by Lisette Cheresson
Transformation Yoga Project (TYP) has, since 2013, been a community mainstay providing in-person trauma-sensitive yoga classes to persons impacted by trauma, substance use disorders, and incarceration throughout the Greater Philadelphia region. The organization is sunsetting at the end of 2022, in large part due to how Covid-19 “has changed the landscape for how tools for dealing with trauma are delivered,” said TYP Founder Michael Huggins in a press release. Last month TYP announced that it would be relocating its funding to organizations that can continue in similar veins of work. “While this is a significant change, we believe this is the most effective way to serve while furthering the vision of TYP in a meaningful way,” said Huggins.
Huggins, who recently accepted a seat on the Yoga Unify Executive Board and the Council for Community Investment, said that he recognized the synergy between TYP and YU right away. He had worked with YU co-founder Judy Weaver at Omega years ago, while working on a book of yoga for veterans. (Weaver is also the co-founder of Connected Warriors, a Florida-based organization that provides yoga and wellness for returning veterans.) “Upon receiving the first newsletter,” says Huggins, “I was immediately drawn to Yoga Unify’s mission and approach for addressing the significant issues facing the yoga community.”
When Huggins was tasked with determining how to allocate TYP funding to yoga service organizations, “I literally woke up in the middle of the night excited by the potential of Yoga Unify to make yoga more accessible, while supporting instructors and respecting cultural traditions of the practice,” he says. Not only does YU have similarities to TYP in that it’s aiming to transform yoga, Huggins sees organizational alignment in that both are well-organized startups. Both organizations are “building a ground support of high-quality individuals supported by a well-qualified and respected board of advisors who have the breath and experience to take on the challenges facing the yoga community in a thoughtful yet meaningful way,” he says.
Continuing the Work
While the mission of Yoga Unify is to steward the forward evolution of yoga and to ensure that yoga is more readily available in currently underserved communities, the main aim of YU is to unify the yoga community and create a participatory space where all community members have a voice. “The yoga community, particularly the yoga service community, needs a louder voice,” says Huggins. “There are many yoga service organizations doing impactful work that are struggling to survive,” he says. “I’d like to support the effort to devise a more equitable and efficient process for supporting these amazing organizations.”
One reason that Huggins saw YU as a natural candidate to continue the work of TYP is that YU is a national voice. The funding provided by TYP will beget more funding, and in that way continue the work of TYP even after this initial investment has been used. He recognizes the fine line between an organization that needs to fundraise in order to be of service, and spending too much time and too many resources fundraising rather than, well, being of service. His work on the Yoga Unify Executive Board and the Council for Community Investment will in part be to help support processes and create approaches that will sustain the efforts of the organization, while remaining true to its purpose.
Why Yoga Unify?
In addition to the organization being aligned with the overall purpose of TYP, Huggins says what really made him excited was the fact that Yoga Unify is a national non-profit aiming to serve the community as a whole. “I’m really attracted to the fact that there are three main aspects,” he says. “The ethics piece is greatly needed for both individuals and organizations. I was also attracted to Yoga Unify’s commitment to community investment, which is the heart of yoga service and essential to make these powerful tools accessible,” he says.
“Our yoga practice teaches us to embrace impermanance,” says Huggins, “we’re not stopping service, rather it will continue in a different way.”
* * *
Are you in a position to help preserve the tradition and steward the forward evolution of yoga by supporting Yoga Unify financially? Join Transformation Yoga Project and be a part of yoga history. Learn more about donations here.
LEAD IMAGE: Photo taken at a yoga class led by TYP founder Mike Huggins at Eastern State. Used courtesy of Transformation Yoga Project.