Photo by Tessa Marie Images
Cara Bradley has been helping Main Line yogis with their practice at Wayne’s Verge Yoga for more than 12 years. She’s witnessed how yoga and mindfulness can make a powerful difference. Two years ago, she introduced both to inner-city middle school students. Bradley and fellow yoga teacher Cheryl Nichols, of Bryn Mawr, cofounded the nonprofit Mindfulness Through Movement based on the belief that, in order to learn in the school setting, children need to be able to clear their heads of things beyond their control and open their minds. Currently in a dozen Philadelphia schools, the program offers weekly classes with certified instructors.
MLT: How did MTM come to be?
CB: Cheryl Nichols had been teaching in city schools on a voluntary basis for a couple of years. We started talking about what it would look like if we started a school program. I knew we needed to do two things: First, the students needed the consistency of having a teacher for the entire school year; second, we needed to pay the yoga teachers. We set up an Indiegogo campaign and raised enough money to fund two years of this nonprofit.
MLT: What does a typical MTM class look like?
CB: The class is generally about 30 minutes. The teacher starts with some breathing exercises to get them settled. Then there’s some really simple yoga. Oftentimes, one of the students will come up and teach with the teacher. There’s also mindfulness practice, which could be simply settling down and focusing on your body. At the end, there’s the stillness and the silence component we call the “star pose.”
MLT: What feedback have you had from students?
CB: Initially, there’s some resistance and joking around, but the kids quickly catch on because they recognize that they feel a lot better. Classes provide a little bit of peace that they don’t get, either at home or at school. A lot of times, they’re picking up basic breathing exercises that they take home and teach their parents. Many of them live in stressful environments. We provide them with a consistent half-hour a week of calm, support and love.
MLT: What’s next?
CB: We want to open this up to the yoga community in Philadelphia. We’re looking to make it bigger, but we can’t do it alone.
MLT: How can the local community offer support?
CB: There’s the financial support through donation. Also, we want everyone to have an understanding of how much mindfulness can help all children, but especially children who have very stressful home, school and community lives.