Project Yoga Cincinnati

Finding Calm in the Chaos

Project Yoga has been teaching the residents of Bethany House for over three years. Mothers and their children live in a 14 room home on Fairmount Avenue, just west of downtown Cincinnati. This year, the Bethany shelter supported 400 families. Project Yoga is a regular part of the Bethany’s Life Skills program. All of the mothers who live in the shelter join us on Tuesday evenings. If there is room, older children can also hop on a mat. 

Our team at Bethany considers volunteering as the highlight of their week. We are thankful for the deep talent pool of teachers and assistants this Project Yoga program attracts. Project Yoga Program Manager Erica Franke recently visited class at Bethany House, joining that evening’s volunteers Susan Taylor and Beth Coulson:

Upon walking through the door at the Bethany House, the chaotic energy is palpable. Residents rush to get the remains of their group meal cleaned up. Children fueled by a full stomach are charging around the house and pounding up and down the grand staircase. It’s hard to imagine that the house could be transformed into a sea of calm. Susan and Beth quickly clear the living room and hallway, laying out mats and bolsters. Sitters wrangle the children and lead them to the playroom in the basement. Moms get settled on mats or in chairs, surrounded by bolsters, straps and blocks. Class begins with simple breathing exercises–for many it’s the first time they’ve taken a full breath all day. Susan shares “Consider these breathing exercises as your reset button. Carry this part of your practice into your day. Show your kids.”

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Susan Taylor, mother daughter pair Leah and Dashawna and Beth Coulson pause after class. Leah and her family recently transitioned to a new home. Both were given Project Yoga Continuing Ed passes, allowing them to attend classes for one year at Partner Studios.

Susan led the class with just the right mix of physical effort along with calming restorative poses. The restorative poses serve to encourage a deeper state of relaxation, the antidote to chronic stress. Beth moved around the room, adjusting poses and sharing some TLC. Fast forward 45 minutes and all of the yogis are breathing deeply in a well deserved savasana. Soft smiles linger as they return to the rest of their evening.

We come into our programs with the intention of helping our students discover the benefits of yoga, but as with any giving exchange, the teachers receive just as many rewards in return. Beth shared “I feel my heart open with each visit. Over and over we hear the women use the words “stressed” & “overwhelmed” to describe how they feel. Project Yoga brings a wee bit of relief. They are often in physical pain and learn ways to combat that too. My heart is touched to assist delivering yoga and it’s simple techniques in self care. Our presence matters. We are making connections of the heart.”

Contributed by Erica Franke