By Shaneza Subhan
New Leaf Yoga Foundation, a charitable organization which focuses primarily on yoga practice for youth, has partnered with the Toronto District School Board to offer its programs.
Executive Director and co-founder Laura Sygrove said her foundation partnered with six youth custody facilities and eight TDSB schools. They also run two drop-in programs for youth in Rexdale and Regent Park.
“Our focus is on bringing yoga-based programs to youth in marginalized and under-served communities,” Sygrove said. “So we focus on low-income communities where this type of resource would typically not be available.”
The foundation began in 2007. Sygrove and co-founder Jessica Robertson’s personal experiences with the benefits of practicing yoga was a large influence behind the program.
“We had both attended yoga when we were young and we felt passionate about making that same opportunity available to other youths in environments where they would be least likely to come across it,” Sygrove said.
The programs are free for youth participants and funding is provided from private and corporate donors, said Sygrove.
“We subsidize almost entirely the majority of our programs,” she said. “Some schools many have funding for supplementary programs and may contribute a small portion to our program costs.”
Child and youth counselor Jennifer Haugh at C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute, one of the institutions partnered with the foundation, said the program focuses on the mental and physical wellbeing of students.
“It allows kids to learn different methods of dealing with stress that they might be feeling in their life,” Haugh said.
She said students are handpicked for reasons that staff might think are beneficial for them and others are part of a class curriculum that the program is paired with.
There is an empty class designated for the program which has positive messages on the wall as well as natural light.
“There are 12 girls and 12 boys in the program and half an hour is dedicated towards each of the groups separately,” she said.
This program is free of cost for students and held every Wednesday for half an hour at the schools.