Best Yoga Service Organizations: Meet The People making Yoga More Accessible, Inclusive, and Healing

Founder: Marshawn Feltus

ACT Yoga can be awarded a $10,000 grant from Lululemon and its social-impact program, Here to Be, to assist deepen its impact and attain.

At age 17, Marshawn Feltus thought his life was over. A local of Austin, one of the violent neighborhoods on Chicago’s West Side, he received right into a road altercation and shot and killed one other younger man. “I was a knuckle-head kid defending territory and expressing my anger in a bravado way,” he says. “It was senseless violence.” Feltus was sentenced to 38 years in state jail. While he was incarcerated at Illinois River Correctional Center, one other inmate persuaded him to attempt yoga. He reluctantly rolled out a shower towel (they didn’t have yoga mats) in an previous chapel area, and inside 5 minutes of his first yoga follow, he knew he had discovered an essential software. “I felt tension release in my muscles and my mental stress dissolving. It was instant for me.” Over time, he felt calmer, was sleeping higher, and felt much less agitated. A number of months later, the trainer of the category stepped down and referred to as on Feltus to switch him. Feltus led courses for 2 years—ultimately educating as much as seven courses every week and instructing greater than 800 fellow inmates. His program turned the one organized exercise at Illinois River with no single violent incident on its report. “My experience with yoga eventually took me past the physical asana into a conscious way of thinking about all aspects of my personal life and society,” he says. “I had a clearer perspective to examine the lessons I’d learned and my thoughts and goals.”

After serving 18 years and 9 months, Feltus was launched (a results of Illinois’s former day-for-day construction, during which half the unique sentence was served in jail with different time on parole). He returned to Austin with a brand new function: to convey the therapeutic energy of yoga to his group. He accomplished an area entrepreneurship program and a 200-hour instructor training at Chicago Yoga Center and opened Austin’s first yoga studio, inside the Bethel New Life Community Center.

He calls his studio ACT Yoga—which stands for Awareness, Change, Triumph (an acronym he utilized in jail to encourage different inmates to enroll within the GED, school, and self-help packages). Now, by educating yoga in jails, faculties, group facilities, and different establishments round Chicago, along with his studio, he spreads the follow that gave him a second probability at life. 

Q & A

Yoga Journal: Can you describe ACT’s mission and the way it helps your group?

Marshawn Feltus: The first element is to teach individuals on what yoga is and what it could do for them. It amazes me how so few individuals truly take the time to shut their eyes and take a deep breath. The second element is to make yoga accessible. Our courses vary from $eight–$12. We don’t need our costs to imply individuals should take issues off their grocery lists.

YJ: How do you embody the yogic idea of seva, or “selfless service”?

MF: Yoga is multidimensional, and you must take a look at what totally different individuals want. If you attempt to say, “We’ll do it our way and make everybody conform,” it doesn’t work. If you possibly can faucet into what people want, you will have higher buy-in. When I meet somebody who’s by no means been on a yoga mat or seen the within of a yoga studio, I attempt to get to know them, and then say one thing like, “You know, if your back is hurting, I know a few things for that.” They might by no means are available for a standard class, however no less than I’ve planted the seed.

YJ: What are your objectives for the longer term, and how do you propose to make use of the $10,000?

MF: This is a very key time for us to obtain this award. The essential plan is to coach extra yoga academics from the group and to assist extra individuals. We’ll additionally be capable of purchase some props and pulley carts, which we have to transport our mats once we’re out doing pop-up yoga periods on the road; we’ll repair our web site, which is down due to malware; and we’ll have the ability to do wellness checks the place we sit down and purchase a meal for somebody and have a dialog—that goes a great distance.

See additionally 2017 Good Karma Awards: 9 Stories to Inspire Your Seva Practice

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