How Yoga Teacher Training Is Helping Change The Future For Kids
The Digital Getdown: How Yoga Foster Is Cultivating Generation Zen.
Love hit Nicole Cardoza like something out of a movie: She was at school in New York City circa 2014, and some friends talked her into going to her first yoga class. It was a Sunday night and the room was lit up by candles. “It was very special. And it was definitely something unexpected," she says.
“It was the first time I actually felt like I owned my body. That I was in control of my body, that I was taking up space and that I was fully present.”
Around the same time Nicole was falling deep in love with yoga, she was also volunteering at a school on the Lower East Side, where the students—like so many others across the country, Cardoza points out—didn’t have reliable access to gym or even recess, where they were able to be physical.
And so, in an effort to make up for not only a lack of movement, but to provide an outlet for the stress and trauma she observed in the students, Cardoza began to teach the kids yoga.
The only problem was, she didn’t really know how to teach yoga, and the cost of teacher training was prohibitive. But knowing what yoga did for her own sense of self, Nicole’s conviction that it would be invaluable to the kids drove her to seek solutions: She asked for help from trained yoga instructors, consulted with school psychologists, and talked with occupational therapists, all of whom came together to create a curriculum that would become the foundation for Yoga Foster.
A nonprofit bringing yoga into schools by offering educators accessible yoga and mindfulness training, the program lets educators pass on yoga to their students at a rate of $125 — a mere fraction of what teacher training normally costs.
The results were almost immediate: Teachers who were early adopters reported better test scores, better moods and better attendance. And as demand crept outside the confines of New York City and more and more teachers came in for training, Cardoza knew she had to come up with a viable solution to let Yoga Foster grow — and fast.
Drawing on her experience working in mobile strategy and product management after graduation, she had an aha moment: “I was working on platforms that were reaching millions of people helping them lose weight or run faster or plan their dream home. And I just thought, wouldn't it make so much more sense if we were able to put together a platform that empowers teachers to do this kind of work in their classrooms?
"They wouldn't have to leave home. They wouldn't have to give up their weekends. And they would be able to track and measure their progress over time, which was really a great benefit of digital platforms that you don't inherently get if you go to a teacher training in person," she says.
In order to facilitate the digital platform that would revolutionize Yoga Foster’s approach, Cardoza turned to Squarespace. “We really needed something practical for a fast-growing company; we bring on new teachers every day, and our programs grow and change on a daily basis. So we needed something that would be easy for us to update and maintain over time.”
Even for Nicole, whose skillset resided largely in tech, Squarespace’s ease of use and accessibility proved to be the perfect starting point: “It’s a platform that I can set up and template-ize and clean up so I can make sure that it's consistent and visual. I’m then able to hand it off and provide access to other people on my team. That's been really empowering for all of us and also helps our platform stay as fresh as our company.”
The results have been remarkable: In a span of three years, Yoga Foster has been brought into over 800 classrooms across the country, and Nicole’s not stopping there: “There's 50 million people that practice wellness in the U.S., and there's 50.1 million public school students that will never get a chance to be well if the education system continues as it is today.
“I think right now, everyone's craving a little bit more mindfulness. With everything that's happening, I think we're realizing that taking a moment to slow down and reflect and grieve a little bit more deeply is certainly not going to hurt our well being," she says.
"You know, in schools we always tell kids to pay attention but we often don't teach them how. And if we change that relationship with attention and success, with focusing, with paying attention to our bodies, with listening to our own self worth, that's transformative work.”
Words: Deena Drewis
Photos: Yoga Foster
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