Teacher Story: Chelsea

When I first started volunteering for Yoga 4 Change in 2015 I had no idea where it would take me. Fresh out of college I was yearning for more experience, more knowledge, but I wasn’t quite sure what direction I was going. This terrified me. I felt a need for more in my life. I did not know what that meant at the time but I knew I could feel it.

It all started at Bold Bean Coffee Roasters. This is where I met Kathryn for the first time. We did a short interview and soon after I was working closely with Kathryn, mostly managing small tasks. I was hooked right away. As I learned more and more about this organization I felt a strong gravitation towards it. I was so impressed with the work they were doing in our community. So proud to be a part of it (even if it was a small role). My yoga practice grew along side my work with Y4C. Before Yoga 4 Change my practice was mostly for physical purposes. I then started practicing more frequently and saw first hand the mental benefits I was receiving from my practice. More clarity, a sense of connection, comfort in my own skin.

Eventually, I started doing data entry for Yoga 4 Change. This is where I really saw the impact Y4C teachers was making. I could physically see the difference they were making by the information received on the notecards. Majority of the students experienced reduced stress levels, increased mood levels, and left encouraging comments/thoughts written on the back of the cards. That is when I decided that I wanted to become a yoga instructor. I wanted so badly to be out in the facilities doing the work first hand instead of behind the scenes.

My first step to getting there was by going to the Introduction to Trauma Informed yoga workshop series hosted by Yoga 4 Change. These workshops deepened my knowledge of the human body impacted by a traumatic experience (which is pretty much all of us in some way, shape, or form). It opened my eyes to the severity of mental health. I learned about how yoga could help someone dealing with PTSD or overcoming addiction. I always knew yoga was “good for you”  but this workshop series truly opened my eyes to the science behind it.

After the completion of the series, Kathryn and Angela gave me the opportunity for a full scholarship 200hr yoga teacher training through Yoga 4 Change. I was so unbelievably excited and grateful. Alan Calkins was also a recipient of the scholarship. He was a Y4C student that had recently turned his life around with the help of yoga. He is the perfect example of how Yoga 4 Change really does work! I was so ecstatic to learn with him and I couldn’t have asked for a better support/friend to go through training with. Little did I know the emotional journey ahead.

After a lot of self inquiry, yoga practices, reading, journaling, sweating, and crying we made it through teacher training! At last a certified instructor! I started observing Angela at the Gateway facility. The population is women in recovery from substance abuse. Angela made the classes look so easy. She discussed the themes for the class so naturally, you could feel her presence in the room. With her help and support I eventually took over the Women’s Gateway class. This is where my growth as a teacher really enhanced. I could feel the energy of a room and deliver a practice suited for the mood. I could flow through a class without any major hiccups. I could speak to a theme and feel the response from the students. I was (and still am) developing into an impactful teacher!

I have now been teaching at gateway for one full year. One full year of being a yoga instructor. To reflect on the year that has passed brings me a sense of accomplishment. This past year has brought so much growth in my life. Day by day it can be hard for me to see a change, but when I look back and see each step that brought me here I feel overwhelmingly grateful. Teaching yoga has allowed me to become aware of my own thoughts and actions, which has empowered me to be more compassionate towards myself and others. I have grown to be a better, more understanding partner. I have become more confident, content, and accepting with myself. The list goes on and on but the growth will never stop. That is the beauty of yoga.  After one full year of teaching for Yoga 4 Change my growth will take me on a new path. I will be moving to Asheville, NC the end of February. I am thrilled for the new adventure but scared of leaving my comfort zone. I am saddened to be leaving Yoga 4 Change, the organization that changed everything for me, but I am forever grateful for the friendships and connections created. Yoga 4 Change will always have a place in my heart and I am excited for what lies ahead for this organization!

Breanna Tivvis