave you with one last thought about happiness, this time from the vocal stylings of Frank Sinatra:

“Make someone happy,

make just one someone happy.

And you will be happy too.”

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