They may be situated in Englewood, one of Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods, but Tameka Lawson’s yoga students are tackling that by focusing on their breathing and the beauty of their surroundings. As the city is known for its violence, there was a “bodyguard” in place to ensure the safety of the students.
It may seem a little strange that all these slow movements, deep breathing and talk about being centered are occurring in a neighborhood ruled by drug-dealing gangs. In fact, this is one of the most recent attempt to reduce the violence in a city where the number of homicides and guns seized leads the nation. The ultimate goal is that yoga’s meditative focus will assist cooler heads prevail the next time violence or vengeance breaks out. “The students live in an environment where everything’s rushed, everything’s pressured. So if you breathe through certain things, you are able to see clearer. You really are. Then they can act rather than react,” stated Tameka, executive director of a non-profit group called I Grow Chicago.
The idea has even spread to the police. One officer even joined in the class as part of an anti-violence program for at-risk youths. “With yoga training, when they get in a tense situation, they can breathe and relax and make the right decision instead of jumping out at someone and hitting them,” explained officer Daliah Goree. Tameka has been teaching yoga at area schools for the past three years before she decided to bring it to this street earlier in the year. As she was aware that gangs might pose a threat to the class, she got the “bodyguard” to approach gang members who live nearby to assure them that the group are of absolutely no threat and to also sought their acknowledgement and approval.
As Tameka’s students take their position on their mats, neighbours would usually observe the class from their front porch. Tameka will lead the class through a series of postures, instructing them to reach up as high as they possibly can as well as bend slowly till they can touch the ground. They are supposed to breathe in as they reach up and exhale on their way down. They will then go through the same movements while sitting, kneeling and lying down. For more of the story, you can check it out here.
At OMG Yoga, we offer private yoga classes in Singapore. Our certified instructors will be able to tailor the class towards each individual’s needs to provide them with the best possible learning experience.