Yoga Teacher Interview Series: Lauren Greenspan & Julia Handelman
Lauren Greenspan connected with me regarding the non-profit organization she and her co-founder Julia Handelman started, the Youth Yoga Project. Both coming from an education background, their mission is to bring yoga to local schools. Recently having started teaching yoga to homeless youth myself, I was intrigued and SO on board, and excited to learn more about their endeavor! Their passion for the Youth Yoga Project is so evident, it re-energized my own passion to bring yoga to youth, who don’t typically have the opportunity to get exposed to yoga’s healing abilities.
Lauren Greenspan & Julia Handelman // Co-founders, Youth Yoga Project
What type of yoga do you teach?
We teach youth yoga classes to K-12 students within their school setting.
Where do you currently teach?
Columbus City Schools, Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools, Columbus Community Charter Schools
Where did you do your teacher training?
YogaEd, Connection Coalition, Balanced Yoga
Can you tell me about the organization you founded, the Youth Yoga Project?
Youth Yoga Project is a Columbus-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization committed to providing access to yoga and wellness programming for young people to improve their physical, social, and emotional well-being and increase their academic success. We have a particular mission to serve students in under-resourced communities that wouldn’t normally have access to yoga programming. We believe that in order to have the greatest impact on the most students, yoga programs should be integrated into the regular schedule of students. Therefore, we provide yoga programming in schools, after-school programs and community settings.
Yoga equips with simple, but powerful healthy coping skills that they can utilize at any time, anywhere throughout their lifetime. We believe that if students use these healthy coping skills within their school setting they will be more successful in school.
What is your mission as yoga teachers?
Our mission is to empower students to take the yoga tools they learn off their mats and into their real life, so they can deal with the various stressers and burdens they experience in a more healthy and productive way.
Who or what inspires you right now?
We are very inspired by the work of the Holistic Life Foundation out of Baltimore. They have done transformative work in their community for many years by teaching students yoga. We are hoping to do some training with them this summer!
What advice would you give someone who says “I can’t do yoga”?
We would ask them “Do you breathe?” Of course, they will answer yes and we tell them “you are doing yoga.” Because we work with diverse populations, many of our students have never experienced yoga before and we are committed to teaching classes that are accessible, safe (emotionally and physically) and joyful for all people.
What are some of the challenges you’ve experienced as a yoga teacher?
We reflect and give each other feedback after all our classes so that we can continue to hone our teaching skills and provide all of our students with a positive experience. We are constantly learning and growing.
What is the most rewarding part about being a yoga teacher?
Watching out students experience the benefits of yoga and incorporate the practices into their lives is the most rewarding part about teaching yoga to us.