Florida A&M is the first university that offers the Yoga Gangsters certificate. Terri Cooper, the founder of Yoga Gangsters offered students a free two-day workshop at FAMU recreation center over the weekend.
During the workshop about twenty students learned basic yoga poses and they became in touch with their own personal trauma.
Yoga Gangsters is a non-profit organization that empowers the youth in inner cities through practicing yoga.
Cooper started the organization after accepting her past dealing with drugs and an unstable childhood. She struggled with an addiction and she was a chain smoker. In her late thirties she was bartending on South Beach and realized her life needed to change.
“Yoga saved my life…I hit rock bottom for a moment. I found yoga and it helped me get my life together and it helped me find my purpose,” said Cooper.
Yoga Gangsters started after Cooper became a yoga teacher and she wanted to give back to kids who grew up with the same upbringing as herself. She started volunteering at jails and schools and her classes started getting bigger.
“I wanted to share it with kids just like me, kids that had a lot of abuse or trauma in their past and kids that didn’t know how to manage themselves,” said Cooper.
Kimi Walker, a FAMU alumna and student health services health educator took the Yoga Gangster training in Miami. Walker said she was the only African-American woman within her age group in the training. Cooper says most of the people in her training are yoga teachers, schoolteachers, case workers, people in trauma and people in non-profit organizations.
Walker said she was drawn to Cooper’s studio 305 Yoga because “They had a karma yoga program, the yoga of self-service, and apart that was her non-profit Yoga Gangsters.”
She said, “I called Ms. Tanya Tatum up and I told her I went through certification and I told her about it. We have to bring this to FAMU. We have to get more African-Americans involved in yoga. ”
She said, “I thought FAMU is a really great place for it. I’m really excited that we’re the first university. I’m really excited that we’re the first HBCU and hopefully in the future they’ll be able to branch out to more HBCUs”.
Participates were encourage to push boundaries with their bodies and to become self aware with their personal issues. “We never allow ourselves to be in our emotions,” Cooper said. “Our society doesn’t allow us to process it(emotions) We start to pile it on.”
During training participates engage in an activity called the inner circle where the person can address their inner everyday battles through non-verbal communication. This activity allows people to vent and realize that they are not the alone in their life experiences.
Brittany Claybrooks, a graduating senior in health care management at FAMU from Detroit, MI said the training excited her and that she began to become more self-aware.
“I guess it forced me to relate to people but it also forced me to be honest about my situation to complete strangers and sometimes that’s not always the easiest especially since you’re on campus…,”said Claybrooks.
Walker hopes participates can bring the training back to their communities and share the training with others.
Cooper said, “This is the future of our program. If we can get this on more college campuses, I think that would be great. I mean that’s a dream come true and to be at an HBCU is even more profound.”
For more information on Yoga Gangsters, please visit yogagangsters.org.
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