yogaG...a simple, powerful gift.
Thank you for your interest in yogaG. When Sarah Johnson acted on her vision for yogaG (see below) in 2009, she simply had a heartfelt desire to share yoga with women who needed to feel safe and empowered in their own bodies after enduring trauma. What began as free yoga (and a mat too) in domestic violence shelters has expanded to include children, as well as national advocacy&awareness around trauma, sexual assault, and domestic violence issues. As we continue through the 21st century it is incredibly powerful to see how many people are accepting that these are public health and humanitarian issues, and not the challenges for women to endure alone in private. The wounds in the family are cultural wounds, and we hope you will rise in the spirit of public health and collective responsibility to support people challenged by trauma.
We continue to share free yoga in our local domestic violence shelters, following a research-based trauma-sensitive protocol for women and children. Our training and passion for service are rooted in the incredible neuroscience and empirical data coming out of the Trauma Center at the Justice Resource Institute in Brookline, MA; principles of Nonviolent Communication from Dr. Marshall Rosenberg; the growing work of the Yoga Service Council; and our gratitude for Family Resources, our local social services organization that supports us.
We are actively involved in research, and our hearts are with not only the people we serve, but also veterans, military families, human trafficking victims, and anyone who is need of healing from trauma. We hope the people we serve feel a little better after practicing yoga. Our wildest dream is to support the healing process so that families and communities can live and thrive in peace.
-Jennifer Vondracek, March 2013 give here
Lots of great stuff has happened in my life (and like most other people, a few not so great things). Here is a little sampling: born in the great state of Iowa; member of a loving family; acquaintance rape victim at age 15; high school sprint champion; Vanderbilt track athlete; cruised around the world on Semester at Sea in 1996; plane crash survivor at age 21; granddaughter of a Heisman Trophy winner; corporate attorney; married at age 28; baby girl Gracie arrived in time for my 30th birthday, then her little brother Drew; current general counsel for a small liberal arts college; volunteer board service, lots of board service; executive director of the largest student led food drive in the US; mini-stroke at age 33; married to an awesome guy who supports my crazy little dream: yogaG.
In November of 2008, I was reading Angelina Ballerina to my daughter. Despite having read the book a million times, I couldn't make the words on the page come out of my mouth. As it turns out, I likely experienced a mini-stroke as a result of really high cholesterol, a reaction to medication and/or from this teeny tiny hole in my heart. Whatever the cause, let's just say it was a wake-up call. Life is pretty fragile - so I want to do what I can to be healthy, be around for my kids, have fun and make a difference...
Since my "wake-up call," I have been studying and thinking more and more about the benefits of yoga. I have noticed a difference in my life and I know that yoga has something to do with it. I feel great now - physically and mentally. So I have been thinking to myself: who else might benefit from yoga? The obvious answer is everyone! But let's start with people who might really need it most. People in need a little extra strength - perhaps both physically and mentally. So I have been thinking.
Luckily I was sitting next to a friend during a somewhat long lunch meeting presentation. My mind started to wander a bit (ok, a lot). I was thinking about my friend, Cheryl, sitting next to me. She is the president of a social service agency (and I serve on her board). Just as I was thinking about how amazing her job is, it came to me in an instant:
I could teach yoga in Cheryl's domestic violence shelter and I could bring in mats (brightly colored mats because then the yoga session could visibly symbolize a vibrant new beginning) and then I could team up with Cheryl's social service agency and a film company and produce a video with tips on how to introduce yoga in the shelter environment (and the video could be fun and whimsical and uplifting) and then I could recruit my yoga teacher friends to volunteer their time to teach in shelters in their states (Illinois, Colorado, Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, California) and then I could write grants and enlist corporate partners to get mats donated and funds to assist with expenses and then I could hire an intern to put together a database of yoga instructors and domestic violence shelters throughout the United States and then I could put this all together and launch the idea at a yoga conference and then and then and then and then...
Yes, that was a run-on sentence! That is how I got the idea for yogaG - one big run-on sentence of ideas in my head during a somewhat long lunch meeting presentation.
I am committed to this mission. I think that it can make a difference in lives. I am certainly not the best, most experienced or most knowledgeable yogi around. But I don't think that I need to be the best, most experience or most knowledgeable yogi around to make yogaG work. I love mobilizing people for the good. And this is good!