It’s not every day you get to make a difference, especially in a community in desperate need of Loving -Kindness. On May 2, 2015, I had the divine pleasure of being an integral part of the first Yoga festival to hit the historic Midtown area of St. Petersburg, Florida. This festival grew out of a desire to spread the love for healthy living and fitness, both physical and mental. What began as a going away party for an area Yoga instructor quickly became one of the most positive and authentic experiences in my life. The Yoga By The Bay: Festival Of The Sun donated 100% of its proceeds to a local grassroots suicide prevention foundation called IMpower.
Once the party became an official event, I decided to offer a kids’ Yoga babysitting service for parents who wanted to attend other classes, unhindered. I took full advantage of a fenced in area behind the sponsoring gym: I designed an obstacle course ending in a makeshift labyrinth, using the big used tires the gym owner has for his Boot Camp classes. I also laid out an entire table for crafts. And just in case, I had chalk and bubbles ready to go!
Shortly after the event started, my dream began to take on a life of its own. A few parents opted to leave their kiddos in the “Kid Zone”, but something even bigger was unfolding… the kids from the neighborhood began to flock toward my gate. I invited them to join us, of course! We had a blast singing and dancing, and the neighborhood boys enjoyed being challenged by “the crow”. One little fella even clued me in to how special this moment was, and how small the world really is… he was raving about how much he loved kids’ Yoga and that he gets to “take Yoga” at school a lot. He attends Melrose Elementary, where Karma Yoga classes have been provided by volunteers for Kidding Around Yoga for quite some time! I was humbled and blown away at the response from these kids. They were really into it!
When it came time for my “spotlight” family class out on the festival grounds, some of the neighborhood boys followed and joined in. The joy and the energy were just immeasurable. In just one day, I saw the very real and very immediate impact Yoga can have on a community. I experienced how attractive the energy of our classes and our methods can be. In a neighborhood that has been struggling for decades with crime and poverty, the children are learning Yoga… and sharing Yoga eagerly with their friends. Becoming mindful young yogis, teaching each other how to calm their minds. Just imagine how much this alone will impact this neighborhood in the next decade as these kids grow and become productive members of their neighborhoods!
My heart is so full from just being present during such a peaceful and powerful day in the most unlikely neighborhood. I am beyond excited to see how far this journey will take me. I am taking the reigns for the next Festival Of The Sun, and I look forward to more outreach and Karma Yoga in the near future.