Nonprofit bringing yoga to at-risk communities - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Community Focus

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Nonprofit bringing yoga to at-risk communities

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Posted: Friday, December 6, 2013 10:34 am

A Florida-based nonprofit aimed at bringing yoga to those who wouldn’t normally get to experience its benefits has been slowly making an expansion into Tempe and surrounding communities.

Belinda Escalante said she came across the organization when she was trying to find a way to bring yoga, or relaxation and focus exercises, to students in Tempe Union High School District.

“I’ve dabbled in yoga since age 18 or 19,” Escalante said. “I don’t have a yoga body, but I’ve been fascinated with it. I appreciate what it can provide.”

Escalante said what’s unique about Yoga Gangsters is their approach. People interested in getting certified through Yoga Gangsters don’t have to have years of experience practicing yoga, but just need a willingness to reach out and share and work with kids.

“What I really liked about them is they are a nonprofit and they’re also very urban and real,” she said. “They are very welcoming to different people from different walks of life. If you have a willingness to learn and a willingness to reach out to the community and kids, you’re welcome. It was really the welcoming atmosphere that attracted me to them.”

Yoga Gangsters has not yet received approval from local school districts but Escalante has paired with other Yoga Gangster volunteers to provide outreach to the Boys and Girls Club of Guadalupe and other local organizations. Escalante said she believes the need is great to share the benefits of yoga and meditation with people of all walks of life. That is Yoga Gangster’s mission.

“We try to reach those that wouldn’t typically be exposed to yoga,” she said. “Yoga studios can be expensive. We try to reach youth and adults and those who have experienced some kind of trauma. We reach a wide array of different populations.”

This weekend Yoga Gangsters is hosting a certification training in Tempe. The training does not focus on one type of yoga but teaches more about how to bring yoga in general to specialized groups.

For more information on Yoga Gangsters and future certification workshops, visit

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or

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