This inspiring Chicago TV station clip profiles Marshawn Feltus, a yoga teacher in the city’s West Side, an area known for high levels of crime and violence. Feltus started doing yoga during a 19-year prison sentence for murder. Upon his release, he took a yoga teacher training and launched his own business, offering classes in his neighbourhood and at corporate workplaces.
Ignore the patronizing and redemptive tone of the text (which frames Feltus’ yoga teaching as “paying his debt to society”) accompanying the video and listen to Feltus tell his story. He was imprisoned when he was 17 years old for shooting another teenage, and discovered yoga even though he thought it was an “exercise for white women.” After spending more than half of his life in prison, he is not even 40 years old, full of life and vitality, and ready to give back to his community.
Feltus’ story is just one of the many cool yoga service stories coming out of Chicago these days. It might just be replacing Toronto as the coolest yoga city in North America. Another inspiring Chicago-based project that has caught my eye is the Socially Engaged Yoga Network, which connects and highlights all the amazing people doing yoga service and social justice work in Chicago.
The recently-formed network hosts public events, like “Integrating Yoga Into Mental Health Care” and has big plans to build partnerships between yoga teachers and community health, social services, environmental sustainability and education organizations. The buzzing Facebook page shares notices about volunteer (and paid!) teaching opportunities in schools and prisons, upcoming events and announcements about visiting teachers, workshops or trainings.
So how cool is Chicago’s yoga coolness? It has also caught Russell Simmon’s attention, and he wants to launch meditation programs in schools around the city. First Chicago, then the world!