Creating peaceful minds for a peaceful community
Post by Chintana Ahlund
“Food brings benefit for some hours, clothes for some months but wisdom lasts as long as the mind itself. It is the fondation of a better society.” ~ Anonymous Tibetan Teaching
Practice yoga and live your truth. You can never go wrong from this. These are conversational tidbits that I have had with my yoga teacher, Debbie Parsons. She’s a good teacher and friend who is taking her career in a new direction, based on her desire for helping those in need with yoga.
Debbie is the founder of a new nonprofit called Yoga Beyond Boundaries. Her plans are to offer yoga classes in nontraditional settings: prisons, rehab facilities and more. Her hopes are to create a safer and kinder community by using yoga as a vehicle for healing and transformation. She shares more in the below interview.
C.A. What inspired you to create Yoga Beyond Boundaries?
D.P. I have wanted to bring yoga to inmates and to women who have escaped an abused relationship since I started teaching yoga over four years ago. I also thoroughly enjoy bringing the teachings of yoga to people who have never tried it before. I love that ‘aha’ moment they experience after their first class. They would say to me, “…so that’s what yoga is all about” with a wide smile across their face.
At the beginning of this year, I began to contemplate the year ahead of me and went back to those ideas I had at the beginning of my teaching journey. I realized that I was ready to seek out how I could help bring yoga to a more diverse population. There are huge pockets of our population that have no idea about the benefits of what a yoga practice can bring to their lives. Typically these are people going through some difficult times and yoga may not ever have crossed their minds as something that can help them.
So, I started going through my past experiences of working with students that have shared with me how yoga has helped them come out of a bad situation. These were things like alcoholism, drug addiction, obesity, and cancer patients. These are not isolated issues but widespread in our community. So as the list of people to help got longer and I immediately recognized that this was something I could no longer do alone. I would need to enlist the help of other local instructors. So, the idea of Yoga Beyond Boundaries was born.
C.A. What is the mission of Yoga Beyond Boundaries?
D.P. Our mission is to provide yoga resources, such as mats, educational materials, such as books on yoga philosophy and practice dvd’s as well as provide a weekly instructor in order to teach yoga to those members within the central Florida community who are going through difficult life situations.
C.A. Tell us about your first programs.
D.P. Our first program is to begin in late August or early September 2011. We will be teaching yoga within three sectors of the Orange County Correctional Facility, as we locals commonly refer to as the 33rd street jail. We have three instructors lined up to teach in the men, women, and juvenile sections. The men and women we will be teaching are actually a part of the inmate drug and alcohol rehabilitation program already established within the jail.
The next two programs we are working on are teaching to women who have recently escaped an abused relationship and teen mothers. Future populations that we are aiming our services toward are low income housing facilities, cancer patients, supporters and family members of cancer patients, AA and NA programs, and youth programs.
C.A. How can practicing yoga reshape someone’s life journey?
D.P. Initially it is typical for people to think that yoga is something that you “do” as just another way to work out the body. In reality, yoga isn’t something that you “do” but rather a way to live. It integrates body awareness, breath work, mindfulness, concentration, relaxation, and meditation, creating a complete system of health; body, mind, and spirit. The time spent on a yoga mat is a practice. Here, many issues can be revealed to give the practitioner the awareness as to what aspects of their lives might need more attention. We learn many lessons on the mat that can then be put into play in our everyday lives. As one maintains a regular yoga practice, which can be as minimal as one practice per week, they recognize they have a better control over their emotional state and their anger, they improve their ability to make clear decisions, their memory improves, they have a sense of responsibility over their lives; benefits that far exceed but also includes a stronger and more flexible body. In my own personal experience, yoga has brought me a sense of confidence, greater self-esteem, and a sense of responsibility over my daily choices. I no longer blamed my life on circumstance and my up bringing, but realized I can choose my thoughts and my actions based on what I wanted in life, not what I had or didn’t have in the past.
The programs YBB is seeking to be involved with are reaching out to populations who have never been taught these fundamental things of inner responsibility and choice or their current situation has overshadowed that knowledge. They have a vision of the world that has put them in a reactive mode rather than being pro-active. YBB’s desire is to provide a sense of empowerment to these people, to look their issues directly in the face and finally deal with them in order to move on, becoming happier, more productive members of their families and our community.
C.A. How can others get involved?
D.P. We are still in the very beginning phases of creation so first and foremost is funding. We are in the process of filing for our 501(c)(3) status, which is quite costly. We also pay our instructors in order to get long-term commitments from them. We felt that this was important since we are dealing with individuals that are already dealing with a lot of chaos; we want their yoga training to have some consistency.
There are many ways someone can help with funding:
- Make a donation through our website www.YogaBeyondBoundaries.org
- Attend a monthly “Dogs for a Cause” fundraiser at a local yoga studio (details on our website)
- Sponsor a fundraising event by inviting Debbie Parsons to your home, local studio or community center for a class of your choice. She can guide you through anything from Yoga Nidra, Pranayama, Flow Class, Gentle class, Couples Yoga, etc…
- Become a fundraising agent for YBB
Other things you can do:
- “Like” us on our Facebook page and share our cause with your friends and family
- Donate your gently used or new yoga mats, straps, blocks, and dvd’s to provide to one of our participants.
- Refer to us a graphic designer to help with a logo design
Lastly, we are here in order to assist the members of your community. If you know of a program where we could be of benefit to help out, please let us know!