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Books For Yogis Doing Good

The Yoga Service Council, and Omega Institute, are ramping up their publishing collaboration, creating a series of guide books for teaching yoga to specific populations, from school kids to inmates to survivors of sexual trauma.

Their first title, Best Practices for Yoga and Schools, released in 2015, is geared not only toward helping yoga teachers tailor their instruction, but also to show newcomers like school administrators and homeroom teachers how to lead their students in a class.

Twenty-three experts contributed their ideas and wisdom for the book, edited by Traci Childress, cofounder of the Children’s Community School and Jennifer Cohen Harper, founder of the School Yoga Project and President of the Yoga Service Council board.

The Yoga Service Council’s latest project, Best Practices for Yoga with Veterans, another invaluable guide, focuses on teaching men and women who’ve served in the armed forces. Thirty contributors shared their special knowledge of vets, their culture, and the complex issues resulting from combat experience.

Best Practices for Yoga with Veterans also provides information on the military system and the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, and advises how best to help those suffering from war-related syndromes like PTSD. Brette Popper, YogaCity NYC’s Publisher, talked to Cohen Harper about how this series came into being.

Brette Popper: What is the Yoga Service Council?

Jennifer Cohen Harper: We’re a membership-based collaborative organization. We support organizations that teach yoga and mindfulness to our most vulnerable populations.

We started at Omega when they offered space for people working with vulnerable populations. Lately we’ve seen exponential growth and we are working on finding even more sustainable ways to support the organization.

BP: How did you decide to publish books?

JCH: At the Yoga Service Conference in 2012 we realized we wanted to do population-specific work. There were significant needs for ongoing education and resources. We began with yoga in schools, and had a 5-day working meeting to address those issues and needs. There was interest and a hunger for this work because there wasn’t a lot of written material out there.

So many things have to intersect to create a good school-based program: the children, the culture of the school, how trauma is handled. So we invited principles, administrators, teachers and psychologists to write for us. It is this interdisciplinary understanding that makes our work unique.

BP: How do you find contributors?

JCH: We survey our board and advisors. We do research. And, we hold a symposium with 25 expert participants. These are people with different areas of expertise within the topic area. We actually have a waiting list for our upcoming book on sexual trauma.

There is a lot of enthusiasm for the symposiums. These are people who follow each other’s work. The collaboration leads to transformations in the field after the meetings are over.

After the program is over we work with book editors…Carol Horton edited the Best Practices for Yoga with Veterans and is currently editing Best Practices for Yoga in the Criminal Justice System. Danielle Rousseu is editing Best Practices for Yoga for Sexual Trauma. The process takes two years from start to publication.

BP: What’s on your upcoming schedule?

JCH: Our third book, about yoga and the criminal justice system, is being edited now and will be released in late September. The symposium on sexual trauma is happening in October and the book will be released in September, 2018. We feel with this book we are upping the ante because every single teacher should be aware of these practices, because sexual trauma can be encountered in both specific classes and any group class.

BP: Are there any qualities that run through all the books regarding basic principles for teaching vulnerable populations?

JCH: Yes. Teachers should have a solid understanding of trauma. Trauma-informed teaching includes awareness and an understanding of trauma’s impact on students. The other principle is conscious relationship building. To do yoga service you need to cultivate both self-reflection and self-awareness. Understand the barriers to authentic relationships and know how to make them healthy and productive.

BP: Has the current political climate changed your membership in any way?

JCH: We’ve seen a huge increase in membership. Members can participate in our monthly webinar series. We just featured Citizen Well’s Kate Wenning. The webinar was called Roots to Rise, Applying your practice for social change. More people have expressed interest in that kind of work.

On March 28th the organization’s webinar will feature Matthew Sanford, an internationally respected paralyzed yoga practitioner on a Universal Approach to Teaching Asana.

Individual memberships start at $25 and organizational memberships are $125. Anyone can join the Yoga Service Council. For more information about becoming a member of the Yoga Service Council, click here.

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