“The light in me honors and respects the light in you. Namaste,” were the words of Terri Cooper, teacher and founder of Yoga Gangsters, during a class at Girl Power Rocks, an organization that helps young people struggling with difficult situations, school suspensions or family conflicts.
Every week, the girls try to leave their problems aside and merge into a relaxation and stretching yoga class for 45 minutes provided for free by Yoga Gangsters.
“Yoga Gangsters has been coming to the center for about two years,” said Rashida Campbell, director of operations at Girl Power Rocks. “The teachers practice yoga with the girls, to improve their behavior and help them with their self-esteem, among other things.”
After the class, most of the girls were asleep. Cooper said that the majority of them do not sleep the hours needed because of the stress and problems that accumulate day after day.
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Yoga Gangsters is a national nonprofit organization that promotes the practice of yoga in places like rehabilitation centers, jails and after-school programs for elementary and high school girls.
“It is amazing to see how they look once they finish the yoga class, that special look; many of them experience this peaceful sensation for the first time,” said Jodi Weiner, executive director of Yoga Gangsters.
Girl Power Rocks was founded in 1997 as an effort to combat the increase of crime, poverty and illiteracy among young women in Miami’s most precarious neighborhoods.
“The yoga class is just one example of what we do at the center,” Campbell said. “It is also a place for girls who have been suspended from school. They can come to the center and do their homework, instead of staying at home doing nothing or getting into more problems.”
Girl Power has also a musical choir, after-school programs as an alternative to school suspensions and post-detentions, as well as a mentoring program.
According to Campbell, these programs are becoming more popular and getting bigger over the years, because of the number of girls keeps increasing.
“We currently have 45 mentors that work one-on-one with the girls. We match every mentor with a mentee, so they can have a positive female role model to look up to and hopefully they will be inspired by,” Campbell said.
Girl Power works with the Miami-Dade Police Department. Officers sometimes call the center in the middle of the night because a girl is in trouble or her parents do not know what to do with her.
“If there is no physical aggression and the girl is just screaming, being disrespectful to their parents or causing problems, there is no legal right for the police to put them into custody,” Campbell said. “Therefore the police bring us the girls to the center.
“If the parents agree, and we talk to them, listen and try to understand what are their reasons to act in a certain way.”
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For more information
Yoga Gangsters Events
The event will offer an hour of yoga in the morning, a healthy market with food stalls, handmade jewelry and holistic clothing.
The cost is $25 and the money will go towards the organization.
To register, visit ygchallenge.com.