HS: What led you to yoga?
RA: During college I became a mom. And the stress of balancing a job, school, and first-time motherhood was really overwhelming. I started looking for ways to clear my mind and find some balance, and yoga kept coming up. So I enrolled in a class and fell in love with it!
HS: You’re very involved with the community and especially with children’s programs. Why is it important to share yoga with youth?
RA: I wanted to be involved in projects that gave back to the community I came from. Often, children in lower-income areas grow up in environments that foster hostility and anger, and children aren’t always equipped to deal with that. I try to teach yoga to inner city school children and impoverished neighborhoods so they can learn an outlet for those negative feelings and process them in a healthy way. And hopefully, it’s something they can carry with them into adulthood.
HS: Can you tell us about some of the projects you’re involved with?
RA: I actually began PLAY Chattanooga when all of the police shootings were happening. I saw how it was traumatizing our community and building distrust, and I thought, “That isn’t the truth for every officer. Our kids need to know they can trust police and have positive experiences with them.” So I took my idea and applied for the Causeway PLAY Challenge in 2015 and received funding! Today, PLAY Chattanooga is still impacting lives, but under different leadership. I’m currently working on a yoga and literacy course at East Lake Academy. We’re trying to teach kids how to utilize the practice of mindfulness to encourage them to read and write about their feelings.
HS: What are some things you teach in your household to promote health and wellness?
RA: Well, my eight-year-old son and I do yoga and meditate every day before school. We stretch our bodies and prepare to tackle the day mentally and physically. I try to teach him to prioritize his physical and mental health before everything else. I think it’s funny that every time he’s done meditating he says, “Mom, I was at the beach!”
HS: For someone interested in yoga, what is a good starting point?
RA: I would suggest a type of yoga – restorative yoga, with poses like downward facing dog, child’s pose, and the cat/cow back. These create muscle memory. Yoga is a wonderful low-impact exercise that helps maintain both physical and mental fitness, so it’s approachable for children and adults who may not be very active.