When I first started the Beyond the Podium Column on VFTP in Fall 2014 I asked my readers if they knew of any instructors they knew of that take their yoga outside of the studio and share it with others to positively affect a community and ultimately change the world. Multiple times I have been sent the name Jill Weiss Ippolito. When I looked into Jill and UpRising Yoga I was thoroughly inspired and knew that I wanted to share this story with the yoga community to create further awareness about this cause. I hope you enjoy meeting Jill and hearing about her work as much as I have over the past couple of weeks!
How did Uprising Yoga come about and how did you become involved?
I’ve been practicing and teaching yoga for many years, and my journey started where a lot of our students are: in healing from trauma. Eventually I started to recognize this and I wanted to offer the same gift of healing I received, especially to people who need it most but can’t get to a yoga class.
When my husband visited a probation camp he came home and described the conditions, my first response was, “Can I teach yoga there?” He introduced me to some good people in the probation department and a week later we taught in two units to start. We are now in three units; two of the most vulnerable kids (foster youth and sexually trafficked) and another is the lock-up unit.
What is the mission of Uprising Yoga?
Our mission is to bring yoga to incarcerated youth and underserved communities.
UpRising Yoga teaches trauma informed yoga in juvenile detention facilities and in communities that don’t have easy access to yoga classes. We look for strategic alliances with social service agencies and organizations whose clientele deal with prevention and the aftercare of trauma, to offer yoga life skills to empower and heal. We also offer trainings in our trauma-based approach.
How much of your time each week is devoted to this work?
Easily 24/7! LOL. Starting a non-profit has been full time work for me. I do teach several yoga classes a week, but setting up new accounts, answering emails, planning public speaking engagements and working with advocates and policy makers, as well as, learning the business side has been a challenge to keep up.
We hold seven classes a week in communities, and we participate in many large events. Just recently we held an empowerment yoga retreat for over thirty young women that are survivors of sex trafficking. This event included a yoga therapist who spoke about self care and health, and also an Ayurvedic food presentation.
What kind of roadblocks do you hit with the practitioners?
Simple reluctance, nervousness, but nothing like I’ve seen in adults.
What changes have you seen in the participants?
There is a dramatic transformation that can occur from the yoga life skills class. I have seen a shy, withdrawn, and introverted child emerge with confidence, self-esteem and leadership skills after accomplishing a yoga posture. Once you tap into a student’s natural skill set and talents and bring those forth, then they have access to a life changing process.
We hand out certificates of excellence for youth to take to court for the judge to see that they have participated in our yoga class. This might be the first time someone is saying something nice on paper to this youth. I am aware that this is an opportunity for a powerful transformation in this moment. I read what I wrote about them as I hand it over. The expression of confusion and appreciation on their face looks as if it is hard to take in compliments, or as if I’m describing someone else.
It’s incredibly gratifying when I am contacted by youth that have gotten out of juvenile hall to let me know what an impact our yoga classes have had on them. One girl wrote to me and I was actually able to get a grant for her to become a yoga teacher!
Do you have any upcoming events?
Our next trauma informed yoga training is July 25 and 26 as well as October 26 & 27. On August 1st we are participating in an exciting fundraiser with Bikram Yoga Mountain View and a collaborative effort of artist, fashion and yoga. Also, we will have a fundraiser at Bikram Yoga Encino on September 26th. I am so grateful for the love and support of the many Bikram Yoga studios, teachers, students and the yoga community.
The same as any non-profit. We have to keep telling our story to donors, grant makers, policy people and government. And they all have been listening! The Los Angeles county probation department has been fantastic. They really appreciate our work and they have been requesting more trauma informed yoga classes in more units, which I am so grateful for. The funding to expand to more units has been a struggle to put together but I will keep at it because the impact of a yoga class on these kids is truly amazing. Eventually, through our continual efforts, I hope that yoga will be seen for what it truly is: a way to heal a life filled with trauma.
If someone would like to donate to the cause where can they send funds?
Go to uprisingyoga.org. There you can donate, learn more about us, where we teach and what we do. Our Trauma Informed Yoga Trainings are for everyone. We need people to be of service and work with us to make a shift in underserved communities to heal trauma. I also encourage people to like us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.