Charitable Choices: Yoga Buggy

The Yoga Buggy aims to make yoga more accessible through the delivery of affordable and high-quality classes to as many kids & families as possible. We caught up with Miriam Leo Gindin (Current Director), Elizabeth Seminoff-Grenon (Future Director) and Amanda Drage (Human Resource Manager) to learn more about what they do.

Yoga Buggy

Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.

The Yoga Buggy seeks to democratize yoga by bringing high-quality, affordable classes to as many kids & families as possible. The tools of yoga are powerful methods of introspection and self-regulation. Our work is to promote these in children so they might develop greater self- and other-awareness, empathy and socio-emotional regulation skills. We focus on inclusion, diversity, and accessibility for those with learning disabilities, social-emotional issues and/or financial hardship.

What problem does it aim to solve?

Our society too often prioritizes productivity, conformity, material success and instant gratification at the expense of socio-emotional well-being. For children and youth, this might look like an overemphasis on test scores, fitting the mold of model student and peer, overconsumption of media, etc, which can lead to problems in self-regulation techniques, attention span, awareness of/empathy for others, and compassion for themselves.

To address this, the Yoga Buggy teaches yoga as a set of mind/body tools which support mindfulness, self-awareness, and increased self-regulation in children.We go into spaces where children already are – schools, community centers, childcare centers, homes, etc – to make yoga visible and accessible to children who might otherwise face barriers to participation.

We create intentionally inclusive spaces where children of all expressions are welcome and are encouraged to explore their human experience with all of its joys and hurts, pressures and pleasures, strengths and weaknesses, balances and falls. Our classes encourage self-regulation, body positivity, focus, confidence, strength, flexibility, balance, resilience, friendship, social-emotional awareness, and so much more. We frequently explore themes such as celebrating diversity, respect, body positivity, kindness, generosity, love, and helping others. Children, parents, guardians teachers, and support staff all find tremendous benefit from our programs.

When did you start/join it?

We opened our doors in 2017, and got nonprofit status in 2018.

What made you want to get involved?

I (Miriam) discovered yoga as a young adult. After a fairly chaotic childhood and adolescence, the tools of yoga helped me a lot. Tools like being able to watch my thoughts and put the more anxious ones into perspective, to make them a little less personal. Tools like providing the feeling that my body had value beyond the labels society gave it. Tools like learning how to regulate myself for greater calm and ease. These tools were an important part of my healing and ability to become a productive adult.

There were a lot of kids in my childhood home and I always adored them and resonated with them. As I realized how helpful yoga could be, I wondered how to bring its benefits to children. In particular, children growing up in challenging environments those who struggle to regulate themselves, to “behave” as the adult world wants them to. who feel different, who feel excluded, because of their race, gender, beliefs, or cognitive or physical abilities.

That question, how can we bring yoga to these kids, turned to musing. The musing turned into a plan. That plan eventually turned into The Yoga Buggy!

What was the situation like when you started?

Vancouver had a lot of kids’ yoga teachers who were plugging along independently, working out of community centers or daycares. This was difficult for many of us – working alone in an industry can be difficult due to the lack of peer collaboration and support, and bigger organizations don’t tend to take individuals as seriously as they do other organizations.

In terms of programming, there was virtually no yoga in VSB schools or private schools in the city. Yoga wasn’t really seen as a mindfulness practice as much as just a physical exercise. For children who were interested, they would have to sign up for after school
or weekend classes and be carted there by parents or guardians. This prevented many children from accessing programming due to lack of funds, lack of knowledge of programs, or inability to get to the classes.

Financially, we were stuck. We had no funding and could barely afford to cover our classes. As you know, we’re a non-profit, and we offer many of our classes at cost or below, which means we were in danger of closing a couple of times.

How has it changed since?

We are proud to report that Yoga Buggy has grown immensely since those days and has done valuable work in raising awareness about the benefits of yoga for children. We are currently running both after school and in-school programs at several VSB schools and with Community Schools Teams and are looking to expand into the greater metropolitan area. We also run full-day Pro-D and school break camps in partnership with Vancouver Parks and Recreation.

We also work with the After School Sports and Arts Initiative (ASSAI), whose objective is to enhance children’s wellbeing by “developing and delivering after school programming in sport and arts for students in Kindergarten to Grade 8 who face barriers to participation due to financial, geographical, cultural, family circumstances, behavioural and other factors”

Our organization has grown by leaps and bounds! We now have a team of teachers who support each other with ideas, feedback, and collaborative projects. We have brought more than 15,000 hours of programming to our communities and are continuing to expand. Our financial strength has improved and we are seeking more grant funding to subsidize programming for schools who do not have extra funding in their budgets.

What more needs to be done?

Although we have achieved a lot, there is still room to grow. Ideally, we’d love to see our mindfulness programs become a regular part of VSB curriculum.

We would love to establish programming in schools with little to no funding for extracurriculars, such as the Britannia Family of Schools, which means that we need more funding from donors, grants, and well-funded partners who pay full price for classes.

We would also love to have our own space where we can run spring/summer/winter break programs, afterschool programs, and other classes and workshops for teens, adults, and educators. Of course we would still be the Yoga BUGGY, going out into the community and offering classes wherever there are children, but having a home base would allow us to develop community in a different way. We need to fundraise to make it a reality!

With enough great teachers, partners and financial support there is no limit to how much we can expand. We believe the more we can bring yoga tools to kids and families, the healthier & happier our society will be.

How can our readers help?

Talk about Yoga Buggy to your principals, teachers, school administrators, and daycare providers! We love bringing yoga into new spaces and are confident that your children will benefit from yoga!

If you are interested in bringing a program to your school or center, get in touch! You can also visit our website to have a look around.
If you are interested in getting involved with us, we are always looking for:

Awesome new teachers and assistants (we can help with training and mentorship!)

Board members with insight/experience in business, fundraising, education, PR or media management.

-Financial support. For every $10,000 in funding, we will deliver 800 more child-hours of yoga to kids and families – notably in communities that aren’t typically able to access this type of programming. Every little bit helps!

Where can we follow you?

Facebook | Instagram | Youtube | Medium

PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?